Former Pastoral Intern Loses License After Endorsing Biden
A Baptist church in Texas has chosen not to renew the license of a young pastoral intern after he endorsed Joe Biden for president on social media.
Faith Memorial Baptist Church in Archer City, Texas, had licensed 21-year-old David Bumgardner in July as he was wrapping up a one-year internship as an assistant minister. He gave his farewell sermon to the congregation—which aligns with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention—on Sept. 6.
A few days later, according to the Baptist Standard, he took to social media with harsh criticism of President Donald Trump and went on to officially endorse Biden.
He identified Trump as “a threat to the flourishing of my neighbors…to national security…(and) to national unity,” accusing him of “stoking the fires of civil and racial unrest.”
The Baptist Standard said Bumgardner identifies himself as a Republican, and that by endorsing Biden he is not endorsing everything in the Democratic platform.
“I am voting for Joe Biden to get the most egotistical, hypocritical, divisive, deranged, and dangerous man to ever hold presidential office out of the Oval” Office, he wrote. “I am voting for Joe Biden because he will bring back decency to the White House.”
Within 12 hours of posting, Bumgardner had racked up a flurry of responses. “I was flooded with notifications and messages. I was called a baby-killer, cop-killer, race-baiter, unqualified minister, pedophile and fake Christian, despite the fact that my classical, conservative, orthodox and evangelical theological convictions have not changed.” Bumgardner said.
Bumgardner, a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Scarborough College has since removed the post from his Facebook page.
This was not the first time Bumgardner had been vocal on social media about his political views. A quick scroll through his Twitter or Facebook pages emphasize justice-related action and a distaste for “Make American Great Again” nationalism. He calls himself “an advocate of sound biblical teaching, classical evangelical theology, and justice-focused (some would say ‘progressive’) orthopraxy.”
The posts had been the topic of concern before between Bumgardner and the lead pastor at Faith Memorial Baptist Church, Avery Sprey. When the church voted to license Bumgardner to the ministry, Sprey inserted a clause giving the pastor the right to renew the license or allow it to expire based on Bumgardner’s actions, via the Baptist Standard.
The clause was kept private between Sprey and Bumgardner, both of them considering the license more of a “learner’s permit.”
Sprey said he had hesitated licensing Bumgardner earlier, waiting to see if the intern displayed “the necessary wisdom and maturity.” When he had perceived growth, he went forward with licensing—but not without inserting the stipulations.
After Bumgardner’s post endorsing Biden, Sprey told him he would take advantage of the clause and not renew his license, claiming that Bumgardner’s social media posts caused “discord among brothers” and threatened “gospel unity.”
“I made a mistake,” Sprey said. “If you have to put an expiration date on a license, you probably shouldn’t issue it in the first place. I’m new at this and learning the hard way.”
Bumgardner admitted his posts are “provocative” but contended that they’re not “overtly wicked or sinful.” He was quick to point out his shortcomings— “pride, making unhelpful sarcastic remarks, using unwholesome speech, harboring bitterness, clinging to resentment and epitomizing hypocrisy. I also find it difficult to speak kindly of my theological, ideological and personal ‘enemies.’”
He said they were areas he and his pastor discussed frequently, but he did not include his recent post among them. “I have committed too many sins to name. But endorsing Joe Biden is not one of them,” he said.
Sprey said it wasn’t Bumgardner’s opinions but the way he presented them on social media that provoked the pastor to discontinue his license. Bumgardner disagreed.
“Had I endorsed Donald Trump or kept my views to myself, I am sure I would still be a licensed Christian minister on the pathway to formal ordination,” he said.
Bumgardner surrendered his license, which he said is “inextricably linked to my qualifications and credentials as a Christian minister,” and will pursue membership at another Southern Baptist church “where my political views and personal expressions will not be as problematic.”