Baptist, Methodist Pastors Protest Sessions Speech - Word&Way

Baptist, Methodist Pastors Protest Sessions Speech

Two ministers — including a Baptist — on Monday interrupted a speech by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on the topic of religious liberty — and then police removed the men. Speaking in Boston, Mass., at an event hosted by the Boston Lawyers Chapter of the Federalist Society, Sessions addressed “The Future of Religious Liberty.” Just moments into his remarks, however, Methodist and Baptist ministers interrupted him.

“Remember the words of Jesus: I was hungry and you did not feed me,” proclaimed Will Green, pastor of Ballard Vale United Church in Andover, Mass., as he quoted from Matthew 25. “I was naked and you did not clothe me. I was a stranger and you did not welcome me. I was sick and in prison and you did not visit me.”

“Brother Jeff,” Green added, “as a fellow United Methodist, I call upon you to repent, to care for those in need, to remember that when you do not care for others you are wounding the body of Christ.”

As police removed Green, Sessions referred to the remarks as an “attack.” Moment later, another pastor stood up to protest the treatment of Green.

Darrell HamiltonDarrell Hamilton“That is a person that represents the Christian tradition — the faith that everyone here professes to believe in — actually sharing the words of Jesus himself” declared Darrell Hamilton, pastor for formation & outreach at First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain, Mass.

“I thought we were here to protect religious liberty,” Hamilton added as police led him out. “I am a pastor of a Baptist church and you are escorting me out for exercising my religious freedom. That doesn’t make any sense. It’s very hypocritical for this group of people to be going to protect religious freedom while you are escorting me out for doing that very work.”

After the event, Hamilton explained why he spoke out.

“Jeff Session has shown himself to be a champion of a Christian supremacist movement which intends to step on the rights of free exercise of faith, or no faith, by minority religions, races and genders in our country,” Hamilton told Word&Way.

“As a Baptist pastor, I confidently assert that there is no mention of Christian religion practice in our sacred scriptures that promotes the refusal of equal protection under the law for every citizen within the nation,” he added. “There is no mention of Christian religion practice that supports denying services to persons whose beliefs, way of life or understanding of themselves as people does not align with the opinion of others. There is no Christian religious practice that supports stripping voting rights and denying healthcare expansion. There is no mention of Christian religious practice that promotes the dehumanization of immigrants to the United States and their families. Lastly, there is no mention of Christian religious practice that lets our faith work as a cover for discrimination. Rather, I can confidently assert that in our sacred scriptures, actually, the opposite is true.”

Hamilton also addressed the topic of religious liberty, which he mentioned in his protest since that was the topic of the dinner.

“Jeff Sessions is not a champion of true religious liberty,” he told Word&Way. “And as a Baptist preacher, in the long legacy of Baptist preachers such as Roger Williams and John Leland, I disrupted Jeff Sessions to defend the protection of both soul and religious freedom of all people as a true witness of Christian religion practice.”

In June, more than 600 Methodists filed a formal church complaint against Sessions, accusing him of immorality for splitting migrant children from their parents at the border. However, regional church officials dismissed the complaint. Many Baptist leaders at the time also criticized Sessions for the separation policy.