A pastor and some churchgoers have left a United Methodist Church in Virginia over what they say was the congregation’s refusal to build a memorial wall for a predominantly African-American gravesite found on church property.
Pastor Mark Jagoe, formerly of the Hillsboro United Methodist Church in Loudon County, retired last October. According to LoudonNow, the pastor’s retirement came as a result of a disagreement over the commemoration of 72 graves of predominantly slaves and freedmen found on the church’s east lawn a few years ago.
Jagoe told the news outlet that upon discovering the graves, he had an expert mark each grave. The pastor desired to use the church’s memorial funds to build a memorial wall for the gravesite. However, Jagoe was unable to get approval from the congregation.
The church is also home to an all-white cemetery on the other side of the property.
Jagoe and others who left were troubled by an effort to place confederate markers such as iron crosses and battle flags on the graves of confederate soldiers in the church’s white cemetery. According to the news website, the effort was led by the Sons of the Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy.
Jagoe told the local newspaper that the effort was evidence of “structural racism.”
“The church would not vote to spend a single penny to recognize the 72 brothers and sisters in Christ that are buried on the east end of the property because of their skin color,” Jagoe claimed. “It broke my heart.”
Along with Jagoe, some African American congregants and others who disagreed with the church’s decision left the church.
One former African American churchgoer who refused to be named told NBC Washington that she didn’t feel like she belonged at the church anymore.
“It is just a repeat of history,” she said. “Being a person of color, it makes you feel like you are not important, that your past history or your ancestors don’t really mean anything.”
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith