An Oregon church that instituted a ban on fat people as part of a slew of mandatory guidelines to be a part of the congregation's worship team has come under fire online for the discriminating rule it says is necessary, in part, for the anointing to flow through team members.
Officials at the controversial church identified as the New Creation Church, in Hillsboro, Oregon, initially had the "Worship Team Guidelines" posted on their website but removed it after it began receiving unwanted attention. A copy of the guidelines, however, was made available elsewhere and it details the ban on "excessive weight" among worship team members along with a number of other typical holiness requirements common to Pentecostal churches, like evidence of speaking in other tongues.
"No Excessive weight. Weight is something that many people have to deal with. Make sure that you are taking care of your temple, exercising and eating properly," the church warned.
The Christian Post reached out to the church on Thursday about the document and a frustrated church member responded: "Thank you for calling but we have no comment."
It is made very clear in the document that while image is very important in this house of God, worship team members must also dress with moderation.
"We want the worship team to look the best they can! Remember that the way we look is of utmost importance. We are the first thing the congregation sees. People do judge by appearance. We never get a second chance to make that first impression. Please be sure that your style and clothing bring honor and glory to God, isn't excessive and doesn't draw unnecessary attention to yourself," it said.
The document makes it very clear that in order to be a part of the worship team, members must be in "100% agreement" with the guidelines. So if you have an excessive weight issue but can sing really well, you must shed the excess pounds at the gym before you can join New Creation Church's worship team.
"Since you are interested in this area of ministry we want you to be encouraged and know that our desire is to see you fulfill all God has called you to do and be. As a part of the worship team, we have specific guidelines that we have established for our team to work together and to be the best we can be," the church explained in the document. "Please read this carefully. You must be in 100% agreement for you to flow with our team and in order for the anointing to flow through you."
The document, which was first posted to a Facebook page called Stuff Christian Culture Likes, further adds: "If you do not meet the standards set forth in these guidelines, you will disqualify yourself as a part of the Worship Team."
Members of the public who reviewed the document appeared appalled by the overt display of superficiality.
"Seriously, no fat people leading worship. And no one with a spine, either," Lorna Hartman wrote.
"Ughhhh as a former worship team member, I literally. Can't. Even. #Puke," added Alison Valderrama.
Speaking to Oregon Live in an earlier interview, however, Pastor Rebecca Sundholm who leads the church along with her husband, Rod, says that the guidelines had been on the website for a long time and she was "dumbfounded" by the controversy.
"What's funny is this has nothing to do with anybody else but our church," said Sundholm last Thursday. "If anybody looked at our worship team, they would see they aren't all skinny."
"In fact," she added, "the worship leader has weight issues."
She said the worship leader wrote the guidelines for the 28-year-old church years ago but, "those guidelines aren't even enforced anymore."
She noted, however, that, "We have standards just like anybody would have standards in a business."
"Don't come to church with wet hair; if you wear make-up, put it on," she said. "It's not negative."
In a Church Leaders report on whether "fat" people should lead worship, Geoff Surratt, a former Saddleback Church pastor, said when it comes to ministry a singer's weight shouldn't matter more than their gift.
"Unfortunately, I have seen many very talented singers and musicians who have the job but not the gift to lead worship. They have the right guitar, the right scarf and the right hair. They carry the appropriate weight and are always tastefully dressed. But without the gift, the experience is always staged," Surratt wrote.
"No amount of lighting, fog or digital processing can manufacture genuine worship; real corporate worship is a mysterious, spiritual connection that flows from God through gifted leaders," he said.
"The question isn't weight, height, gender or race; the question is gifting. Without the gift, it's just a show; with the gift, it's holy ground. Without the gift, distractions matter; with the gift, my heart for worship is what makes the difference," he added.