Opinion: Bethel Declined to Participate in Vigil

I had the privilege of organizing Redding’s Lights for Liberty vigil for Friday. July 12, one of approximately 800 events worldwide. It was held to bring attention to, and asked for, an end to concentration camp like conditions at our U.S. detention centers.

Since this is a humanitarian crisis that transcends party lines and religious affiliation, I invited (albeit on short notice) a few larger churches in the area to pass the event information along to their congregants, or at least inform their clergy in case they wanted to participate.

The response I received from Bethel church was both frustrating and disappointing. A representative emailed me that “while all life is precious”, the entity was “unable to promote all local events and wouldn’t be able to promote this event.”

It’s understandable that perhaps Bethel wouldn’t want to promote Kool April Nights. This vigil was something altogether different, however, and is based on the very foundation the church proclaims to teach: emulating Jesus’ love to our brothers and sisters; taking a compassionate approach to all as Jesus did, rather than a punitive approach.

Bethel puts itself into a quandary with its response considering the following:

There are numerous admonitions in the Old Testament to welcome the stranger. Mary and Joseph sought asylum in Egypt when Jesus’ life was in danger due to Herod’s proclamation. Bill Johnson himself personally and very publicly promoted the man who created this crisis.

“Whatever you do for the least of these, you have done for me.” In this case, Bethel refused to even consider ‘the least of these’.

Bill Johnson’s church demonstrates an obvious selectivity in its community participation. I wonder what an omnipotent God thinks of that?

Valerie Anderson

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