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Pastor Resigns After Praying at Celebration for KKK Forefather

Will Dismukes

After giving a convocation at an event celebrating a leader of the Confederacy and the Ku Klux Klan, Alabama Rep. Will Dismukes has chosen to resign as pastor of a Baptist church.

Last Saturday, the bivocational pastor spoke at the 199th-birthday celebration for Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate Army general and the first Grand Wizard of the KKK. In a Facebook post that has since been removed, Dismukes wrote that he “had a great time at Fort Dixie” at the event, which happened to coincide with ceremonies honoring late civil rights leader John Lewis.

‘Saddened’ Baptist Leaders Decry Racism

Dismukes, a Republican who describes his political views as “very conservative,” faced quick backlash from fellow religious leaders. In a blog post on Monday, Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, wrote: “We are saddened and grieved to learn of the recent Facebook post by State Rep. Will Dismukes, who also serves as a bivocational pastor. In the wake of tremendous controversy, we reaffirm our opposition to any kind of racism.”

The state missions board also reposted an article Lance wrote last month, titled “A Personal Credo Concerning Racism.” In it, he affirms “that I condemn racism in any form.”

The church from which Dismukes resigned, Pleasant Hill Baptist in Prattville, is a member of the Autauga Baptist Association (ABA). Mel Johnson, the ABA’s lead mission strategist, says,

Immediate effort was made to connect with Will on behalf of our leadership with commitment toward a biblically based process to mitigate controversy surrounding this issue. He was open and receptive to our call and subsequent in-person meeting on Tuesday.

About the deacon’s meeting at the church, Johnson says, “I am grateful for the opportunity to have met with the church’s leadership for prayer and encouragement as many, through no fault of their own, have found themselves caught in the midst of this issue that has drawn national attention. I am also thankful that Autauga Baptist churches can move forward and remain focused toward Great Commission efforts to communicate the gospel and reach our world for Christ.”

Johnson adds, “Scripture is clear that all people are created in God’s image and therefore equal in every way before Christ and our personal need of him as Savior and Lord.”

Dismukes Resigns, Citing ‘anti-Southern sentiment’

On Thursday, Dismukes announced that he was resigning from his pastorate. “After a conversation with the association,” he says, “I resigned…not at the request of the church but by choice, because I did not want to see the [Southern Baptist Convention] vote Pleasant Hill out of fellowship. The Lord will lead me to a church at his timing and direction.”

The Southern Baptist Convention has made efforts in recent years to apologize for past racism and to distance itself from connections to slavery.

Speaking to TV station WFSA on Monday, Dismukes said “anti-Southern sentiment” was behind the backlash. “It wasn’t some kind of shot at the passing of Rep. John Lewis,” he said of his convocation. “That didn’t even really go through my mind, I literally was really just reflecting on a previous day’s events, and it was taken in a completely different way that I didn’t exactly see coming, and I take responsibility for that.”

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Stephanie Martin, a freelance journalist, has worked in Christian publishing for 27 years. She’s active at her church in Lakewood, Colorado, where she lives with her husband and two teenage daughters.