Robert E. Lee's descendant resigns as pastor after VMAs backlash
After his remarks speaking out against white supremacy at the MTV Video Music Awards rankled members of his parish, Robert Lee IV, a descendant of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, has left his church.
“We are all called by God to speak out against hate and evil in all its many forms,” Lee said in a statement to his former church, Bethany United Church of Christ in North Carolina. “There are so many good things going on with this congregation and I do not want my fight to detract from the mission. If the recent media attention causes concern with my church, I reluctantly offer my resignation.”
In a statement, Lee noted that a group of church members was concerned about his VMAs speech which explicitly supported the Black Lives Matter movement, the Women’s March, and the life of Heather Heyer. He stressed that the reaction was not shared by all church members.
When the church decided to put his position as pastor up for a vote with the congregation, he decided to resign, feeling he was no longer welcome in his post. He stressed that he hopes his resignation and his story will not detract from a larger, more pressing conversation.
“Most importantly I do not want this episode to be a distraction from the sacred work of confronting white supremacy in all its forms,” he said. “My calling and my vocation has led me to speak out against violence and oppression in any form, and I want to especially challenge white Christians in America to take seriously the deadly legacy of slavery in our country and commit ourselves to follow Jesus into a time of deep reflection, repentance, and reconciliation.”
Lee, the great-great-great nephew of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, appeared on the VMAs to introduce Susan Bro — the mother of Charlottesville, Virginia victim Heather Heyer — and speak out against the events of Charlottesville and the specter of racism in America. Lee had recently graduated from Duke Divinity School and Bethany United Church of Christ marked his first job out of seminary school. “We have made my ancestor an idol of white supremacy, racism, and hate. As a pastor, it is my moral duty to speak out against racism, America’s original sin,” he said during the ceremony.