Demand the Firing of Pastor Steve Berger at Grace Chapel in Franklin, TN
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I’m sure many of you have seen the press statement released by Pastor Steve Berger of Grace Chapel Church in Franklin, TN concerning his participation in the events of the January 6th violent assault on the Capitol. In fact, many of y’all have sent it to me, upset about the lack of accountability, the defensiveness, and the refusal to condemn white supremacy in this post.
After watching his 25 minute long video posted on January 6th, I personally was not surprised at the nature of his “apology” or his refusal to own up to his actions. His behavior is textbook and it is being reflected in our Nation’s Capitol right now as GOP leaders demand that they be immediately forgiven and allowed to remain in positions of power despite their participation in creating the chaos that occurred on January 6th.
I will not address Pastor Berger’s claims that he was in DC for meetings before January 6th and that he did not attend the action at the Capitol because, after taking a look through his social media, I can see that he has, for many years, been involved directly with the Trump administration and no amount of backtracking after January 6th can erase this collaboration.
It is very telling to me that Steve Berger did not condemn white supremacy, Donald Trump, or fascism in his “apology”. In fact, instead of actually apologizing for his role in supporting the fascist President, he decided to deflect, insisting that he is owed apologies for those who have attempted to slander him. He’s also made claims that folks are making false allegations against him and that people haven’t reached out to him before making statements. I personally know people who have been in contact with his office and have confirmed that he has refused to make a comment when they’ve reached out. As many of us have seen since the beginning of the Trump administration, white supremacy has been the motivating factor for so much of Trump’s supporter base. It is impossible to argue at this point that anyone can support Donald Trump and NOT support white supremacy.
I am a strong believer in transformative justice and reconciliation. I myself was raised in the church, and understand the importance of truthful communication and the power of forgiveness. I understand that humans make mistakes, and that everyone should be given the opportunity to change and turn away from harmful actions. However, this requires ACTUAL repentence, not name calling, finger pointing, or lack of accountability. This is the motivating factor behind my demand that Pastor Steve Berger be removed from his position at Grace Chapel Church. I believe that his lack of self-accountability and his refusal to accept responsibility in supporting the Trump administration and promoting it in his church is not only unacceptable, it is dangerous. Donald Trump fomented insurrection at the Capitol that resulted in the deaths of 5 people. Pastor Steve Berger has condemned the “violent acts” at the Capitol but has not condemned President Trump, at all and immediately after the event, made baseless claims trying to deflect responsibility from the real perpetrators.
I feel it is is unhealthy for our community to have leaders in positions of power who refuse to take accountability for their actions. I believe a true leader and follower of Jesus Christ, would graciously admit to the entirety of his mistakes, not just pick and choose in order to make himself not seem culpable. I believe that someone who has such pull should openly admit that he has been promoting a white supremacist president, de-platform himself, and center the voices of those who have been harmed by the Trump administration and its supporters. We do not want community leaders who refuse to take responsibility and who shame those who ask for accountability. We ask for the resignation of Pastor Steve Berger and for Grace Chapel Church in Franklin, TN to publicly condemn his participation in the events of January 6th. We are in incredibly tension filled times, and now more than ever it is important to denounce fascism and white supremacy and ask those who refuse to denounce to be removed from positions of power. As Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in times of injustice, you have chosen the side of the side of the oppressor.”
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