Sunday, July 30, 2006
Conservative Megachurch Pastor Preaches Leaving Caesar's Things To Caesar. And Loses A Good Chunk Of His Parishioners.
In which a conservative pastor chooses to actually live according to Christ's teachings instead of making his church yet another Republican Party precinct headquarters:
MAPLEWOOD, Minn. — Like most pastors who lead thriving evangelical megachurches, the Rev. Gregory A. Boyd was asked frequently to give his blessing — and the church’s — to conservative political candidates and causes. The requests came from church members and visitors alike: Would he please announce a rally against gay marriage during services? Would he introduce a politician from the pulpit? Could members set up a table in the lobby promoting their anti-abortion work? Would the church distribute “voters’ guides” that all but endorsed Republican candidates? And with the country at war, please couldn’t the church hang an American flag in the sanctuary? After refusing each time, Mr. Boyd finally became fed up, he said. Before the last presidential election, he preached six sermons called “The Cross and the Sword” in which he said the church should steer clear of politics, give up moralizing on sexual issues, stop claiming the United States as a “Christian nation” and stop glorifying American military campaigns. “When the church wins the culture wars, it inevitably loses,” Mr. Boyd preached. “When it conquers the world, it becomes the world. When you put your trust in the sword, you lose the cross.” Mr. Boyd says he is no liberal. He is opposed to abortion and thinks homosexuality is not God’s ideal. The response from his congregation at Woodland Hills Church here in suburban St. Paul — packed mostly with politically and theologically conservative, middle-class evangelicals — was passionate. Some members walked out of a sermon and never returned. By the time the dust had settled, Woodland Hills, which Mr. Boyd founded in 1992, had lost about 1,000 of its 5,000 members. But there were also congregants who thanked Mr. Boyd, telling him they were moved to tears to hear him voice concerns they had been too afraid to share. “Most of my friends are believers,” said Shannon Staiger, a psychotherapist and church member, “and they think if you’re a believer, you’ll vote for Bush. And it’s scary to go against that.”Of course, the people who left Boyd's church were probably also unhappy about this move of his, too, which happened a year before his famous sermons:
In the end, those who left tended to be white, middle-class suburbanites, church staff members said. In their place, the church has added more members who live in the surrounding community — African-Americans, Hispanics and Hmong immigrants from Laos. This suits Mr. Boyd. His vision for his church is an ethnically and economically diverse congregation that exemplifies Jesus’ teachings by its members’ actions. He, his wife and three other families from the church moved from the suburbs three years ago to a predominantly black neighborhood in St. Paul.No, he didn't up and move the church itself to that neighborhood (which I'm guessing is near either Rice Street and/or University Avenue). But he obviously has been preaching a gospel of tolerance -- of skin tone, anyway -- that probably set the teeth of his white, middle-class suburbanite flock on edge. Thing is, the public schools in the Twin Cities are very good. The excuse usually given for living in the 'burbs -- The Schools -- really isn't operative here. People live in the 'burbs because they want to avoid seeing black people, who they see as criminals and Drains On The Taxpayer. (Of course, it would be far less of a drain on the average taxpayer if rich people were made to pay their fair share, but it's not politically correct among these folks to say that.) For this pastor to actually engage blacks and Hmong and Vietnamese persons, and to encourage them to join his church no matter their financial status, is every bit as shocking to his conservative white parishioners as his "The Cross and The Sword" sermon.
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