A (Failed?) Twitter Convo with a Fellow Pastor on Ethnocentric Oppression

Editor's note: Below is a twitter conversation I had with a fellow pastor-brother who seems to believe that ethnocentric oppression toward African Americans does not exist in American churches. I was accused of being disrespectful and pugnacious by another fellow pastor-brother. I may have sinned against God and my brother Tom. If so, I pray God shows it to me and helps me to see it so that I may repent immediately. I can't see where I disrespected him or sinned against the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. If you see it, please let me know. I think this conversation illustrates much of the difficulty of the ethnocentric reconciliation discussion among Christians (two pastors!) and the difficulty of trying to have the conversation on twitter. I pray that this conversation below, and even my mistakes, may instruct us going forward so that evil one is not allowed to continue to sow seeds of discord through miscommunication and other strategems. Despite both (1) a serious disagreement on the read of our current cultural and ecclesial situation and (2) a failure to schedule a face to face conversation, I praise God even more for the mutual commitment to the Trinity, Christology, the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, the 5 solas, and the need for biblically defined healthy churches.

Tom Buck‏ @TomBuck Mar 11 - Tom Buck Retweeted PJ Tibayan

Enough with broad sweeping statements that essentially attack Christ’s church. Right now, list clear examples of “systemic ethnocentric oppression toward African Americans in the church.” Either name them or stop making these kind of public statements against the church.

Tom Buck added,

PJ Tibayan @pjtibayan

This thread helpfully shows the divide between those who think there is a systemic ethnocentric oppression toward African Americans in the church and those who don't. It was helpful for me to peruse through though I disagree with the point made and take on Dever's anecdote.

(with me retweeting Darrell B. Harrison‏ @D_B_Harrison_ ):

Drivers licenses don’t get you killed. #ShepCon2019

PJ Tibayan‏ @pjtibayan Mar 11

Do you have time for a video call? I'm happy to talk to you about it, record the conversation/discussion, and post it publicly. I'll make the time to lay out the argument with you in a video conversation recorded and publicly posted if you're willing and have the time, brother.

Tom Buck‏ @TomBuck Mar 11

I didn’t make the public claim & don’t have time today for a lengthy video call. If you have time to make the statement in a tweet, list some things in a tweet that are clear examples of “ethnocentric oppression of African Americans in the church” and then we can discuss it later

Garrett Kell ن‏ @pastorjgkell Mar 11

I actually think that these sort of face to face (even over video) kind of conversations might move us along in the dialogue more than back-and-forth on Twitter. Just my two cents.

Tom Buck‏ @TomBuck Mar 11

Garrett, he made a public assertion without ANY evidence. It’s not biblical. It must stop. Enough of it. I agree there needs to be conversations and I welcome them. But PJ either needs to put up some evidence for his claim or withdraw the claim. Be as bold to call that out.

Garrett Kell ن‏ @pastorjgkell Mar 11

Thanks Tom. My reply wasn’t an attempt to evaluate his statement, but more suggesting the value of an off-line conversation in which he could state more clearly what he’s thinking and give you opportunity to interact with it. I would be instructed to watch you brothers dialogue.

Tom Buck‏ @TomBuck Mar 11

I’m willing to do that. However, I said I would only do that if he first gave a public example of his accusation against the church or retracted such a sweeping comment. I don’t think it’s unfair to ask for that & actually is wise before engaging in private conversation Thoughts?

Garrett Kell ن‏ @pastorjgkell Mar 11

Seems fair to me. I’ll pray for you brothers, I appreciate you both.

PJ Tibayan‏ @pjtibayan Mar 11

I’m puzzled because we previously agreed to a convo through messages then in person at ShepCon and now it’s switched up. I promise I’ll make a case and not waste time. It doesn’t have to be a private convo either. Just face to face communication. Please.

