A Robert E. Lee Descendant Quits His Pastoral Job Following Criticism Of His Anti-Racism VMAs Speech

After denouncing racism at this year’s MTV’s Video Music Awards, Robert Lee IV (a descendant of Confederate General Robert E. Lee) has stepped down from his post as pastor at the Bethany United Church of Christ in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. In an official statement of resignation, he told his congregation that it “was deeply hurtful” when the church pushed back against his VMA’s speech, in which he labeled racism as “America’s original sin” and called on those with “power to answer God’s call, to confront racism and white supremacy head on.”

Lee wrote in his resignation letter that many church members “supported my right to free speech.” However, “a faction of church members were concerned … that I lifted up Black Lives Matter movement, the Women’ s March, and Heather Heyer as examples of racial justice work.” Some in the church also felt uncomfortable with the publicity Lee was bringing after just six months at the pulpit. However, Lee wants to keep the focus not on Bethany Unite but, instead, on the work he feels called to do:

“I do not want this episode to be a distraction from the sacred work of confronting white supremacy in all its forms. My calling and my vocation has led me to speak out against violence and oppression in any form, and 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.”

The pastor said of his appearance at the VMA’s that it was his “deep honor to introduce and stand side-by-side Susan Bro whose daughter Heather died tragically in Charlottesville.” That night, Bro not only presented the Best Fight the System Award but also announced the formation of the Heather Heyer Foundation, which will offer scholarships to those pursuing racial justice work. With or without Bethany United, Lee and Bro will be continuing the conversation sparked in Charlottesville. When he was asked if it was “worth losing everything,” Lee tweeted, “Unequivocally yes.”

(Via Auburn Seminary & New York Daily News)