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Controversy at the Bangkok Meeting -- Part Two

January 11, 2022

A heavy silence crept over the place. Rev. TuTu could have gone but, as aforesaid, the chairman, a Liberian, discouraged it. He was the only person cut off in the whole conference. There were several other speakers but the conference was stunned. I don’t think they were even heard. Despair was thick and prevalent.

Then Philip came to the rescue. He came forward slowly, seeming to wax bigger with each step. Now he was set and began to speak.

He reminded everyone that he was responsible for convening the conference.

For years he had longed to hear the very things which were being said today and in the manner, they were being said. It was long overdue. But now that they were said, let's be done with it and get on with the business of reconciliation for we are all members of the Sustaining Fellowship and the serious burden of mission still awaits our attention.

He was his usual eloquent, persuasive, massive, commanding self. The response from the plenary was mildly enthusiastic, which I think, derived more from relief than anything else.

I too was carried away by Phillip’s words and bearing. Afterward, I said to him, “Very well said”. But as I walked back to my room I began to think. I asked myself two questions. “What motivated Philip’s intervention?” and “What would have happened had the “love speaking” been allowed to continue?”

The next day I asked another black person what he thought Philip was really saying. He replied, “Man, Philip was really saying, ‘Listen you cats, you’ve got to cool it now. You’ve stomped on whitey long enough and if you don’t stop running off at the mouth, whitey is going to take his money and go home and you won’t have a penny when you get home and I won’t have a job. So quit the rest of that babbling and let’s get together with whitey and talk about saving souls.”

Of course, he said facetiously with a big grin on his face all the while he spoke, which interpreted means, whether or not I’m serious, I leave that for you to decide. That’s a code from the black survival kit – and the humor helps keep things in their proper perspective. Never let the other know precisely what you mean. For in antebellum times, and also in contemporary times, to speak the naked truth could mean reprisal of one form or another, even death.

Now, Phillip, as stated earlier was the Director of the Commission on World Mission and now the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, which forces us to ask, “Can anyone with so much at stake in the perpetuation of a group ever do or say anything but what will advance the interest of that group. I mean, that’s why he’s here…isn’t it? On the other side, is he not expected to counter anything or anybody who threatens to destroy the group?

If I were asked whether the process should have continued, my answer would be a ringing “YES!” But what motivates my decision? Was I enjoying it all and therefore wanted it to continue, as anyone desires the thing that affords him a pleasure to continue? Was I deriving sadistic pleasure in seeing whitey get blasted?

Well, I confess, I was delighted and exhilarated. I’m not sure if it had to do more with seeing whitey get it; or with seeing Africans and Asians get it “off their chests” and out of their “gut”. In any event, I will leave others to discuss my motive.

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