Magazine article The Christian Century

Bishoping. (M.E.M.O)

Magazine article The Christian Century

Bishoping. (M.E.M.O)

Article excerpt

IN A RECENT STORY in the Atlanta Constitution John Blake reports on what we might call "grade inflation" among pastors. Some who are not content with the familiar titles of "Reverend" or "Pastor" or "Elder" are now calling themselves "Bishop," often explaining that God told them to do this.

Baptists used to define themselves as people who resist bishops. Yet the Reverend Miles Fowler of Big Miller Grove Baptist Church is now Bishop Miles Fowler. Some think that Bishop T. D. Jakes, superstar television preacher, started the trend in Dallas, a historically antibishop place. Professor Riggins Earl explains that "in order to compete, a reverend is not enough for their status. Even calling themselves doctors doesn't do enough. We have to find other titles that have more of a mystical appeal."

So Dr. Creflo Dollar Jr., with his honorary D.D. (what Henry Mitchell, who has an earned doctorate, calls a "donated dignity doctorate") from Oral Roberts University, can hardly compete. Jamie Pleasant of Kingdom Builders Christian Center in Norcross, Georgia, is now "Apostle Pleasant," despite his lack of any seminary training--a feature he shares with the original apostles. In Decatur, Georgia, Earl Paulk even calls himself Archbishop Earl Paulk, as sanctioned by the International Communion of Charismatic Churches.

Those of us in denominations whose bishops aren't in "the historic episcopate" (United Methodists, most Lutherans, etc.) and who have worked to establish "full communion" with Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican churches, whose bishops are "historic," sometimes are told that we have chosen the wrong century for making such a move. Don't we know that the really booming churches--and they are really booming--around the world are nonmainstream, often nonwhite, Pentecostal, charismatic, Baptist, independent and megachurch sorts. …

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