- The Washington Times - Friday, December 15, 2006

Texas pastors back peer on ‘tongues’

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Southern Baptist pastor who found himself at the center of a controversy over speaking in tongues drew renewed support from a group of pastors who want the denomination to re-examine policies governing the practice.

About 150 pastors and other church leaders from across the country participated in a round-table discussion at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, home of the Rev. Dwight McKissic.

Trustees at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth voted in October that they would not tolerate any promotion of “private prayer language” at the school. The vote came nearly two months after Mr. McKissic said during a chapel service that he sometimes speaks in tongues while praying.

The Rev. Paige Patterson, seminary president, responded by not allowing the video of Mr. McKissic’s sermon to be posted online or saved in the seminary’s archives.

Mr. McKissic’s group approved sending a letter to the seminary, International Mission Board and North American Mission Board asking that they reconsider policies regarding “the gifts of tongues and/or the use of a private prayer language.”

Speaking in tongues is common among Pentecostals, whose more exuberant brand of Christianity is spreading in the United States and in countries where Southern Baptist missionaries work.

Critics of the denomination’s tough stance say banning it divides Christians on an issue not central to the faith.

Cuban Protestants mark centennial

HAVANA — A top executive of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) helped Cubans celebrate the 100th anniversary of the opening of the capital’s first Protestant house of worship, giving a sermon in which he urged all Christians to do more to eliminate global inequality.

The Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, the Presbyterian stated clerk, spoke in both English and Spanish to hundreds of followers and diplomats at the Dec. 10 ceremony in central Havana. Delegations from Florida and Washington, D.C., were also present.

“A better world is possible,” said the U.S. clergyman. He said Christians must work toward creating a planet where everyone has a dignified life and enough to eat and drink.

Mr. Kirkpatrick first came to Cuba 20 years ago. He spoke of the history of the church, which was inaugurated in 1906 and hosted the founding of the Cuban Council of Churches in 1941, the membership organization for Protestant groups in the country.

“This church has been witness to very difficult, very complex times,” he said.

Churches on the island nation have struggled under the government’s efforts to control religious expression.

Cuba is home to an estimated 20,000 Protestants, according to the Rev. Hector Mendez, who leads the Havana church. Protestants are a minority on the island, where the Roman Catholic Church and followers of the syncretic Afro-Cuban Santeria religion dominate.

Mr. Mendez said Mr. Kirkpatrick’s participation in Sunday’s ceremony symbolized the brotherhood between the people of the United States and Cuba, despite tense relations between the two governments. He said he is against a series of U.S. regulations that squeeze the Cuban economy and limit religious contact between U.S. citizens and Cubans.

“We must set an example of love, of reconciliation,” he said.

The Havana church offers home Bible study, music courses and assistance to the elderly.

From wire dispatches and staff reports



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