New Creation Church, a Pentecostal congregation in Hillsboro, Oregon, announced Monday that its ban on fat worship leaders, which had been instituted in the language of a slew of mandatory guidelines to be a part of the congregation's worship team, is currently under review and will be changed.
In the guidelines document, the church explicitly warns against "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 document said.
It also stated that admitted worship team members must be "in 100 percent agreement for you to flow with our team and in order for the anointing to flow through you" and if the standards, including "excessive weight" outlined in the guidelines are not met, individuals would be disqualified from the worship team.
"Please read this carefully and examine yourself regularly as to your commitment in this area of service. If you do not meet the standards set forth in these guidelines, you will disqualify yourself as a part of the Worship Team," the document said.
On Monday, however, New Creation Church said "false media" were being circulated about the guidelines and they had been misinterpreted.
"There has been some false media circulating about our Worship Team Guidelines claiming that we don't allow overweight people on our platform, which is untrue. We apologize for any misunderstandings that our guidelines have caused," the church said.
"These guidelines have never been used to discriminate against or fat-shame anyone. We understand the wording on our guidelines have been misinterpreted, thus they are being reviewed and changed. Forgive us if we offended anyone. That certainly was not our intention. Our church is a church full of love and compassion for others. We are a diverse church with all ages, races and sizes and love people with the love of Jesus," the statement ended.
Two weeks ago, Pastor Rebecca Sundholm who leads the church along with her husband, Rod, had told Oregon Live in an earlier interview that the guidelines had been on the church's 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," she said. "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 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."
The report has sparked a huge debate online about health and superficiality in the church.
"I guess what they used to back it up, is that our body is our temple and that it should be taken care of. But not all big people are unhealthy and being skinny doesn't mean healthy either. I guess by what I see in the picture, they're worried more about image than anointing," said commenter Bianca Marie Camacho, from New Jersey.
While New Creation Church has come under fire for its "excessive weight" policy it is not the only Christian institution with controversial weight management policies. The vaunted Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma has also been waging a longstanding battle against obesity.
In 2015, the Christian university required all incoming students to wear fitness trackers that watch that track how much activity a person does. Oral Roberts provost Kathaleen Reid-Martinez told NBC News that the fitness data of students would be tracked by the school and contribute to their grades.
"Our students come to ORU because of our philosophy of education," Reid-Martinez said. "They come seeking a whole-person education: mind, body, and spirit."
A 1977 report in The New York Times said students at ORU were previously subject to annual physicals that included tests to measure blood fat.
For overweight students, the examination would include a test in which folds of skin at the waist, shoulders, arms and abdomen are measured with a pincertype instrument to determine what percentage of the body is fat.
Heavier students were given an immersion test to measure body fat. The acceptable body fat level at the time was 20 percent for women and 15 percent for men. A woman having more than 35 percent body fat, or a man having more than 25 percent, is considered obese.
Overweight students were usually placed on a weight‐reduction program and if they failed at the program, usually faced probation and eventually, suspension.