While more details about the Christian life of Robert Aaron Long, the Georgia spa shooter who murdered eight people, continue to dribble out, his church wants to make clear they want nothing to do with him anymore.
Crabapple First Baptist Church says it’s basically rescinding his baptism. They had posted a celebratory video of Long explaining his journey to finding Jesus — only to take it down once his crimes became clear — but now they’re distancing from him as much as they can.
They explained in a statement on the front page of their website:
… we were absolutely distraught when we found out that the shooter was a member of our congregation. The Long family have been members of our church for many years. We watched Aaron grow up and accepted him into church membership when he made his own profession of faith in Jesus Christ. These unthinkable and egregious murders directly contradict his own confession of faith in Jesus and the gospel.
We want to be clear that this extreme and wicked act is nothing less than rebellion against our Holy God and His Word. Aaron’s actions are antithetical to everything that we believe and teach as a church. In the strongest possible terms, we condemn the actions of Aaron Long as well as his stated reasons for carrying out this wicked plan. The shootings were a total repudiation of our faith and practice, and such actions are completely unacceptable and contrary to the gospel.
No blame can be placed upon the victims. He alone is responsible for his evil actions and desires. The women that he solicited for sexual acts are not responsible for his perverse sexual desires nor do they bear any blame in these murders. These actions are the result of a sinful heart and depraved mind for which Aaron is completely responsible.
In accordance with the biblical pattern and our church bylaws, we have started the process of church discipline to remove him from membership since we can no longer affirm that he is truly a regenerate believer in Jesus Christ.
As far as a statement goes, it hits all the important notes. Removing him from membership is a merely symbolic move, but they don’t really have the ability to do anything more than that.
But it would be a lot easier to separate the church from its worst member if their sermons were still available for people to watch and judge for themselves. They say that they teach that “every person is worthy of respect,” but the Catholic Church — notoriously anti-LGBTQ and dismissive of women in leadership roles — would say the same thing. We can’t see what they’ve taught about purity culture, nor do they explain what they’ll be doing in the future.
I understand the church is worried about the safety of its members. I get that it’s early to have answers about the future when people are barely able to make sense of the present. But hiding behind a simple statement leaves a lot of questions unanswered. The Southern Baptist church as a whole has a lot to answer for in terms of how any family could’ve been church members for years while harboring such repressive views about sex and women.
The church owes it to the public to say whether they taught those topics properly, only to be ignored, or if they propagated conservative Christian lies about sex and gender, only to be taken far too seriously.
(Image via Crabapple First Baptist Church)