A pastor who denounced white supremacy in a moving speech at MTV’s Video Music Awards last month has been forced out of his church because of his comments.
Reverend Robert Lee IV delivered a poignant address that took aim at the ideology of his ancestor, Civil War general and Confederate icon Robert E Lee, during the awards show.
“We have made my ancestor an idol of white supremacy, racism, and hate,” he said.
“As a pastor, it is my moral duty to speak out against racism, America’s original sin.
“Today, I call on all of us with privilege and power to answer God’s call to confront racism and white supremacy head-on.”
Rev Lee was widely praised for the speech, which was hailed as one of the highlights of the event.
However, it’s now clear some aspects of the latter part of his address were not in keeping with the Bethany United Church of Christ’s beliefs.
In that portion of the speech, Rev Lee commended Black Lives Matter and the Women’s March, holding them up as examples of effective racial justice work — a suggestion that riled some within the North Carolina church.
“A faction of church members were concerned about my speech,” he wrote in a blog post.
“I want to stress that there were many in the congregation who supported my right to free speech, yet were uncomfortable with the attention the church was receiving.
“The church’s reaction was deeply hurtful to me.”
Rev Lee said he “reluctantly offered [his] resignation” after the church expressed concern about his remarks, but says he wants to continue fighting “oppression in any form”.
“I want to especially challenge white Christians in America to take seriously the deadly legacy of slavery in our country and commit ourselves to follow Jesus into a time of deep reflection, repentance, and reconciliation,” he wrote.
Rev Lee’s original comments came soon after a high-profile white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.