Tom Buck‏ @TomBuck Mar 11

Yes, I want to have a discussion with you and we did talk about that at Shep Con. But I would like to know an example of ethnocentric oppression of African Americans that you see taking place in the church. Then we can talk about that in private. Why is that such a problem?

PJ Tibayan‏ @pjtibayan Mar 11

Brother, I don’t mind speaking in public. We can livestream it. I don’t mind the privacy, I mind the means of communication. Let’s talk face to face (via video), brother. ¿Why is it unacceptable to give you an example face to face where miscommunication is less likely?

Tom Buck‏ @TomBuck Mar 11

Do a livestream telling all what you think. I don’t know why I have to be included in you revealing what you think the ethnocentric oppressions of African Americans in the church are. Post a video with claims and we can go from there. I’m just asking you to back up your claims.

PJ Tibayan‏ @pjtibayan Mar 11

You’re asking. We know each other. We’re brothers in Christ and pastors of gospel-preaching churches. I’m happy to answer you personally (and even publicly) since I know you and you are asking me the question. The invitation stands. Just let me know. Thanks, brother!

PJ Tibayan‏ @pjtibayan Mar 11

Brother, I'll be signing off of this convo until Wednesday since tomorrow is my day off. The invitation stands & I pray you will accept it. Either way, I pray nothing but growth in grace & in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior in all things generally & this topic particularly.

Tom Buck‏ @TomBuck Mar 11

I’m on Spring Break with my family the rest of the week. We can pick up next week. I still encourage you to publicly present your ideas. You have been asked by more people to do this than me. For example, @Fred_Butler

PJ Tibayan‏ @pjtibayan Mar 13

1,000 people I don't personally know can ask. We know each other personally as pastors of gospel churches I'm simply asking for a personal (public or private) face to face convo w/ someone I know I won't bend to this communication medium 4 clarity's sake @fred_butler can watch

PJ Tibayan‏ @pjtibayan Mar 13

Have a wonderful time with your family, brother. May you be refreshed and deeply connected with them and the Lord as you continue pastoral ministry for Christ's church. I'll pray for your fam today.

PJ Tibayan‏ @pjtibayan Mar 19

Brother Tom, I hope you had a refreshing and restful week with the family. The invitation is open if you want to have a video conversation for me to publicly respond to your question on reasons why ethnocentric oppression still exists.

Tom Buck‏ @TomBuck

It should be obvious with my meeting with @pastordmack that I am more than willing to meet with those who disagree. But Dwight has been more than open about these things publicly. I don’t have the time to meet with people who want to publicly pontificate and privately articulate.

PJ Tibayan‏ @pjtibayan Mar 19

I will publicly articulate in our conversation, not privately articulate.

PJ Tibayan‏ @pjtibayan Mar 19

To quote Carl Trueman's wise statement: "Just as brain surgery cannot be done with a sledge hammer and a chainsaw, so careful theology on contentious issues cannot be done constructively in 280 characters." Do you have time to meet with one who will publicly articulate?

Tom Buck‏ @TomBuck Mar 19

The continued practice of making vague & unsubstantiated claims or insinuations of "ethnocentric oppression of African Americans in the church" is using a "sledge hammer and a chainsaw" and is not "careful theology." Either start being specific publicly or stop the public claims

PJ Tibayan‏ @pjtibayan Mar 19

Happy to start being specific publicly as per your request, brother. Just let me know when you want to schedule our PUBLIC convo.

Tom Buck‏ @TomBuck Mar 19

Be specific about the topics & claims you want to make so I can prepare for what will be talked about. No one enters into such a discussion not knowing what will be discussed. I don't want to shoot from the hip. My request is not unreasonable, so stop trying to paint me as such.

PJ Tibayan‏ @pjtibayan Mar 19

Happy to publicly name Topics: (1) theology (does the Bible have the category of corporate sin? what about corporate unintentional sin?) (2) History (when did ethnocentric oppression toward African American end in the nation and our churches?)

