On August 27th, the White House hosted a dinner for Evangelical leaders from around the country. These men and women serve in various capacities and the administration chose them due to their sizable impact on the country and world. One of those in attendance was the Church of God (COG) General Overseer, Dr. Tim Hill.
Bishop Hill has been a tremendous and longstanding leader in the Pentecostal denomination. His international missions experience has made him a conscientious leader who is aware of and concerned for the needs of those outside the U.S. From my perspective, Bishop Hill deserves all the accolades he has received.
There is a problem, however, and it is found in how Bishop Hill described his experience at the White House event:
As General Overseer, I am fully aware of the acute political distance from one pole to the other that exists in our nation. As you know, the ever widening divide manifests itself frequently in various ways and that’s certainly not exclusive of the church. Knowing this, I’m always aware that as General Overseer, my words, actions and the invitations I accept, carry a heavy weight of accountability.
My choosing to attend this event was not without prayerful consideration. Yes, it was an unbelievable privilege and admittedly I was awestruck while walking through hallways lined with portraits of past Presidents and First Ladies. I even glanced up and said, “Hey Dad, who would’ve ever believed it?
I am grateful that Bishop Hill is aware of the magnitude of his decision to attend. There is a reason the founding fathers were adamant about separating church and state. It is also clear that the political climate is more divided than ever, seemingly forcing people toward the extreme poles of each political party.
By attending, Bishop Hill communicated something, which he then plainly stated, “admittedly I was awestruck while walking through the halls.” I respect and appreciate Bishop Hill’s honesty––it demonstrates how thoughtful he is regarding his role.
Nevertheless, Bishop Hill was not invited as an individual. Whether we want to believe it or not, politicians act toward political goals, regardless of the party. Bishop Hill, consequently, was invited to reinforce a perceived Republican base: southern Christians.
But the fact of the matter is, Bishop Hill is the General or International Overseer. He represents millions of Christian pentecostals from around the world, a world Trump has referred to as a sh&# hole; a world this administration has refused refuge to; a world that has been mocked and threatened repeatedly through social media; a world that is held hostage by international policies designed to benefit a few at the cost of many.
As someone who was raised in the COG, I was extremely proud when Bishop Hill denounced Trump’s comments about Africa earlier this year. I knew that it cost Bishop Hill something to say that since many COG members are staunch supporters of the administration. Yet, he was driven by his responsibility as the International Overseer, not simply the U.S. Overseer.
But instead of representing the international community, demanding an audience with the President, Bishop Hill took a different posture at the event, one of awe at the honor.
The Bible is replete with examples of people confronting powers and principalities head-on. These moments were always wrought with danger. Indeed, facing unjust powers was often life-threatening!
The story of Esther is particularly helpful. She was singled out and brought into the rulers house and pampered. She had been given a great honor. She had arrived at a place that no one in her family could have ever imagined.
But her people were in a very different position. They were oppressed and persecuted. The government abhorred them, threatening their very existence.
And it was at such a time that Esther, safe and secure in her own role, was challenged to speak out. To confront. To advocate. To sacrifice. To represent. To risk.
Jesus often talked about dinner parties. He described his table as open to all, although the lowest would be given top billing. It’s a table that serves all kinds of foods because all kinds of people are expected. It never turns anyone away. It isn’t extravagant or pompous. It is simple and true.
Bishop Hill alludes to the fact that the 100 Christian leaders were housed in the Trump Hotel, an ethical conundrum to say the least. But it is important to notice the dynamics. Trump was the host, a generous host at that! It would be rude, therefore, to express anything but gratitude, which was the purpose of the event. A very different table indeed.
During the event, EP contributor Dr. Carolyn Dirksen was in Ghana. She was participating in a COG Women’s Ministry event, led by Dorothy Crentsil.
Sister Crentsil is what makes the COG meaningful, and Bishop Hill knows that. The White House event, however, was for Sister Crentsil and the many others who have been disparaged, denied, and condemned by the current administration. They are the ones who should be honored and represented.
In the end, I pray alongside Bishop Hill who said,
If my minuscule presence and influence last evening is of any consequence, then let it be in the direction of national repentance, revival and helping a very determined, yet mortal man understand that “Righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a reproach to any people.” – Proverbs 13:34
I just hope his presence, along with the 99 other Christian leaders, did not leave a minuscule impression on the White House.
Note from the Editorial Team: Engaged Pentecostalism is a community that values open dialogue and respectful engagement from different perspectives. The views expressed above are the author's own and do not reflect those of every part of the community.