A trainee minister in the US state of Texas has said that his ministry license would "not be renewed" after he declared support for Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden.
David Bumgardner was licensed in July and completed his internship as an assistant minister at Faith Memorial Baptist Church in Archer City, delivering his final sermon on 6th September. Just three days later, he posted a message to Facebook warning that President Trump was a "threat to national security", before declaring his support for Joe Biden.
“I am voting for Joe Biden to get the most egotistical, hypocritical, divisive, deranged, and dangerous man to ever hold presidential office out of the Oval” Office, he wrote. “I am voting for Joe Biden because he will bring back decency to the White House.”
Bumgardner faced a period of severe backlash from fellow believers online, despite stipulating that his support of Biden did not mean he endorsed everything that the Democratic Party stood for. “I was flooded with notifications and messages. I was called a baby-killer, cop-killer, race-baiter, unqualified minister, pedophile and fake Christian, despite the fact that my classical, conservative, orthodox and evangelical theological convictions have not changed," he said.
Following the controversy, the junior pastor learned that his license was not going to be renewed by the Faith Memorial's senior pastor, Avery Sprey. According to the Baptist Standard, Bumgardner had signed a contract with Sprey stating that the church reserved the right to renew or terminate his license (at the end of the calendar year) on account of his words and actions.
The church voted to license Bumgardner to the ministry - however, the agreement was a private document between the pastor and intern. Sprey admitted that this was a bad idea. “I made a mistake. If you have to put an expiration date on a license, you probably shouldn’t issue it in the first place,” he explained to the outlet. “I’m new at this and learning the hard way.”
The pastor also insisted that the issue over the renewal was nothing to do with Bumgardner's political views, but rather the tone and divisiveness of his social media posts. “I couldn’t care less about his political views,” Pastor Sprey said. “My concern is that his social media posts cause discord among brothers and do not promote gospel unity.”
Bumgardner responded by admitting that he was flawed and doesn't always communicate graciously. "I am painfully aware of my faults," he said. "I am the most sinful person I know...I have committed too many sins to name.
"But endorsing Joe Biden is not one of them."
The young minister also expressed concern about the notion of predicating ministry licensing suitability upon one's personal political views.
"The simple fact of the matter is that churches should not disown ministers over politics,” he said. "Had I endorsed Donald Trump or kept my views to myself, I am sure I would still be a licensed Christian minister on the pathway to formal ordination."