Alaska megachurch changes its name, drops 'Temple' to avoid being 'associated with false religions'
A Baptist church in Alaska older than the state itself is changing its name.
Anchorage Baptist Temple, a well-known and politically influential church for decades, will now be known as Mountain City Church.
Pastor Ron Hoffman announced the change Sunday, saying the name would better reflect the identity of the roughly 2,500-member congregation.
“Our vision is to transform every Alaskan with the salt, light, and love of Christ, like a city set on a hill that cannot be hidden,” Hoffman said in a video. “We also believe the name Mountain City reflects what we have become, not only an influencer of Anchorage but the entire state of Alaska.”
In addition to the church’s name change, its Anchorage Christian School will become Mountain City Christian Academy.
Anchorage Baptist was founded in 1956 by Pastor Don White under Baptist Bible Church. As the ministry grew under former Pastor Jerry Prevo, it became known as Anchorage Baptist Temple and expanded into radio and TV ministry throughout the state.
Prevo stepped down in 2019 after nearly 50 years in the pulpit. He now serves as president of Liberty University in Virginia. Several high-profile political and religious figures, including former governors Mike Dunleavy and Sarah Palin and evangelist Franklin Graham, attended his farewell sermon.
Upon announcing the name change, Hoffman — who grew up in Anchorage and served on staff for Anchorage Baptist Temple staff — said the church has no intention of leaving its heritage behind.
“This is a history we never want to forget, so no, renaming the church will not erase the legacy,” he said.
One of the issues with the former name, according to Hoffman, was the usage of the word “temple,” which Hoffman said is more associated with “false religions” than Christian churches.
“Our current name has unnecessary barriers in it,” he said. “The word ‘temple’ is more associated with false religions today than it is about true places of worship. The word that once enhanced our church’s vision now hinders it.”
It’s not clear whether the church is also changing its Baptist identity. A request for comment Monday from The Christian Post was not immediately returned.
As part of the church’s new identity and vision, Hoffman also announced a trio of seven-year initiatives Mountain City will undertake, including a Gospel outreach effort, social programs and cultural engagement.
Known as one of Alaska’s biggest churches, the former Anchorage Baptist Temple made headlines in 2020 after Hoffman defied an emergency order limiting the size of gatherings at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
After a video surfaced showing the church holding a socially-distanced service — with most participants appearing to be at least 6 feet apart, as was the guidance at the time — Hoffman said the church should strive to obey civil authorities but stressed that its different story when that authority conflicts with the Word of God.
“When our civil authority says something, we find ourselves in a quandary,” Hoffman said, according to Alaska Public Media. “But we must always obey God. We cannot stop sharing the Gospel. We will not stop worshiping God.
“We will not stop being the church.”
Ian M. Giatti is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: email@example.com.