Michigan pastor leaves church over Trump support: Christians ‘abandoned’ role of holding president accountable

Pastor Keith Mannes, formerly of of East Saugatuck Church of Holland, Michigan, preaches his final sermon at an outdoor service on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020.
Pastor Keith Mannes, formerly of of East Saugatuck Church of Holland, Michigan, preaches his final sermon at an outdoor service on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020. | Screengrab: Facebook/East Saugatuck Church

A pastor of a Christian Reformed Church congregation in Michigan has left the ministry due to his belief that the church is too supportive of President Donald Trump.

Pastor Keith Mannes preached his final sermon at East Saugatuck CRC on Oct. 11, telling the Holland Sentinel that he felt the church had “abandoned its role” in not holding Trump more accountable.

“There’s a quote from Martin Luther King where he said, ‘The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state,’” Mannes told the Sentinel.

“The question of the church largely and how it’s functioned in this moment has been really disturbing. That’s been troubling enough that I need to lay it all down.”

According to the pastor, he had to be “very careful to not speak about” his issues with Trump with members of the congregation, adding that it was “tearing me up.”

Mannes, who said his dislike of Trump over his rhetoric and actions had been building for years, went on to tell the Sentinel that other clergy held similar feelings.

“It’s not only me, but quite a number of pastors I know are just like, ‘This is it? All this preaching we did about Jesus and there’s this big of a disconnect?’” he continued.

“I think that’s a real burden on a lot of pastors’ hearts. I love these people, I love God, I love Jesus, I love the church, but there’s something happening here.”

For their part, East Saugatuck expressed gratitude for the four years that Mannes served as pastor to their church, holding a “special service of celebration and thanks” for Mannes and his wife.

“We would like the express our heartfelt thanks to Pastor Keith and Alicia for the blessings of being in ministry together for the past 4 years. Their hearts have pointed us to Jesus in so many ways,” stated the church in an emailed announcement.

“We are greatly thankful for their faithful service to us, and we pray that the Lord would bless them and keep them in all that He has planned for their future.”

The Oct. 11 service where Mannes gave his last sermon, which was streamed on Facebook, also featured warm words of departure and closed with the contemporary Christian song "Hold us Together" by Matt Maher. 

Many polls have shown that white evangelicals strongly support Trump, despite many instances of the president engaging in behavior seen at odds with Christian morality.

Southern Baptist Pastor Dean Inserra of City Church in Tallahassee, Florida, told The Washington Post that this support comes from Trump being seen as the “defender” of the faithful.

“Some think that a vote for Trump is a Christian vote, that it means they’re voting against abortion or they’re happy with the Supreme Court. It’s the ends justifies the means,” explained Inserra. “[Trump] represents a defender of their way of life. He’s the representation of someone who’s on their side.”

According to a survey from the Barna Group released in September, nearly 75% of Protestant pastors were concerned that the presidential election will impact their congregation.

Drawn from a poll of 475 Protestant clergy, the survey reported that 33% said they were “very concerned,” 41% said “somewhat concerned,” while 26% said they were “not concerned.”

As part of the same poll, 10% of respondents said that they “strongly agree” that the presidential election will divide their congregation, while 25% said they “somewhat agree.” 

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