The evangelical wing of the Republican party plays a huge role in deciding the party nominee, especially in Southern states. Christian voters are regularly encouraged to vote and become active in the political process through their pastors, but should pastors be making public endorsements for specific candidates during election cycles?
Most pastors will agree that endorsements should not be made from the pulpit, but should pastors be making endorsements, period?
This topic first seriously intrigued me last October, when a pastor I highly respect publicly endorsed Senator Ted Cruz in his Presidential bid. Pastor Paul Chappell of Lancaster Baptist Church in Lancaster, California has been an influential figure in the Lancaster area after he took over the pastorate of this small Baptist church in the middle of the desert and saw it grow to be one of the largest Baptist Churches nationwide under his leadership. With services and church ministries reaching thousands of locals every week, Lancaster Baptist has quickly begun to play a key role in the Lancaster community.
With the growth of his church and ministry, Chappell’s personal and public stances on controversial issues, specifically regarding gay marriage and other social issues, have quickly taken the spotlight and has made him a target by locals who hold to very liberal policies. The pastor of a once insignificant church averaging around 20 in attendance is now regularly escorted by a security team that can be seen protecting Pastor Chappell in the large crowds of church goers after services conclude. Aside from pastoring Lancaster Baptist, Chappell also serves as the President of West Coast Baptist College located on the 88-acre property surrounding his church. WCBC was established to train and equip students for the ministry and has thousands of graduates serving around the world.
It’s no question why Ted Cruz sought after the endorsement of Paul Chappell last October. With the impressive headline pictured below, Cruz was sure to pick up support from Christian conservatives wavering their support among several outspoken Christians in the Presidential race including Cruz, Ben Carson, Senator Marco Rubio and others.
In an article published on PaulChappell.com on November 2, Chappell reaffirmed that his endorsement was a “personal endorsement only, not a ministry endorsement,” but was such a public endorsement appropriate coming from a pastor of a large congregation? That is the ultimate question, and there may not be a solid “yes” or “no” answer. But what students attending WCBC say Chappell publicly stated from the pulpit during their daily college Chapel services is what may be concerning.
“He was talking down about him,” a Ben Carson supporter said in regards to Pastor Chappell talking negatively about Carson’s Presidential bid during a chapel sermon. Paul Chappell publicly degraded Carson over his “lack of leadership” according to the chapel attendee.
Time has passed since the endorsement. Carson and Rubio have both suspended their campaigns, and Cruz is appearing as the only viable opponent to a guaranteed Trump nomination. Many are now predicting that California may be one of the most important primary states thus far – even though it is one of the last. With such a close delegate race and with so many delegates to award in the CA primary, people like Pastor Paul Chappell of Lancaster, California may play a larger role in this election than originally thought.
Let us know what you think. Should pastors and religious leaders publicly persuade their congregation’s political views towards or away from specific candidates?