Church of The Highlands Exposed: Pastor Chris Hodges Scandal

church of the highlands exposed

This article aims to discuss the recent spotlight on the reasons behind the exposure of Church of The Highlands, who was responsible, and the resulting consequences.

Church of the Highlands started in 2001 with a small congregation in a rented Mountain Brook High School auditorium.

Over the years, it has expanded its reach to become the most prominent church in Alabama, boasting more than 22 locations statewide.

With Hodges finding himself in a predicament, will 2020 go down in history as the year he faced the repercussions of social media scrutiny?

Pastor Chris Hodges Scandal
Source: Google.com

The Church of the Highlands’ rock concert-style services, featuring diverse praise bands, have sparked controversy and accusations of attracting congregants away from established churches.

Hodges’ lifestyle-focused sermons infused with Louisiana charisma and folksy humor caused theologians to question its orthodoxy.

Church of the Highlands overcame obstacles and grew by building a $16 million campus in Irondale. It rented auditoriums for services, opened new branches, and live-streamed sermons statewide.

By the beginning of 2020, over 50,000 people regularly attended services at each location.

The Church’s rapid expansion was unmatched then, and pastors from elsewhere visited to learn from Highlands’ success. A new generation of millennial ministers is being trained at Highlands College.

Church of the Highlands has flourished despite Sunday services being canceled due to a coronavirus outbreak since March 10.

Our company has always made delivering top-notch live-streaming video services a priority, which made it easy for us to switch to offering them exclusively online.

Tithing was already being given by church members online. Thus, revenue was stable.

The organization is modern and intelligent, with members under 50 living in suburban areas and with a millennial focus. The Church is conservative in both theology and politics.

The killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police on Memorial Day heightened racial tensions, and Hodges’ detractors saw an opening in his defenses. 

He had been supporting the notorious pro-Trump activist Charlie Kirk, president of Turning Point USA, whose mission includes the claim that “White Privilege is a myth.”

The English teacher in Birmingham City Schools sparked controversy by pointing out Hodges’ culturally insensitive social media “likes,” which triggered a storm of reactions.

Pastor Chris Hodges Scandal 1
Source: Google.com & Modified by Influencivenews Author.

As a result of the response, the “Dream Team” of volunteers from the Church of the Highlands has stopped mentoring youngsters and conducting social outreach in Birmingham’s public housing estates.

The Birmingham Housing Authority ended its partnership with Christ Health Center on June 8, which provided healthcare services to people residing in public housing.

In March, Christ Health Center offered free drive-through mass Coronavirus testing on the Highlands campus. 

Although that service is no longer available, residents of Woodlawn can get free testing for COVID-19 at the clinic.

The Birmingham Board of Education also voted to sever connections with the Church on June 9. The Church had been renting space at Parker and Woodlawn High Schools from Birmingham City Schools since 2014.

Hodges has repeatedly and tearfully expressed regret for liking Kirk’s social media messages and emphasized that Kirk’s opinions do not reflect his own.

The criticism, though, just grew louder. According to Hodges’s buddies, this news has hit him hard.

“Pastor Chris doesn’t have a racist bone in his body,” said Associate Pastor Layne Schranz, who relocated to Birmingham to help establish the Church. His 20-year track record shows that.

Hodges has always prioritized welcoming people of all backgrounds and serving the city community. 

He bought a closed fire station and turned it into the Dream Center, helping the underprivileged for over a decade.

The Church’s volunteer efforts in the community have focused on this location. Hundreds of “Dream Team” volunteers often help with tasks like garbage pickup and home repairs for those in need.

Some prominent black pastors reacted negatively to Hodges’s 2018 announcement that he would be founding a church in West Birmingham. 

A pastor at a white church downtown dubbed Hodges a “slavemaster” and posted a sign saying, “Black Folks Need to Stay Out of White Churches.”

Church of the Highlands employed Mayo Sowell, a former Auburn University football player and black campus pastor. The congregation decided to pay $3,000 per month to rent the Parker High School auditorium from Birmingham City Schools every Sunday morning.

Before the Coronavirus shutdown, Church of the Highlands members, mostly African American, filled the Parker and Woodlawn high school auditoriums on Sundays.

People have raised concerns about Hodges’s social media activity, which indicates that he supports Trump and Kirk.

The Rev. Gwen Webb, who marched in the Birmingham civil rights demonstrations in 1963 and is now an associate pastor at Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in west Birmingham, said, “Some people think it’s deep in his heart.”

Allowing them to meet near Parker and Woodlawn may generate a lot of hate. We should avoid any additional negative feedback in the city at this time. Repercussions are what we get when we do bad things.

Some white and black Highlands students have been vocal about questioning their loyalties recently.

Christine Clark, who attended the Church’s branch in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, wrote an open letter to Hodges. She said, “Mr. Trump’s rhetoric in support of white supremacy, power, and the dog whistle calls for dominance is destroying the fabric of inclusivity and equality for which you preach, teach, and strive to provide here in Alabama.”

President Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., tweeted his support for Hodges. Former Attorney General and current Senate candidate Jeff Sessions defended Hodges.

Sessions said the Birmingham Housing Authority and the Birmingham Board of Education’s actions against the Church of the Highlands violated the Church’s right to freely exercise religion and free expression.

According to Flynt, the fact that Hodges shares Turning Point USA’s and Trump’s political views should not have surprised anyone.

Flynt stated, “I’m not shocked that he’s for Trump.” A predominantly white evangelical megachurch pastor in the United States is 90% likely to support Donald Trump. I don’t get the big deal.

Flynt speculated that the decline in the economy during the lockdown and the escalation of protests against police abuse into rioting in numerous cities may have eroded support among white evangelicals for Trump.

The actions of the Birmingham Housing Authority and the Birmingham Board of Education may damage some people’s perception of Hodges.

Still, Flynt predicts that this will have little to no effect on the Church’s expansion in Alabama.

While Flynt acknowledges that identifying with Trump may have adverse effects outside of the Church, he argues that doing so is beneficial within the congregation. “It won’t have any discernible effect on the Church of the Highlands.”

Influencivenews.com recently shared stories on various topics about Pastors. Here are some interesting ones:

Related Post