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The Person of the Preacher Self-Understanding and Religious Leadership Kenyatta R. Gilbert, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Homiletics Howard University School.

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Presentation on theme: "The Person of the Preacher Self-Understanding and Religious Leadership Kenyatta R. Gilbert, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Homiletics Howard University School."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Person of the Preacher Self-Understanding and Religious Leadership Kenyatta R. Gilbert, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Homiletics Howard University School of Divinity Washington, D.C. Copyright © 2014 Kenyatta R. Gilbert

2 A.M.E. Bishop Reverdy Ransom 1861-1959 A minister’s preaching life is comprised of much more than sermons and illustrations; it is defined by the preacher’s life engagements, personal character, theological impulses, and vocational commitments.

3 Ransom’s Preaching Life Ransom was a radical cleric with a deep sense of piety. Preacher-pastor, politician, editor, bishop, parole board member—all these roles he creatively synthesized within the same vision. Ransom epitomized Bishop Daniel Alexander Payne’s ideal educated African Methodist cleric.

4 4 Phases of Ransom’s Ministry Ransom’s pastoral career could be divided into four phases : (1) 1886-1890 assigned to a string of small African Methodist churches in western Pennsylvania-- Altoona, Tyrone, and Manchester mission in North Pittsburgh. (2) 1890-1896 rises to regional prominence; Bishop Daniel Alexander Payne assigns Ransom to North Street in Springfield, Ohio (1890-1893), followed by St. John Church, Cleveland, Ohio (1893-1896).

5 Contd. (3) 1896—1907 develops national reputation as preacher; assigned to Bethel Church in Chicago (1896- 1900) but resigns to organize Institutional Church and Social Settlement (1900-1904) a few blocks away. Pastors in Massachusetts: New Bedford (1904-1905) and Charles Street AME in Boston (1905-1907). (4) 1907-1924 national footing solidified; appointed to Bethel Church in New York City (1907-12); establishes and pastors Church of Simon of Cyrene in New York City (1913) with wife Emma while concurrently serving as editor of AME Church until elected 48 th bishop of the AME Church.

6 Historic Church to Start Up 1896 he was assigned to Bethel AME in Chicago, at the age of 35. The historic Bethel AME Church signified the basic starting point for his experiment with social gospel methods and homiletical practice. The congregation drew both the poor and privileged, but at the time Bethel mostly attracted Black elites. Ransom preached to standing-room-only audiences in Bethel’s 900-seat sanctuary. Conflicting ideals between established Black Chicagoans and a growing migrant community, prompted Reverdy and his wife Emma to create and organize the Institutional Church and Social Settlement is what catapulted him to the national stage.

7 The Migration of Early 20 t Century It perplexed him that Bethel had no true interest in shedding its “silver stocking” image to become the kind of church that responds to the needs of those flowing out of the South to make Chicago home. Ransom and other Black clergy soon recognized that given the infrastructure of their churches, that in spite of their academic preparations and ecclesiastical experiences, in vision and mission, they were ill-prepared to cope with the Great Migration’s effects.

8 Institutional Church and Social Settlement Ransom grew disenchanted that his denomination had not developed adequate programs, regionally or nationally, to address the social and industrial conditions of Blacks in the Great Migration. Ransom’s work at Institutional defined the course of his subsequent commitments to reform church practice within and beyond African Methodism.

9 DuBois’ Remark Ransom’s institutional church brainchild was established to meet and serve the spiritual, moral, social and industrial needs of Black people. Famed sociologist W. E. B. DuBois hailed Ransom’s experiment as the “most advanced step in the direction of making the church exist for the people rather than the people for the church at the turn of the century.” Ransom’s pioneering theological methods and prophetic social message earned him the title, “the foremost spokesman for the social gospel of this generation.”

10 Counting the Costs Despite Ransom’s growing public and denominational reputation in Chicago, his pioneering vision of a Black institutional church had repeatedly placed his life in danger and put his preaching on the periphery of traditional AME piety and homiletical practice. Ransom’s ISSC was dynamited after he organized a campaign and preached sermons against the “policy gambling racket” that began to flourish among the poor and underprivileged on Chicago’s South Side.

11 Church and Society Ransom’s church work and increasing involvement in racial protests and electoral politics angered Bishop Abraham Grant, his ecclesiastical overseer, to such an extent that he prohibited Ransom from preaching on Sundays.

12 Silencing the Preacher Upon leaving Bethel his successor Rev. A. L. Murray along with Rev. A. J. Carey at Quinn Chapel, Ransom later claimed, had so bitterly opposed him organizing his institutional church that they persuaded Bishop Grant to silence him from Sunday morning preaching. As a result, Ransom was restricted to preaching on Sunday nights or on weekday nights.

13 Henry McNeal Turner Intervenes Ransom reportedly complied with the restriction until Bishop Henry McNeal Turner, a senior bishop, paid his ICSS a visit a few weeks later. After hearing the news, Turner quickly overturned Grant’s prohibition, and requested that Ransom announce his church service for the following Sunday in which Bishop Turner would be in attendance.

14 Sources Turner, in the pulpit with Ransom that following Sunday, on spur-of-the-moment turns to Ransom and says, “ I am not going to preach this morning, these people came to hear you—you preach.” When Ransom had finished his sermon, reported Ransom, Turner professed, “Great God!! Just think of anybody trying to silence a voice like that on Sunday morning.” Sources: Gomez-Jefferson, The Sage of Tawawa Ransom, The Pilgrimage of Harriet Ransom’s Son Sernett, Bound for the Promised Land. Forthcoming Book: Exodus Preaching: The Prophetic Word in America’s Promised Land

15 REFLECTION QUESTION Is this spirit of reform at work? If not, how can it be rekindled?

16 We Wear The Masks We Wear The Masks “If ministers picture themselves as ‘shepherds’ or ‘prophets’ or ‘enablers’ or ‘evangelists’ or ‘spiritual entrepreneurs’ or ‘servant leaders’ or ‘wounded healers’, these guiding images of ministry will prompt them to emphasize certain tasks of ministry and to minimize others.” “They will speak and act in the ways demanded by those images.” THOMAS G. LONG, THE WITNESS OF PREACHING, P. 18

17 7 Personas of the Preacher  These categories are not gender specific.  They are metaphoric constructions.  They only provide an angle of vision.  Most importantly, I’m going to point to each types constructive features, noting the potential hazards that arise when the preacher’s person supplants the persona of Christ in the ministry of preaching. Social Poet-Technophile Evangelical-MoralistEntrepreneurial AgentSocial Activist Clerico-PoliticianRancher-Pontiff Mystic-Spiritualist

18 Evangelical-Moralist (E-M) Brief Description:  Will take seriously the message of Christianity as recorded in the Bible.  Holds fast to the hermeneutic that God speaks and is revealed through Scripture.

19 Evangelical-Moralist (E-M) Constructive Features:  Able to draw on major themes and narratives to offer instruction to offer spiritual, moral, and ethical direction. Potential Hazard:  Compulsive need to be prescriptive and propositional, often reducing the text to support scheme or preacher’s mnemonic technique (e.g., alliteration).

20 Social Activist (SA) Brief Description:  On policy matters, community concerns, SA’s insist on the release of goods and services for community empowerment. Their sermons are primarily socio-political in focus and agenda.

21 Social Activist (SA) Constructive Features:  Criticizes church practices that fail to prepare Christians to engage larger public concerns.  Calls believers to act, often to fulfill unsettling assignments. Contends that Christians have a greater obligation than others to address human suffering, rebuild lives, and challenge the status quo. Potential Hazards:  Privileges certain scripture texts to the disregard of others (i.e., texts on social justice themes, prophetic literature).  SA ’ s need to channel their righteous indignation with discipline as not to lose the essence of the gospel: Love. (Gal. 4:22-24)

22 Entrepreneurial Agent (EA) Brief Description:  A positive thinker and team motivator who uses Scripture in various ways to educate her or his congregation to organize, manage, administrate, and oversee enterprising ventures for the congregation. Old Testament Models: Abraham, Joseph, and Jacob

23 Entrepreneurial Agent (EA) Constructive Features:  Combines intellect and good public relations skills to promote various ministry initiatives and projects.  Pragmatic and greatly interested in outcomes.  Preaches to empower listeners to overcome the victim mindset. Potential Hazards:  Can be overly concerned with market, stats, and financial matters.  Bottom-line tendencies often may eclipse congregational care concerns.  Preaching becomes detrimental when services are viewed as transactions and persons as commodities.

