Nationwide outrage erupts over message at Denver church
A church sign that said “Jews killed the Lord Jesus” ignited a national firestorm of outrage Wednesday and packed the church parking lot with a religiously diverse crowd of protesters.
The message didn’t survive the day.
At noon a mother of four leaned a ladder against the sign and pulled down the word “Jew.”
By 9 p.m. members of the church had removed the rest.
The Rev. Maurice Gordon of Lovingway United Pentecostal Church, 999 S. Colorado Blvd., said the message on the sign was not hateful.
– Alan Gomes, Unmasking The Cults, Zondervan, 1995
“It would be hateful if it pointed at anybody alive today,” Gordon said. “But this has been part of the record for 2,000 years.”
The 73-year-old pastor said the message was meant to get people to read the Bible. But it provoked other reactions.
Angry calls flooded radio stations, and some motorists careened across the boulevard, not believing what they were seeing.
“People were pulling three lanes over to get a look,” said Jennifer Patrick, a surgical assistant who works in an office facing the church.
About noon, Ami Ship drove to the church to see if the sign really said what she thought it said.
After knocking on the doors of the church and calling to try to get someone to take the sign down, Ship decided to do it herself.
She drove across the street to a Home Depot and bought a ladder and took down “Jew.”
“I thought, ‘I don’t want to see the sign anymore.’ ” Ship said. “Hateful messages like that promote anti-Semitism. It was very offensive.”
The incident occurred against the backdrop of Wednesday’s opening of Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ, which chronicles the last 12 hours of Jesus’ life. It has drawn charges of anti-Semitism.
Gordon said he was partly motivated by Gibson’s movie, but added he would not be seeing the film itself because he neither attends movies nor watches television.
The United Pentecostal Church International, headquartered in Hazelwood, Mo., said in a statement it did not condone Gordon’s action.
The “decision was made without support or contribution from the United Pentecostal Church International and does not reflect our position on this matter. We regret any offense his actions have caused . . . One of our constant prayers is to pray for Jerusalem and the Jewish people as the Lord has commanded us.”
Earlier in the day, the Anti-Defamation League called on Gordon to remove the “painful and divisive message.” And the Colorado Council of Churches said: “It’s ironic that a church named Lovingway would advance such an attitude of hurtfulness.”
Gordon’s sign also prompted a response from the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center urging Christian leaders in Denver to rebuke the Lovingway church.
“The Jewish people have suffered from the libel of deicide for nearly 2,000 years,” said a statement from Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the center. “We continue to look to our Christian neighbors and friends to rebuke those who would pass off this canard as theology.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations in the world, with more than 400,000 member families in the United States, according to its Web site.
At 7 p.m. about 200 people, including Promise Keepers founder Bill McCartney, gathered in front of the Denver church to protest the sign.
The crowd of Jews and Christians waved signs with phrases like “God killed Jesus” written on them.
“This anti-Semitic message is un-Christian, and it is a sin,” said Michael Walker, senior pastor at Church in the City. “That is false Christianity on that sign.”
Nate Hyatt, Gordon’s grandson, said that the sign’s statement was probably bad timing.
“It’s definitely not what we stand for,” he said.
Gordon said he was prepared to take the sign down. “It probably served its purpose,” he said.
And by 9 p.m. the message had been changed, now telling the roughly 60,000 motorists who pass it each day:
“God so loved the world that he gave
“He’s still giving!”