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HomeOpinionLettersThe ecclesiastical and paradoxical context of McAlpine’s anti-FNM posture

The ecclesiastical and paradoxical context of McAlpine’s anti-FNM posture

Dear Editor,

Students of systematic theology would know that ecclesiology is the doctrine of the church. The New Testament church, which was founded by Jesus Christ, is the continuation of the Old Testament community of faith. The loquacious and outspoken Pineridge MP Frederick McAlpine is a member of the church. Free National Movement (FNM) supporters are up in arms over comments reportedly made by McAlpine while appearing as a guest on a Nassau-based radio talk show. These FNMs are alleging that McAlpine claimed that those FNMs who are not critical of Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis are on the gravy train. If such a train exists, McAlpine was on it too, as hotel corporation chairman. To say that McAlpine is a deeply polarizing figure within the FNM would be an understatement. I understand that a group of prominent FNMs were canvassing his community in order to garner the signatures of constituents who are not happy with their representative, which is befuddling, when one considers the fact that McAlpine has been very active in his area and accessible to his Pineridge constituents. From my vantage point, McAlpine seems to be the most active of the five Grand Bahama MPs.

Whatever one’s opinion of the Pineridge MP’s recent outbursts against the governing party, honesty requires that we be at least objective in our assessment of his performance as an MP. I will call a spade a spade: He’s a good MP, however, he’s not a good team player, as far as the FNM hierarchy is concerned. So what are the motivating factors for his rebellion against the Minnis administration? I believe there are several. One of the keys to comprehending McAlpine’s frame of mind is to gain an insight into his religious background.

The Pentecostal and Charismatic movements

McAlpine is a Pentecostal. He is also a Charismatic. Both movements have spawned a plethora of fiercely independent ministries since their formation during the last century, while mainline Protestant and Catholic denominations have solid hierarchical structures and organizational protocols. The Pentecostal movement began in 1901, when one Agnes Ozman claimed to have spoken in an unknown tongue (Glossolalia) at Charles Parham’s Bethel Bible school in Topeka, Kansas. Five years later, the Asuza Street Revival in Los Angeles began in earnest, with a black student of Parham’s serving as the catalyst, William J. Seymour.

Many of the established Pentecostal denominations and organizations, such as the Assemblies of God, Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee) and the Church of God of Prophecy, owe their very existence to Parham and Seymour. The foregoing denominations have organization structures in place, to their credit. Parham has been ruthlessly excoriated by anti-Pentecostal historians. As a Ku Klux Klan supporter, the father of modern day Pentecostalism has been accused of practicing racial segregation during his church meetings. Considering that that was during the era of Jim Crow laws, Parham can be excused as just another typical white American who lived during that time, the same way Finis Jennings Dake, of the Dake Annotated Reference Bible, and C.I. Scofield, of the Scofield Reference Bible, are both excused for endorsing racial segregation in the notes of their respective study Bibles.

The Pentecostal movement gave birth to the healing revival between 1947 and 1958. It was during this time span that many of the popular healing evangelists, such as William Braham, Oral Roberts, T.L. Osborne, Jack Coe, A.A. Allen, Gordon Lindsay, F.F. Bosworth and Kenneth E. Hagin travelled throughout North America preaching divine healing and financial prosperity. These evangelists, like their Charismatic counterparts after 1960, headed independent organizations. The Charismatic movement, a monolithic movement at that, began in 1960, when an Episcopalian priest named Dennis Bennett claimed to have had the same experience as Agnes Ozman. Like its senior counterpart, the Charismatic movement gave birth to a plethora of independent ministries and popular televangelists, such as Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, Fred Price, Jesse Duplantis, Jerry Sevalle, Charles Capps, Jim Bakker, John and Joel Osteen, John Hagee, Creflo Dollar, T.D. Jakes, Paul and Jan Crouch, Marilyn Hickey, Joyce Meyers, Paula White, Rod Parsley, Hobart Freeman, Leroy Thompson and Benny Hinn, to name a few.

In 1992 prominent evangelical Pastor John MacArthur published “Charismatic Chaos” — a cessationist volume that gives a harsh and scathing assessment of the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements. A few years ago MacArthur opined that the very existence of so many Protestant churches and ministries was one of the valid reasons the Catholic Church was violently opposed to Martin Luther’s Reformation. While the Charismatic movement has brought about some good to the body of Christ, its subgroups, such as the Word of Faith Movement of E.W. Kenyon and Kenneth E.Hagin; the Shepherding Discipleship Movement and the New Apostolic Reformation, have all stirred up chaos within the church. William Braham is just one of many tragic examples of Pentecostal ministers who lacked denominational oversight. Near the end of his life, in 1965, the Oneness Pentecostal Braham taught that he was the Elijah of Malachi 4:5; that Eve had sexual intercourse with the serpent in Genesis 3 and that hell will not be everlasting, in addition to a slew of false predictions he had made. Braham also stated that members of denominational churches have the mark of the beast. What began as an ecumenical movement between the established Pentecostal denominations and these independent ministries soon deteriorated in the 1950s due to the unorthodox approach of the healing evangelists in raising funds during the meetings. Many Bahamians old enough would recall Oral Roberts warning his ministry donors via television that God would take his life unless he raised $8 million by a certain date.

Religious influence on McAlpine

So how is all this germane to the subject of McAlpine and his rebellion against the Minnis administration? McAlpine, like his Charismatic counterparts in the United States, has a fiercely independent spirit which appears difficult to tame. I understand that he started out his preaching career in a Baptist church, but subsequently went on to start his very own independent ministry called Freeport Fellowship Center. Like his Charismatic counterparts mentioned above, McAlpine seems unaccustomed to functioning in a structured environment. This can explain his chaotic and erratic behavior within the FNM administration.

When McAlpine started out as an evangelist, his ministry began to experience phenomenal growth. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, with the exception of the late Dr. Myles Munroe, McAlpine was the biggest Christian preacher in The Bahamas. While most Nassuvians only had ZNS TV 13, McAlpine was on the now defunct Caribbean Satellite Network on cable TV in Freeport and throughout the Caribbean during the early to mid 1990s.

Since the late 1990s, however, his ministry has declined for any number of reasons. I sincerely believe that, had McAlpine been a member of one of the established Pentecostal denominations, he would’ve still been flourishing.

 McAlpine’s future

Moving forward, what should be the approach of Minnis and his administration? The Minnis administration should reach out to McAlpine with the aim of explaining the rationale behind the unpopular move to raise VAT from 7.5 percent to 12 percent. The government should also reason with him over its decision to lease a portion of the Town Centre Mall for the post office. If the FNM decides to dump McAlpine, it will not win Pineridge in 2022. McAlpine has far too many FNM sympathizers who are equally disgruntled with the governing party. McAlpine, if he runs as an independent, as he did in 2002, would only take away crucial votes from the FNM, which would ensure an easy victory for the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP). If he amalgamates with the PLP, then the PLP would win that seat, as many disgruntled FNMs would vote PLP in order to spite Minnis. Surely there has to be a modicum of hope for reconciliation between McAlpine and Minnis.

 

– Kevin Evans

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