Disowning Conservative Politics, Evangelical Pastor Rattles Flock
MAPLEWOOD, Minn. Like most pastors who lead thriving evangelical megachurches, the Rev. Gregory A. Boyd was asked frequently to give his blessing and the churchs 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 couldnt 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 Gods 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 youre a believer, youll vote for Bush. And its scary to go against that.
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