Pastor Charles L. Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, NC is in hot water. Catawba Valley Citizens Against Hate posted an excerpt from Worley's May 13th sermon, in which Worley said that he would never vote for a "baby killer and a homosexual-lover." Worley joked about fencing in gays and lesbians until they "die out."
"The Bible's against [homosexuality], God's against it, I'm against it, and if you've got any sense, you're against it ... I figured a way out, a way to get rid of all the lesbians and queers, but I couldn't get it past the Congress. Build a great big large fence, hundred, fifty or a hundred miles long. Put all the lesbians in there. Fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals, and have that fence electrified so they can't get out. Feed them, and you know what? In a few years, they'll die out. Do you know why? They can't reproduce."After the video went viral, a firestorm erupted over Worley's homophobic statements. LGBT rights advocates and faith leaders alike have decried Worley's sermon, while members of his congregations have rushed to defend him.
Rev. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, decried Worley's comments during an appearance on Anderson Cooper 360. (Hat tip to Truth Wins Out.)
"I see nothing Christian about it and nothing American about it ... It is about as contradictory to a religion based on love and acceptance and welcome as you could imagine, and it violates everything we understand about the Constitution and its affirmation of diversity and freedom for people to live out their identity."Gaddy worried that hateful words could ignite violence among people with "sick minds."
"In one fell swoop, this angry minister managed to discredit from his pulpit both the Constitution of the United States and the compassion that we find in the Bible. And additionally, he did a very dangerous thing by planting seeds of hatred in sick minds that, in the right circumstances, can act on them and do the kind of violence that has no place in our world."A fellow Baptist also condemned Worley's hate. In a commentary at ABP News, Bill Leonard called Worley's comments "abhorrent" and "repugnant," grieving that his sermon "shame[d] the name Baptist and undercut the gospel itself."
LGBT rights advocates soundly criticized the sermon. Human Rights Campaign has created a petition slamming Worley's homophobic comments, which has gathered over 50,000 signatures. Additionally, the Hickory Daily Record reports that more than 2,000 pro-LGBT demonstrators protested against Worley's sermon in Newton, NC on May 27th. Unfortunately, a group of over 50 counter-protesters also held signs mocking "Sodomites" and quoting anti-gay Bible passages. (Hat tip to Towleroad.)
Providence Road Baptist Church has suffered several misfortunes since the May 13th sermon went viral. WSOC 9 reports that a failed arson attempt took place at Providence Road Baptist Church over the weekend. The article says that according to the Catawba County sheriff, power lines and a power box outside the building sustained damage, but the building itself did not. Additionally, the
New Civil Rights Movement reports that the church's website was recently taken down, reportedly after the website's comments section was hacked.
Worley remains defiant. According to the Hickory Record, Worley received a standing ovation at Providence Road Baptist Church on May 27th. “I’ve been a preacher for 53 years," Worley said. "Do you think I’m going to bail out on this?”
Several members of the congregation have publicly defended Worley. During a news report by WCNC 36, Providence Road Baptist Church member Geneva Sims defended Worley. "He had every right to say what he said about putting them in a pen and feeding them," she said. "The Bible says they're worthy of death, so he only preaches the word."
Another congregation member, Stacey Pritchard, also defended Worley as a man who was trying to save others from damnation. "Sometimes you've got to be scared straight. He's trying to save those people from going to hell."
Stacey Pritchard also appeared on Anderson Cooper 360, where she discussed the controversy with Anderson Cooper. (Hat tip to Towleroad.)
COOPER: Do you agree with his statements that he said on the pulpit that gays and lesbians should be put behind electrified fences until they die out?Later in the interview, Pritchard expressed annoyance when Cooper pressed her about Worley's electric fence comments, complaining about "harping, harping, harping on the electric fence ... It's about the homosexuals, and it's wrong."
PRITCHARD: I believe that that was taken--I mean, yes, he said that, but of course, he would never want that to be done. Of course, people are going to take it and make it their own way and make it into what they want to, but I agreed with what the sermon was and what it was about.
COOPER: But you're saying he doesn't want it done, but he said he wanted it done on the--he said it from the pulpit. How do you--why do you interpret that's not what he wants?
PRITCHARD: Let me try to say it a different way. Maybe that's what he felt like should be done. I mean, it can be said either way. Just to make the short of it, yes, I agree with him. If they can't get the message that that's wrong, then, you know, they can't reproduce, and eventually they would die.
COOPER: So you believe only--that gay people are only born of other gay people?
PRITCHARD: I'm sorry. What?
COOPER: You're saying they can't reproduce, so therefore they would all die off.
PRITCHARD: If man and man--
COOPER: Gay people get born to straight parents all the time.
PRITCHARD: No, that's not what I meant. If men and men were in the same fence, and women were in the same fence, they can't reproduce together. That's what I meant.
People of conscience should be disgusted by Worley's homophobic statements. I'm relieved that many voices have condemned his "electric fence" sermon, which promotes a hateful and dangerous message. However, I remain shocked that someone could publicly say such things, even in jest, after the world has seen so many examples of what hateful speech can lead to. I'm similarly stunned that members of his congregations could say "Amen" during the sermon and publicly defend homophobia. The Worley controversy reminds us how much work still remains for people of conscience.