Choctaw County church, pastor conflict proves lesson for others

BIRMINGHAM (Jennifer Davis Rash) — The story swirled around social media and online news outlets this first week of August, capturing attention well beyond its rural southwest Alabama city limits near the Mississippi line.

Mount Sterling Baptist Church, Butler, and its recently terminated 26-year-old pastor, Jonathan Greer, ended their relationship harshly July 31 — for all the world to see, literally.

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Jonathan Greer

The Alabama Baptist has confirmed there was conflict between the pastor and at least one of the church leaders prior to the 31–0 vote to terminate him.

Greer had been pastor for 18 months when he and church leadership allegedly disagreed over Greer’s invitation of area black children to the church’s Vacation Bible School (VBS).

And while many immediately drew a line and forced a standoff between Greer and Mount Sterling, the situation could have ended differently if the main players had slowed down, removed emotions and talked through the disagreement calmly, said several Alabama Baptist leaders.

“This young pastor took a courageous stand in his sermon on racism, but some of the members took offense at his tone and demeanor as he preached,” said Terry Long, director of missions (DOM) for Choctaw Baptist Association, of which Mount Sterling is a member. Others described it as “doing the right thing in the wrong way.”

Both sides made mistakes but “nothing the pastor did was worthy of dismissal,” Long said. “In fact, he stood valiantly for the truth.”

It basically boils down to one or possibly a few church leaders who took issue with the pastor over several concerns (not visiting church members enough, not working with the deacons and allegedly going against a request not to invite black children to VBS).

Before taking some private time away with his family, Greer told Baptist Press he apologized publically and privately for broadly classifying the congregation as racist in his sermon.

“I didn’t realize that there were more people in the church … that were OK with people [of all races] coming,” Greer said. “And in my sermon, I didn’t account for that. I kind of lumped everyone together.”

For the full story, go to www.thealabamabaptist.org.
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About thealabamabaptist

State Baptist newspaper serving Baptists in Alabama, providing information, inspiration and interpretation as well as challenging readers to serve and find opportunities for ministry that further the kingdom of God.
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