East Waynesville Baptist Church
East Waynesville Baptist Church is a Baptist church in Waynesville, a small town in the Great Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina, United States of America. It is an independent and autonomous member of the Southern Baptist Convention and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC). As of May 2005 it had 100 members. The church was involved in a 2005 controversy after the pastor allegedly expelled members because of their political views.
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Purge of members
The church received mass media attention in May 2005. During a May 2 deacons' meeting, its pastor Chan Chandler allegedly told any members who had supported John Kerry in the 2004 United States presidential election to leave. This statement was reportedly captured on audio tape. Nine members of the church, including at least one deacon, left the meeting at that point. Chandler then allegedly declared an impromptu business meeting, and a majority of the 20 church members present voted to expel those who left. Chandler had been vocal in earlier months that he considered voting for the Democratic Party tantamount to supporting homosexuality and abortion. Forty church members threatened to terminate their membership in protest against the actions taken at the meeting.
The BSCNC called the actions attributed to the church leadership "highly irregular" and warned that they could threaten the church's tax-exempt status. Groups campaigning for church-state separation called for the Internal Revenue Service to consider removing the church's tax-exempt status on the grounds that it engaged in political advocacy. A writer in Christianity Today said the negative comments about John Kerry cross a line and could have fomented negative tax action. He noted, however, that the parish suffered from a demographic split. Dubbing it "Chandlergate" he noted that according to the Raleigh News and Observer, 35 Chandler followers left the sanctuary when Chandler resigned.
In speaking to the Baptist Press, Chandler attempted "to clarify whether the nine people were in fact voted out of the church, Chandler said they initially left voluntarily." He also told the Baptist Press: "I don't know how these folks voted," Chandler told Baptist Press. "And I never endorsed any candidate." But he admits he preached about the "unbiblical values" of John Kerry, particularly in regard to abortion and homosexuality. He also claimed to have "mentioned two Republicans' names" as unbiblical examples. He opined that he made "negative endorsements" but "never a positive endorsement" of a candidate.>
On May 10, 2005 Chandler resigned as pastor. He denied that the actions at the meeting were politically motivated, but did not give his version of events. The BSCNC offered to assist the church in healing the rift between the factions.
The dispute focused attention on the limits, if any, on the relationship of sermonizing from the pulpit and the political activities of religious practitioners. An opposing view is that a church, being a voluntary association, has an inherent right to discipline and choose its members incidental to its rights of Freedom of religion and Freedom of association, which should not be interfered with by the state.
- Nowell, Paul (May 8, 2005). "North Carolina church torn by pastor's partisan passion". Seattle Times. Associated Press. Retrieved October 3, 2016.
Members of the congregation said Chandler told them during last year's presidential campaign that anyone who planned to vote for Democratic nominee John Kerry needed to leave the church.
- Chadwick, Alex (May 11, 2005). "Pastor Accused of Political Partisanship Steps Down". Day to Day. WDET National Public Radio. Retrieved September 30, 2016.
- "Members say church ousts Kerry supporters". Citizen-Times. Asheville, North Carolina: Gannett.
- Dewan, Shaila (May 16, 2005). "Political Split Leaves Church Sadder and Greyer". The New York Times. Waynesville, North Carolina. Retrieved September 29, 2016.
- Rodriguez, Andre A. (May 8, 2005). "N.C. Church Kicks Out Members Who Do Not Support Bush Nine members were voted out of the church May 2 at Pastor Chan Chandler's urging, members say. Forty others quit in protest". The Washington Post. Waynesville, N.C. Associated Press. Retrieved September 30, 2016.
- Nowell, Paul (May 9, 2005). "Pastor calls ousting of members a 'great misunderstanding'". St. Augustine Record. The Associated Press. Retrieved September 30, 2016.
- Church removes members for political views, deacon says The Biblical Recorder Archived May 10, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
- Politics Prompt Church Tax Questions Washington Post Archived 2012-09-04 at the Wayback Machine
- East Waynesville Action 'Highly Irregular' North Carolina Baptists Archived May 12, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
- Tamblyn, Larry; April, Ellen P. (August 20, 2006). "Politics in the church pews". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 30, 2016.
- Olsen, Ted (April 13, 2006). "Baptist Pastor Accused of Expelling Kerry Voters Quits". Retrieved October 4, 2016.
For me to remain now would only cause more hurt for me and my family," he said at a special business meeting last night. "I am resigning with gratitude in my heart for all of you, particularly those of you who love me and my family." He admitted they left the church, "For me to remain now would only cause more hurt for me and my family," he said at a special business meeting last night. "I am resigning with gratitude in my heart for all of you, particularly those of you who love me and my family.
- Miller, Norm (May 11, 2005). "Embattled N.C. pastor resigns, says he was misunderstood". Baptist Press. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
- Pastor Accused of Running Out Dems Resigns Archived May 14, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
- "Political North Carolina pastor resigns: Pastor was accused of ousting members who voted against Bush". NBC. Associated Press. May 10, 2005. Retrieved September 29, 2016.
- "After rejecting Kerry voters, North Carolina pastor quits". USA Today. Waynesville, N.C. AP. May 11, 2005. Retrieved September 30, 2016.
- Sullivan, Amy (May 13, 2005). "Commentary: Vote 'Wrong,' Go to Hell?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 3, 2016.
- Nowell, Paul (May 8, 2005). "Members voted out of church weigh steps: Alleged pastor told them to back Bush steps". Boston Globe. Associated Press. Retrieved September 30, 2016.
- Jonsson, Patrik (May 12, 2005). "Limits of pulpit politics tested in N.C.: First, the pastor told Democrats to leave the church. Now he has left, leaving simmering debate in his wake". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved September 30, 2016.
If the rupture of this congregation was an extreme event for a church, it is also part of a simmering debate nationwide about how politicized the pulpit should be. Even in an era of intense partisan divides, the reaction of parishioners here suggests that even in the heart of "red-state" America, many want to see some boundary drawn between the demands of their faith and their ballot-box choices.
- Adams, Chase (September–October 2005). "Incident at East Waynesville". Liberty. Retrieved October 3, 2016.