A statue at a South Carolina Baptist church is finding a new home after the congregation voted for its removal. Why? It was found to be too Catholic for their church. The collection of reliefs depicting scenes from Christ’s life as well as a 7-foot statue of Jesus have been at the front entrance of the Red Bank Baptist Church for a decade.
The Rev. Jeff Wright, the church’s pastor, noted that the statue will move to another church, explaining the decision behind the statue’s removal: “This is not a denomination issue, it’s a church decision.” He added, “We are removing it to end some confusion. Some people have seen it, guests that have been here and have asked, ‘Why is this on the front of a Baptist Church?’”
Wright wrote a letter to the artist, Delbert Baker Jr., explaining that the statue and reliefs bring into question ‘the theology and core values’ of their church. “We understand that this is not a Catholic icon, however, people perceive it in these terms,” Wright stated in the letter.
David Fink, assistant professor of religion at Furman University, further weighed in on the matter, saying, “It’s hard to identify one feature that makes it Catholic, but even the existence of a statue of Jesus is unusual at a Baptist Church. There may not be a clear rationale in play here. They may just want to be a little more clear in their branding.”
Additionally, Wright wanted to make the reasons behind the statue removal clear, explaining, “I don’t have any animosity against the Catholic denomination at all or the people that are fussing about this.” According to him, this is just part of some changes with the physical look of the church: “The statue has served its season. The church is making changes physically; this is the time for it to come down,” he said.
Among those who weighed in with comments on the Daily Mail were those who weren’t terribly impressed with the sculpture, with notes such as: “Terrible looking thing. It looks like a character out of The Simpsons” and “TBH, it’s not a very good sculpture.”
Others further discussed why the church is looking to remove it, with one person explaining: “The reason it doesn’t belong in a Baptist church is because of the commandment that reads, ‘Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.’ A graven image is a carved idol or representation of a god used as an object of worship — like the graven idols they worship in the Catholic Church — statues of Jesus, Mary, and the saints which is anything but Christian if it disobeys the ten commandments.”
Still others didn’t agree with the church’s decision to remove the statue, with one person commenting on social media: “So sad. This is not a church that represents the same God I serve and I am Baptist. My church has one similar to this in our church. Catholics and ANYONE is welcome. This South Carolina Church may want to revisit the Bible once again.”