Will Kopp was a Baptist preacher in the Virginia town of Stuarts Draft. Now, he’s an everyday member of a Presbyterian church, and he’s not looking to lead a congregation again.
Kopp was fired from his church in June 2020 after he gave a sermon criticizing evangelical Christians’ embrace of then-President Donald Trump.
Reckon talked to Kopp about the reasons why he left he left his church, what led up to his departure and how the American Evangelicalism is changing.
Here’s Kopp in his own words:
I literally broke that morning of May 31, 2020. I had a crisis of faith, and could no longer keep silent. I was going to preach an entirely different sermon. COVID was just really starting to influence the churches. We were no longer meeting inside the building. I set up a worship platform on a flatbed trailer out in the parking lot.
What I have discovered is that people don’t mind politics from the pulpit, so long as biblical politics resonate with their own personal opinion. When the Bible’s political values confront the world of politics and worldly values that they are holding is when they start to have problems with it.
You know that these things are wrong: murder or adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander – and every one of them, every single one of them characterizes (Trump). You don’t like hearing it and I don’t like having to say it. It’s true. Jesus condemns it because it is the actions of someone who is antichrist.
In the middle of the sermon, all of a sudden, I hear a car, I hear an engine crank up and tire squeal like somebody’s running a dragster out, and a minivan comes careening out and races down to the parking lot and races off into the distance.
I have been at greater peace since May the 31st than I have experienced in years. I was met by deacons immediately after the service. And the next day, I was told that people were demanding my resignation. On the next Tuesday, I was told that they wanted my resignation. And on Wednesday, I gave it to them.
If I get this kind of a negative response from people who I love, and with whom I work with, who I have been close to for decades and they throw away 14 years of preaching and teaching and ministering all in one sermon, then I don’t know that I could go forward with these people.
I’m done with it [the Southern Baptist Convention]. They were on the wrong side of slavery in the 1860s. They’re on the wrong side of Black Lives Matter. They’re on the wrong side of women in ministry, they’re on the wrong side of sexual harassment. They’re on the wrong side in so much. I don’t want to have anything to do with it.
I keep asking these individuals to tell me where there is biblical support for the values that you’re expressing and the actions that they’re taking. And they can’t come up with it. They can’t come up with it, either because, A, they don’t know the scriptures, or B, there isn’t anything that actually supports their position.
In a country that is becoming multiethnic, multi-religious, those other religions are putting pressure on our traditional belief systems. We are going to have to come up with a way to find some kind of common ground so that we can live in peace and harmony with one another.
I was raised in a very traditional Southern home. If you watch the movie, “The Help,” that was the my experience. That’s the traditional Southern values I grew up with. I have spent decades trying to explain some of the darker parts of it. That way of life is disappearing. Just a couple of days ago, the Confederate statue in Richmond was taken down. It was time, but I grew up revering these guys without recognizing the implications for people whose skin color was different from mine. Now, I have had the opportunity to understand that see it and grasp the damage. We’ve got to make some changes. We really do.
I told the pastor of the church we just joined I’m not a Presbyterian, by theology, or ecclesiology. But I like you. And I like the people. So for me, this is all about relationships. And to be perfectly frank, that’s really what church membership is mostly based on. You’ve got good relationships with the people in there. Unless you’re a real hard case, the minor theological issues and differences can kind of be swept under the rug.
I am in a time of reflection, and restoration, and renewal, and whether I shall be called back to the fight or not, I don’t know. If God chooses, I’m sure he’ll let me know. But so far, I’m enjoying the rest.