First of all, I want to thank everyone again for the amazing outpouring of love and support expressed over the last couple of weeks here on the blog, on Twitter, Facebook, and through countless texts, calls, letters and e-mail(s). Really, I just can’t stress enough how grateful I am for your kindness, and I want you to know that it has been quite gratifying to make so many new friends through this time of transition, and to hear from so many old and cherished ones concerning recent developments.
The magnitude of the events of the last few days has been somewhat unexpected, and, frankly, a little overwhelming. I certainly had no idea that the message I delivered to CITN in a Wednesday night service a couple of weeks ago would garner the attention (and the reaction) that it has, worldwide, but I have been blessed to read hundreds - maybe thousands - of responses to it that confirm to me that I did the right thing in letting it go public.
But because so much has been said in recent days about my/our story in the media and on the internet, I feel it’s necessary that I address a few things, and maybe clear up a few other things…so here goes…
ABOUT THE VIDEO
I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that the response to the video (“A Real Message to Real People”) has been astounding, but, had I thought beforehand that it was going to become so high profile, I might have phrased a few things that I said on it differently. My apologies to anyone who was offended by anything that was stated, but I just said what was on my heart, with no script, or preconceived idea of what I was going say. I feel very passionate about certain things, and those of you who know me know that I communicate exactly what I feel about things that really matter to me. The video is what it is, but my prayer is that the spirit of the message delivered would be heard louder than the letter of it.
ABOUT CHURCH IN THE NOW
I obviously will always remain the founder of CITN, and, as of right now, I am still its Senior Pastor. I have no plans to leave the ministry that I birthed some 25 years ago. It is my life's work, and even if the property on I-20 were to be vacated by us, the ministry of CITN would still go on. And the only reason that would happen would be in the event there were some sort of mass exodus from the church, leaving us without sufficient supporters, but, as of yet I see no indication of that happening. The spirit and presence of the Lord is still evident in all of our services, the people are strong and committed, and we are still making an impact on our community and on the world.
But I was candid on the video about the current state of things, and the truth is that we definitely need to grow in numbers to be able to financially maintain what we've built. But that's in God's hands now. When I said in the interview with Diana Davis on WSB that we would start over, if necessary, I meant that Church In The Now would move to another location, if need be. For me, best-case scenario would be for us to remain in Conyers, and to thrive as "Real People Experiencing the Real God in the Real World". I personally would love to see all of the prophecies spoken over these 43 acres across the years by so many anointed people finally come to pass.
But the church isn't a building, nor is it physical property, so if we have to move on from the current location, we would still always continue to go from glory to glory as a body of believers.
ABOUT THE MINISTRY
It was reported in several papers that I would no longer be referred to as “Bishop”, but as “Pastor”, but that’s not correct. I should say here that I’m certainly not obsessive about titles, so it really doesn’t matter all that much to me what I'm called (no man gave me my call and anointing, and no man can take it away from me). But the term “Bishop” is simply an administrative title that just means “overseer” or “pastor to pastors”, and I am still that to the many Pastors at Church In The Now, as well as to the ones who remain affiliated with Now Ministries in the United States, the Philippines, and Uganda.
I have, indeed, willingly stepped down from the College of Bishops of the International Communion of Charismatic Churches, and am no longer affiliated with that organization. I am currently in dialogue with another international network/fellowship concerning possible ordination/affiliation, but I’ll wait to say more about that later as relationship with them develops.
I do want to say, however, that I have no issue or negative feelings whatsoever toward the ICCC, or its presiding Bishop, David Huskins. The ICCC does great work all around the world, and has and always will have my full respect. I also want to say that, contrary to what has been reported online, Bishop Huskins has personally assured me that he has never done an interview about me with any Christian watchdog group, and has never said, publicly or privately, that I am "unfit to lead".
ABOUT THE MESSAGE
I think it's important to point out that my main message is and always has been one of love, grace, and tolerance. Church In The Now has been a multicultural/multi ethnic/ecumenical community since its inception, and, as such, has established a long-standing reputation as being a bridge builder among belief systems and people groups. It is neither a white church, nor a black church - it is a church for all people - so it will not become, now or ever, a "gay" church. CITN is inclusive because we believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, demands that we be...and that Gospel is simply the Good News that GOD IS LOVE, demonstrated through the Christ, revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus said that the lifestyle demands made by the Gospel are summed up in two basic and proactive commandments: (1) Love God (2) Love people. That's all. Church In The Now will always be a place that embraces the truth of the real Gospel, and the simplicity that is in Christ.
That being said, let me add that, as controversial as my recent announcement about myself may be to some, I at least have not had to work through any credibility issues, or do any damage control concerning my message. I have never one time in nearly 39 years of preaching said a derogatory or condemning word about people with same-sex attraction. An in-depth search can be made through my books, or through decades-worth of tapes, CDs, DVDs, or manuscripts of my sermons, and there will be no evidence of the preaching of condemnation found.
ABOUT THE MEDIA
Concerning any negative things written about me online, which are mostly done by conservative Christian or Evangelical groups or watchdog organizations, I can only say that it comes with the territory, and I'm used to it. I have no desire to defend myself, or to argue the Scriptures with those who would not be open to anything I would have to say. Integrity can't be proven, it must be discerned.
I've been discussed on blogs and websites for years because of my inclusive theology, and because of the spotlight being on my family for some time because of my uncle, Bishop Earl Paulk, who died nearly two years ago. Usually, any negative article about me begins by making the connection with him, and, even though I don't understand why that connection is germane to my story, I guess it makes it more interesting to some.
I do want to say, however, that I understand that to those who come from a certain apocalyptic/fatalistic theological background, someone like me saying what I've said publicly represents a dangerous trend...a "sign of the times", as they see it. I really understand that because I came from that same tradition. All I can say to my Christian detractors is, if you think I'm deceived or dangerous, then please pray for me. I am your brother, whether you receive me or not, and I choose to love you and believe that your intentions are good, at least in your own minds.
ABOUT THE FUTURE
Jesus said to take no thought for tomorrow, so I am simply living my life one day at a time, believing that my steps are ordered. Again, to those who may have been hurt or offended by recent revelations about me, I can only tell you to keep your eyes on God. Never put any minister, including me, on a pedestal...worship God alone. To those of you in my life who are committed to standing by me, no matter what, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your faithfulness and understanding of covenant. To those of you whom I've never met...those who have sent thousands upon thousands of messages of love and support...I must tell you that you have shown me a side to the love of God I never even knew existed (and that goes for all of the atheists and agnostics who have sent me beautiful messages of support, as well!)...I may not ever meet all of you in person, but I really love each and every one of you so much, and think you're all just wonderful.
In the last few days I've been called both a hero and heretic. I don't believe that I am either. At the end of the day, all that really matters to me is what God thinks and says about me, and that is between Him and me.
Peace and love to all of you...and I really mean all of you!