The leader of a South Carolina atheist organization attended a United Methodist Church service last weekend after launching an eBay auction to visit the church of the highest bidder.
Inman United Methodist Church in Inman, S.C., donated an undisclosed amount to Upstate Atheists, led by President Eve Brannon, so she could attend their service, with all proceeds going toward community outreach efforts on behalf of the secular group.
"Everyone was kind and welcoming. The sermon was honest and interesting ... We were treated like family, and I couldn't have asked for a better experience," said Brannon to The Christian Post.
Brannon, who grew up Christian but then renounced her Baptist faith, had not stepped foot in a church for years. However, she was open to attending despite her expectations. Furthermore, she stated that she would recommend Inman United Methodist to Christians seeking a place to worship.
Kyle, who chose not to identity his full name and a member of Upstate Atheists, also attended the service and together with Brannon joined a Sunday school class where they answered questions asked by the members of the church. They also participated in singing hymns and reading the scriptures according to the sermon.
"I was very pleased we were so well-received, and made to feel so welcome ... The members showed us the same open-mindedness and respect which we showed them, and I believe we learned a lot from each other." said Kyle. "I'm grateful they realized that the goal of Upstate Atheists isn't to be their enemy in their worship of God, but to be their ally in their service of mankind."
In late December, Brannon posted the "Take an Atheist Leader to Church" auction online and immediately received interest from various Christian churches in South Carolina. At one point, 32 bidders were hopeful about winning. However, the auction was taken down by eBay, days after it went live.
At the time, Brannon claimed that the ad was removed multiple times by the company without explanation, deterring the purpose of her auction meant to raise funds for her organization's charitable events.
"Instead of showing the typical 'item has been removed' page, the link I was using to share the ad was being redirected to very specific search results for a Christian rock CD," Brannon told The Christian Post, in a previous interview.
The auction had reached $255 and almost each time it was taken down, Inman United Methodist was in the lead, said Brannon. She ultimately decided not to post the ad again because some bidders became frustrated, and she took on other initiatives to raise funds for her group instead. However, the church remained persistent and got in touch with her after the auction fell through.