Governor Bentley's pastor explains controversial comment

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - By Jonathan Hardison

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - What part of his faith lead Governor Bentley to make those controversial comments Monday? We decided to take a closer look at the part of the Christian faith the governor discussed Monday. It's called "The Great Commission." For Southern Baptists like the Governor Bentley and many other Christian faiths, it's a core teaching of the Bible that tells believers they must spread their faith not as a choice, but as instruction.

The question we asked several pastors, including Bentley's, is how that call to action could lead to the confusion on Monday.

"Anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I'm telling you, you're not my brother and you're not my sister. And I want to be your brother," Bentley said Monday.

That's the statement that set off a controversy that's gone nationwide.

Bentley's pastor at 1st Baptist in Tuscaloosa says the governor's comments come from his faith and were meant as an invitation, not an exclusion.

"Scripture oftentimes refers to brothers and sisters in Christ so that was what he talking about," said Gil McKee, Bentley's pastor. "And brothers and sisters in Christ transcend race and color. It is a matter of Christian faith and that's where he was coming from. He certainly was not making a statement about the way he would govern or rule that it would be different or people's equality whether they're Christian or non-Christian."

"The Bible uses the picture of adoption, that we have been adopted into the family of God," said Dr. Danny Wood, senior pastor at Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham. "That's what he is saying is that if you've made that same decision, you're my brother in Christ, but it doesn't mean he's excluding everyone else that he's not gonna care for them or feel like they're a part of the state of Alabama."

Wood says sharing what Christians like Bentley call the gospel, or good news, is a core part of the Christian faith.

"When you get that personal relationship, you want to share that with others," Wood said. "So there's a desire within you to tell good news. Whenever you got good news you want to tell others about it, but it's also one of our commands."

"We truly believe it's good news, we don't in general believe it's something we hit people over the head with a battering ram, at least that's an approach that I have found particularly effective and I don't think it's within the spirit of Jesus," said Dr. Ed Hurley, pastor at South Highland Presbyterian Church.

Hurley says he understands where the governor was coming from, but believes Bentley could've conveyed the same message in a different way and stayed true to his faith.

"I would not express that someone is not my brother or not my sister," Hurley said. "I sense Dr. Bentley, Governor Bentley, was trying to extend a bridge, but a wall seemed to be the effect."

Governor Bentley said today that he was not trying to exclude anyone and he wants to be the governor of all 4.7 million Alabamians.

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