Sand Lake church under fire for inviting discrimination

April 10, 2019 06:13 PM

A survey sent out to current and former parishioners with the Sand Lake-based Zion's Taborton Church is sparking outrage.
"It's infuriating. This is the 21st century. It's the 21st century," said now former parishioner Maia Klippert.

Klippert says she grew up in the Sand Lake based United Church of Christ. As the parish is searching for a new pastor, she says her mother received the controversial survey in an email. The survey asks members of the congregation who they want excluded from the pool of candidates. Specific questions include should they exclude all LGBTQ candidates, people of color or people with disabilities?


"You know that there's discrimination. You know that people are going to be exclusive and just downright mean, but to come from something like this is shocking and surprising," said Klippert.

NewsChannel 13 went to the church's pastor search committee for an explanation. Marvin Bubie is one of seven members tasked with helping to find a new pastor. His family has been involved with the church since the late 1800s. He says the intent of the survey was never to discriminate.

"What we didn't want to do was invite somebody to become a pastor and then have them not be comfortable once they arrived," said Bubie.

Bubie says it was under the guidance of the New York Conference of the United Church of Christ that they asked the congregation to chime in. The Conference's mission says they are multi-racial, multi-ethnic, open and affirming and accessible to all.

Bubie says 95 percent of the responses received so far show the congregation is open and accepting. When asked if the responses were discriminatory, would that go against the church's mission, Bubie said it very well could, but that's not who they are. He went on to say the UCC Conference required them to ask the questions.

NewsChannel 13 reached out to the Conference for comment. A representative said each parish operates individually with little interference from the Conference. David Gaewski is the Conference Minister and says it is the Conference who supplies pastoral candidates, but does not actively participate in their hiring.

Gaewski says the Conference advised the search committee to engage their congregation in a face to face conversation about who they'd like their pastor to be.

"In my 26 years of judicatory experience, I have never seen a UCC congregation do this. It would appear that the congregation interpreted our suggestion on being "clear on the pastor you are looking for" to mean "whom shall we exclude" from being considered. I find this disappointing and offensive," said Gaewski.

Klippert agrees with those sentiments. 

"The fact you want to exclude groups of LGBTQ, you want to exclude African Americans and you want to exclude people with disabilities? Three things that people can't control," said Klippert. "It's just basic human rights."

Churches are exempt from many anti-discrimination laws when it comes to hiring a pastor, minister or leader. The survey pointed out to parishioners that they were not doing anything illegal.

Bubie says their congregation has a long history of welcoming all walks of life and has had gay pastors as well as female pastors in the past.

MORE INFORMATION: Zion's Tabortion Church Search Committee Survey


Jacquie Slater

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