It's hot already and it's not even 9:00. Sometimes the days can be rather pleasant, comparatively. Other days they are just hot. Today is hot. I just left my hotel room and already there is a patina of sweat forming.
Yesterday was the closing day of the conference and the Sunday worship service combined. I was the first of the three preachers that interrupted the constant stream of choirs and dancing. I enjoy the energy and joy of their worship services. As is true of most churches, however, the African church needs balance. As the North American church needs more joy and less intellect and structure, the Central African church needs more intellect and structure and less exuberance. Actually, that's not true. Neither church needs less of what they already have. What they need is more of what their missing.
Sometimes you get caught by surprise. When that happens, you might not like what's going on, but there is nothing you can do except roll with the punches. I'm sure Flory didn't like the fact that two of the three preachers yesterday were women. He was told they were women pastors, much like ladies Bible study leaders in the states. To paraphrase Rick from Casablanca, he was mis-informed. But once they were there, it seemed there was little to do. I certainly didn't like it either, but didn't feel it was right to stride off the platform in a huff. So I sat and listened.
I had an welcome advantage with the lady preachers that I didn't have for the rest of the service. These two women were from Uganda and Kenya, respectively. Which means they spoke the King's English and thus needed to be translated just like their continental brother. So I heard what they really said, not just the translated version of it.
The first women who preached didn't stray into heresy. I thought she was going to a couple of times, but she would walk right up to the line and turn around. I didn't care much for her sermon. She strung Bible verses together with abandon, not caring (evidently) for their context. But strictly speaking, she didn't say anything out and out wrong, at least that I heard.
The second woman, however, made me pause and consider my options. How bad would it be to my credibility (and to Flory's reputation) if I stood and walked out? What if I stood up and declared that we don't keep our salvation by working? What if I just shouted "That's not what that verse means!?" In the end, I just bowed my head and prayed that no one was listening.
She began in Isaiah 60:1, as this was the theme of the congress (although I was the only one who had referred to it so far). "Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory or the LORD rises upon you."
"When we get up in the morning, each of us has a routine," she said. "We wash our face and put on oil or make-up so our faces shine. Then we are ready to go to work. That's what this verse means. We are to arise and shine and go to work!" Work was defined as loving one another and doing good deeds.
This was the major theme (I think) of her sermon. If we want God to love us we must work. If we want to stay saved, we must work. At one point, she told the story of a boy that was kidnapped. He was thrown into the trunk of a car and taken away. I don't remember the end of the story, but I do remember the next line. "You must do good things or bad men will come and hurt your children!"
What does one say in response to that?
On a more positive note, I began teaching the pastors after the noon meal. While we didn't get as far as I'd like, the discussion was lively, the questions engaging and the whole experience profitable for us all. I'll give more details on the class tomorrow, God willing.