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May 11, 2005

East Waynesville Baptist Church

From the Baptist Press:

Chandler and the church where he is pastor -- East Waynesville Baptist Church, Waynesville, N.C. -- have drawn considerable media attention in recent days as nine members publicly alleged Chandler had them ousted from church membership based on their choice of political parties and candidates.

"I don't know how these folks voted," Chandler said. "And I never endorsed any candidate." Chandler said he did cite from the church pulpit what he believes are the "unbiblical values" of some political hopefuls. "But those were negative endorsements -- never a positive endorsement" of any candidate, he said, whether Republican, Democrat or Independent.

Chandler admits citing Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's views on abortion and homosexuality in one sermon, "and I also mentioned two Republicans' names" whose views he says are out of step with the Bible. "But that's not getting out," he said.

So far the MSM have taken the disgruntled members accusations at face value, and reported them as fact. Many bloggers have as well, while some, including me, withheld judgment until we could hear both sides. (Ironically this is not long after New York Times ran an editorial criticizing bloggers lack of journalistic professionalism, as compared to the MSM. Hey, NYT's need a towel to wipe that egg off your face?)

...anyway...

The church's Pastor, Chan Chandler, notes that the church keeps audio tapes of his sermons, so the accusation made against him can be readily proven or disproven. I've been trying to get hold of the church, but they don't seem to be answering their phone. It is a small church, and it may simply be that there's no one there.

"This never has been about politics," [Chandler] said. "It's always been about whether the Bible applies to the entire life of a Christian." He explained that some Southern Baptists have held for decades the belief that religion and politics should never mix. But for Chandler, Christians entering a voting booth have a much weightier spiritual responsibility than they do a political one.

"Sometimes it's like choosing the lesser of two evils," he said. "But in that case, I see all evil and I don't vote for either candidate." Chandler said he has counseled members to write in some other candidate's name they could feel right about when faced with the proverbial lesser of two evils choice.

This kind of thinking would be heresy to the kind of yellow-dog democrats one finds in the south, North Carolina included. Is it any wonder there's an uproar. The nine complainers, Chandler says, left the church voluntarily, but since some were trustees, other members felt it would be best if they were removed as members.

Waylan Owens, vice president of planning and communications at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC is also Chan Chandlers former professor.

What a place for right-wing Christian radicals to begin, in a church of about 100 people in Waynesville, N.C., a community of about 9,200. What a time to start: nine members “ousted” seven months after the election because they would not vote for President Bush.

But what is the real story? The media has refused to do the work necessary to find out the truth. Dogging Chan, who understandably has refused to talk so far, the media has ignored all of the members of the church who actually did the voting. Why have we only heard from those voted out or from their supporters? Why are there no quotes from the members who said, "enough is enough?"

In spite of the Bible's clear admonition to not take matters between Christians to court, the nine former members hired an attorney.

Attorney David Wijewickrama is representing the nine church members who were allegedly put out of the church. In a recent Associated Press interview, he said his clients were "shocked and deeply saddened" by their expulsion and "felt a great deal of pain and a great deal of unhappiness and embarrassment" over it. The nine claim they were voted out during a May 2 church meeting.

The story has attracted the attention of the national press, with particular emphasis on its political overtones. One USA Today headline read: "Democrats voted out of church because of their politics, members say." But although some media reports have suggested that some are calling for Chandler to step down over the matter, Wijewickrama maintains that his clients harbor no sense of vengeance and are not pushing for the pastor to be let go.

"What these folks want is reunification," the lawyer says. "That's our primary focus right now ... to try and find a way where we can get the two parties to understand each other's position and each other's thoughts." A business meeting is scheduled to take place today at Waynesville Baptist Church to address the controversy.

According to the pastor, though, the story is quite different.

Whatever the reasons, Chandler said most church members believed the unrest needed to be resolved. That's why on May 2 the deacons called for a May 3 deacons' meeting. Chandler broadened the meeting when he decided Sunday night, May 2, to open it up to the entire church, even those who were waiting to be baptized and join the church as new members.

He also laid the ground rules, telling those who were unhappy with him as pastor that if they could garner a simple majority against him, he'd leave, despite the bylaws provision that such a vote to terminate the pastor requires a two-thirds vote margin.

Chandler also said that if those who were dissatisfied with him couldn't garner a simple majority, then they should leave.

Three times he explained this to the Sunday night crowd, and three times, all commonly consented to abide by the provisions.

Last night the church had another business meeting. There is no word on what happened during it.

• coverage: ChristWeb

UPDATE: CNN is reporting that Pastor Chan Chandler has resigned. For once they actually quoted one of the majority in the church that supported the pastor, but followed it with a quote from one of those causing dissention

Hat Tip: ChristWeb

Posted by Danny Carlton at May 11, 2005 09:15 AM

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