Words and wisdom from Bishop George D. McKinney

On the eve of his 80th birthday and 50th anniversary in ministry, Bishop George D. McKinney, founder of St. Stephen's Cathedral Church of God in Christ, shared his thoughts on a wide range of topics in an extensive interview with the Christian Examiner. Below are a few quotes and thoughts on what he had to say:

On fatherhood:
"Absentee fathers are a scourge. A disproportionate number of our male members are struggling because there is no male in the home to teach them what it really means to be a man, to be accountable, responsible and truthful, and so many of them wind up in prison. The damage that is done by a father abandoning his children—that goes for girls as well as the boys—it is far reaching, and we have to deal with that."

St. Stephen's Cathedral hosts a variety of men's fellowships, retreats, father-son and "adopted son" activities, mentoring, a Monday night men's Bible study and partnerships with Promise Keepers.

"The church has to highlight this issue of getting men to assume their responsibility as fathers, as husbands, as leaders in the church. We have great deficiencies in those areas, and we are working on it. Sometimes it seems like a losing battle, but we can't quit. We can win it."

As a licensed therapist, McKinney said he believes the establishment of welfare programs in the early 1900s decimated the black community by requiring that unemployed husbands leave the home before allowing their wives and children to collect monetary support.

"It was established in such a way that men, black men, became unnecessary. So many times men abandoned their wives and their children, not because they didn't care, but he didn't want his children to starve or his wife to be out of doors, so he left. It was the welfare system that mitigated against a black man being a father and a husband and a provider."


On abortion:
Years ago, before the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion, McKinney was supportive of the work of Planned Parenthood, saying he believed they were providing "good positive work in helping parents to prepare for children." He became a member of the organization.

"Its something I'm not proud of," he admitted, a position he said only gets stronger as ultrasound technology advances. "Abortion is a curse. It's genocide. It's wicked. It's worse than Hitler's final solution to the Jewish problem."

He added that he believes history has shown the true motivations of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, who was a proponent of eugenics.

"It was considered that black people were mentally inferior and socially undesirable and we've got to eliminate that. That whole movement is frightening when you think about it. It's destruction of a human life; it takes the life of an innocent baby. God never intended for a woman's womb to be a baby's tomb."

McKinney said he believes the reason the church has remained so quiet on the topic is that many pastors have been trained in seminary and Bible schools where abortion is generally not considered to be sin.

"There are those who are spiritual leaders—now I respect them and love them—who are very reluctant to allow the Bible speak to the issues regarding sin and righteousness and justice. So, if you bought into the lie and you believe the lie, you will advocate the lie. This whole thing about abortion being therapeutic, that is a diabolical lie.


On pastoral advocacy:
Pastors, McKinney believes, have not only a right but also a duty to be town criers when it comes to social issues. Precedents for such a policy came as early as America's revolutionary period, when pastors who used their pulpits to preach on issues of the day were referred to as the Black Robe Regiment. His favorite quote on the subject comes from his friend, Dr. Fred Price, pastor of Crenshaw Christian Center in Los Angeles.

"Fred Price said years ago, 'Jesus did not say that the Christians, the believers of God, the citizens of the Kingdom of God, would be the light of the church. He said they would be the light of the world. That he's not the salt of the church, but he is the salt of the world.' I think that truth has to be embraced. God is the source of all truth. If the minister of the gospel, if the ambassador for the Kingdom of God, is not committed to speak truth to power, speak truth when it's unpopular, then he's not worth the salt.

"The question still comes, and it comes every day. 'Is there a Word from the Lord? Is there a Word?' If there is no Word, we might as well shut up and go home and close down the church."


On pastors who speak the truth:
"There's a price to be paid for integrity, but you still have a remnant of men and women in ministry who cannot be bought. They are not for sale, and they are going to present the gospel without compromising, and I thank God for them."


On denominational labels:
"Those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness today are not as hung up as they were 50 years ago on the denominational titles. They want to know, 'Is there is a truth that transforms a life?' They want to know, 'Can I be delivered from this guilt and this shame? Can I be empowered to have a healthy life spiritually, psychologically and physically? Does God care and love me?' If that message is made plain, people can care less whether you are a Pentecostal or Baptist or Lutheran or Catholic because there is a hunger and thirst for righteousness or a right relationship with God.

"I think the idea of being less interested in the denominational ties than interested in having a confrontation, an encounter with God, that should have always been the critical issue, but there was a time when the denomination was seen as a badge of prestige."


On proclaiming the gospel:
"There is a greater openness now to spiritual realities, both in the demonic and the divine. I believe that there was once a season when many people just didn't believe in God or the devil. I believe today that there are forces at work that argue well for the reality of the spiritual, which means that the church has an awesome challenge to proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom of God, the presence of the living God in His world and that He is available to us as Savior, as Guide, as Father.

"What I have found is that when people hear the gospel and hear the truth of the Bible, they may be Phi Beta Kappas, they may be lawyers or psychiatrists or medical doctors or school teachers or principals or they have academic achievement, but when they come to church they don't want to hear about Freud and William Jane; they want to hear about Jesus.

"That makes a big difference because it gives a chance for the Holy Spirit to show that the local church, its constituency, its membership, should reflect the community where it is located because everybody needs to know who Jesus is."