24 Clerico-Politician (C-P) Brief Description:  Intertwines ecclesiastical headship with civic involvement.  The congregation’s lead spokesperson and informant.

25 Clerico-Politician (C-P) Constructive Features:  Orally versatile and skilled in the art and science of politics.  Maintains the conviction that Christians should speak and exercise influence in (the) public square.  Uses a variety of sermon approaches depending upon congregational needs.

26 Clerico-Politician (C-P) Potential Hazards:  Tends to be busy, dividing sermon preparation and writing time between church and civic affairs.  Sermons tend to be quasi-expository or topical.  Proclivity to blur the lines of state-church relations.  Temptation towards political influence to the diminishment of priestly duties.

27 Rancher-Pontiff (R-P) Brief Description:  Charismatic, skilled in oral persuasion.  Enjoys a mass following of adherents.

28 Rancher-Pontiff (R-P) Constructive Features:  Able to draw people of all socioeconomic, racial/ethnic, and generational standing to the worship service.  Takes pride in their congregation’s capacity to ensure that congregational care resources and cutting-edge technologies are in place and that a comfortable worship environment is provided to attendees.

29 R-P’s Contd. Potential Hazards:  Divorces self and ministry from denominational ties.  Sees heralding as primary or sole duty of office; frequently outsources pastoral care obligations/duties to less visible ministers or volunteers.  Their feedback loop is small, if not altogether inexistent.  Preaching frequently encourages passivity.  Hearers become victim to the cult of personality.

30 Mystic-Spiritualist (M-S) Brief Description:  One whose practical ministry concerns center on spiritual encounter.  Maintains that religious experience supersedes ritual behavior.

31 Mystic-Spiritualist (M-S) Constructive Features:  Preaching calls believers into prayer and withdrawal from worldly concerns. Encourages the demonstration of spiritual gifts.  Displays confidence in their power to interpret and communicate God’s mysterious intentions.  Sermons take on a variety of forms: conversational or exhortative.  Preacher believes that encounter with God often defies rationalism.  Preaching is the fruit of prayer.

32 M-S’ Contd. Potential Hazards:  Divorces self and ministry from denominational ties.  Sees heralding as primary or sole duty of office; frequently outsources pastoral care obligations/duties to less visible ministers or volunteers.

33 Social Poet-Technophile Brief Description:  Pairs social and cultural criticism with Christian themes.  Creates innovative ways to contemporize traditional ministry practice.  Places strong emphasis on textual relevance and application for practical and spiritual life.

34 SP-T Contd. Brief Description  Sermons may be inspired by popular culture and/or social or political events.  Sees technology as welcomed friend and never foe.  Sermons tend to be topical or verse-by-verse expository. Has the capacity to turn the preaching moment into a spoken-word or poetry slam event.

35 Social Poet-Technophile Constructive Features: (relevancy)  Easily adapts to social change.  Understands that the church is ever evolving.  At the pulse of knowing when something requires revision or update. Potential Hazards:  Often accommodates to culture uncritically.

36 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS To which functional identity (Persona) do you most lean? Why do you think you lean in that particular direction? Based on the drawbacks and constructive features listed, characterize your strengths and weaknesses as a preacher? What actions can you take to increase your ability to engage in (w)holistic/trivocal preaching considering the three voices (prophetic, priestly, and sage), and the seven personas?

37 Book The Journey and Promise of African American Preaching $20 Get 30% off! Use promo code JOURNEY30 at (offer applies online only)

38 The Preaching Project Website: Join Our Mailing List Send us your prayer requests and testimonies Join our M.A.P. program Email us: Follow us on Facebook: The Preaching Project Follow us on Twitter: preachingproj

39 Equipping the Saints National Study at HUSD of Promising Practices of Black Congregations Areas: Washington, DC, Detroit, Atlanta, Tuskegee Subject areas: Gentrification, Youth and Family Services, Preaching, Health Disparities, Inclusion Visit:

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