PJ Tibayan‏ @pjtibayan Mar 19

(3) sociology (how do we explain the disparity?); (4) personal testimony (how do we assess the testimonies on various sides of the issue?). There you have it, brother. The four topics I am willing to publicly explore with you to discuss ethnocentric oppression in the churches.

PJ Tibayan‏ @pjtibayan Mar 19

Now you can prepare. Please let me know if/when you want a PUBLIC (or private) conversation working through the claim of whether this sinful pattern & cultural effect exists in the churches today (and if so or if not, what should be done going forward). God bless, brother :)

Tom Buck‏ @TomBuck Mar 19

See, you move the goal post. You've already publicly established that there IS oppression in the church now. State your affirmative position on these things, not open ended questions. Until you do this, I'm out. Again, this is not an unreasonable request with your public record

PJ Tibayan‏ @pjtibayan Mar 19

I'm confused as to what you want me to say so that we can have a public, personal, face to face conversation? Can you please give me an example of what would be a public statement that would be acceptable to you as the prerequisite for a convo?

Tom Buck‏ @TomBuck Mar 19

I will pick this up later. I am swamped with ministry. I only responded to you because you laid out another request as if I’m unwilling to meet. I couldn’t have been more clear. You claim there IS ethnocentric oppression in the church NOW. Name two specific examples & we’ll talk

PJ Tibayan‏ @pjtibayan Mar 19

Example (1) The functional assumption that there is no ethnocentric oppression/pressure in the church is itself oppressive (again, this assumes the oppression/pressure exists, which is why we need a convo);

PJ Tibayan‏ @pjtibayan Mar 19

(2) the preaching on social justice and lumping the politicization of legitimate concern of ethnocentric oppression/pressure with the illegitimate concern of of so called "oppression of the LGBT community when preaching biblical sexual morality.

PJ Tibayan‏ @pjtibayan Mar 19

Those are two examples. I assume you disagree with their legitimacy, but maybe you don't. But those are two examples of ethnocentric oppression in the churches. Now, are you willing to meet? (you don't have to schedule it today, I just want to see if you are willing)

On a separate thread Tom Buck started:

Tom Buck‏ @TomBuck Mar 19

@pjtibayan Here is a perfect example of how you accuse people of things publicly without documentation. You pepper your words with "brother" and acknowledge me as a fellow elder, then publicly affirm something about me and other brothers that is nothing more than libel. Shameful

(Tom pastes a picture of me (PJ Tibayan) liking this tweet):

Mark Taylor ☕️ ✏️‏ @heymarktaylor Mar 19

Could it be considered ethnocentric oppression for a bunch of white guys to only accept an answer that meets their white standards?

PJ Tibayan‏ @pjtibayan - Replying to @TomBuck

Libel? This is the topic we can discuss. It is a false accusation that I must/will repent of IF ethnocentric oppression isn’t happening. I will repent of libel as soon as I realize it doesn’t exist. Brothers can call out sin in brothers. We do that with paedobaptist bros.

Tom Buck‏ @TomBuck Mar 19 - Replying to @pjtibayan

The tweet you liked is accusing me and Fred of being a bunch of “white guys” who are guilty of oppression because we don’t accept your answer. I ignored the guy who said it because it was so absurd and racism towards us. You’re liking it as a fellow pastor is a greater offense.

PJ Tibayan‏ @pjtibayan Mar 19 - Replying to @pjtibayan @TomBuck

No fellow elder or brother is without unintentional sin, right? Am I missing something? Let’s have a personal, public (or private) face conversation as brothers and fellow pastors. If I’m wrong I’d love to know ASAP to repent. If not, I’d like to make a case for you to consider

PJ Tibayan‏ @pjtibayan Mar 19

The invitation to a conversation as a pastor-brother to pastor-brother still stands. No tricks or set up. Just seeking to honor Christ and discern our current situation in American churches. We are united in Christ & adopted by our Father. Let’s talk and pray together.