Expect a Bush Court Appointment

Pastor Accused of Running Out Dems Quits

from Associated Press

WAYNESVILLE, N.C. - A Baptist pastor accused of threatening to banish from his church anyone who didn't vote for President Bush has himself chosen to depart, leaving in his wake a divided community and a cultural chasm.

The Rev. Chan Chandler, 33, walked out of the church he had led for three years Tuesday night after delivering a brief statement of resignation. With him went many of the young congregants he had attracted to the modest brick church on the outskirts of this small mountain town in western North Carolina.

In leaving, Chandler did not apologize for the controversy that made him a national lightning rod — the claims by some church members that they were told to leave if they voted for Democratic nominee John Kerry.

"For me to remain now would only cause more hurt for me and my family," Chandler said. "I am resigning with gratitude in my heart for all of you, particularly those of you who love me and my family."

The dispute that engulfed East Waynesville Baptist Church in recent months would have sounded familiar to many an American congregation: Aging congregation brings in dynamic young preacher to turn things around. New pastor attracts young members who push for change in traditional ways of doing things. Battle ensues.

Members said the troubles had been simmering since last fall, when Chandler endorsed Bush and denounced Kerry from the pulpit — saying those who planned to vote for the Democrat should "repent or resign."

Tensions escalated last week, when several members said Chandler called a meeting of the church's board of deacons and declared his intention for East Waynesville to become a politically active church. Anyone who did not like that direction was free to leave, Chandler said — a statement that caused nine members to walk out.

Many of those who opposed Chandler's leadership said they agreed with the pastor's positions on abortion and other hot-button religious topics, but disliked linking those beliefs to specific political positions and candidates.

As Chandler and his wife drove out of the church's parking lot followed by a police escort, about 40 of his supporters walked out as well, with many saying they were resigning their memberships.

"I'm not going to serve with the ungodly," an angry Misty Turner declared.


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