Baptists and bishops have historically gone together like, well, oil and water. But now that’s starting to change in some black Baptist churches.
“I think we see this emergence in spiritual leadership from a people who have known oppression,’’ Borders said. “It’s a self-identification that we’re gaining; it’s a valuing of our own leadership.”
And in some cases now symbolic garb and elaborate rituals are accompanying the title. That’s now possible because the 400-year-old fear of an all-powerful hierarchy has faded into a distant memory, and it now feels “safer to borrow and reappropriate historic practices that once were considered to be theologically problematic,’’ said James Farwell, professor of religious studies at Bethany College in West Virginia.
The title is increasingly being used more formally in African-American Baptist churches, where the practice of calling senior pastors bishops has been unusual. African-American Baptist ministers have historically been powerful figures in their communities and pillars of their congregations; some see the title as a recognition of that role.
The whole article, in today’s Boston Globe, can be read here.