Discrimination or Christian kindness? This is one of the questions following a controversy that erupted after Southern missionaries passed out fliers urging public school children to attend Bible school in New York City.
Three white men from Concord Baptist Church in Pickens, South Carolina (and we’ll tell you why their race is important in a moment), were in New York City this month for an annual week-long missions trip. In an effort to help Sixth Avenue Baptist Church, a church in Park Slope, Brooklyn, bolster its membership, the missionaries stationed themselves outside P.S. 282 to pass out vacation Bible school (VBS) invitations to the children.
The men allegedly stood at the public school’s front gate on Tuesday to hand out the invites during morning drop-off, a busy time during which children and parents flow into and out of the building. While church members claim that no children were forced to take the fliers, DNAInfo.com reports that a number of parents were uncomfortable with their children, ranging from grades first through fifth, being urged to do so.
What resulted was furor on the part of some who believe that it’s irresponsible and improper for missionaries to be taking such actions outside of a public school. But the criticisms went well beyond the traditional church versus state argument, as some parents even charged that the missionaries are “discriminatory.”
“I know this church. Every summer they truck these kids up to proselytize,” said Ernestine Heldring, a mother with children at the school who also attends a Dutch Reformed church in New York. “It‘s a brand of Christianity that’s homophobic and homogeneous, and I find it oppressive to have three white guys standing there making it impossible for kids to pass without taking a flier.”
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