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Issue of Racism Breaks Ties That Bound Two Churches

Discrimination: Pastor of black center is speaking out against a sermon opposing interracial dating.

March 28, 1998|JOHN DART | TIMES RELIGION WRITER

The Rev. Fred Price, pastor of the predominantly black Crenshaw Christian Center in Los Angeles, has severed long-standing ties to a leading white Pentecostal ministry in Oklahoma over the issue of interracial dating and marriage.

During a series of sermons on racism that were broadcast last winter on his nationally syndicated TV program, Price played excerpts from a taped sermon by a minister who said that young white Christians should not date people of other races.

Price did not identify the speaker on the tape, but next month's issue of Charisma magazine, a Pentecostal monthly published in Lake Mary, Fla., identifies the minister as the Rev. Kenneth Hagin Jr. of Tulsa, Okla.

Hagin's father, the Rev. Kenneth Hagin Sr., is prominent among Pentecostal ministers and has been a mentor to Price. He is an exponent of what critics refer to as a "prosperity Gospel" that emphasizes that prayer can lead to health and material wealth.

Price received the tape in question about six years ago, but did not decide to break with Hagin until recently. According to Charisma, Price wrote to Hagin Sr. about his son's statements but did not get a satisfactory response. After another letter met with no response, Price told his 16,000-member church and his television audience that he was forced to break his fellowship with the minister, whom he still declined to name publicly.

"Principle means more to me than friendship," Price said.

Although the younger Hagin refused to be interviewed by Charisma, the publication said Hagin Jr. has replied to supporters of his Rhema Bible Church in Tulsa who inquired about the controversy.

In one letter, Hagin Jr. said he has apologized to his church and tried to apologize to Price. "If I could take the words back, I would . . . but I can't," he wrote, the magazine said.

In response to inquiries this week from The Times, Price and Hagin Jr. declined to comment.

In the same April issue of Charisma, editor-publisher Stephen Strang praised Price for "using his considerable influence to shine the spotlight on the passive racism that permeates the church."

Strang added: "There is only one race--the human race. To me, the question of interracial marriage is a nonissue. The Bible only forbids Christians to marry unbelievers."

Charisma also reported that the Georgia-based publishers of the Dake Annotated Reference Bible apologized in a Feb. 18 letter to Price about, among other things, notes that listed 30 reasons that God intended the races to live separately.

The commentaries, written by the late F. J. Dake about 50 years ago, remained in the printed Bibles until the 1997 edition. Dake Publishing wrote to Price after hearing that he planned to cite the older editions on television as an example of racism.

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