An Open Letter to Ms. Ferguson from a Church of Christ Minister



Ms. Ferguson,

Thank you for your recent words in, “The Ugly in Christianity.”

Those like me in the Church of Christ need those like you to keep writing such stories, and we need to read them, hear them, and accept them as true no matter how much it may hurt to do so, because they serve as an ongoing reminder of the need to practice humility and graciousness. Stories like yours bear witness to our sins of prejudice, sectarianism, pride, and exclusivity, much less our innumerable lesser sins. 

I cannot tell you how many times I have grown frustrated with Christians in my own tribe of the Churches of Christ, as well as other Christians who identify within conservative Christianity. I have several friends, who like the two of us, grew up in the Church of Christ somewhere and upon leaving for college found our adolescent faith and experience in the church wanting – often feeling betrayed by their church or even directly hurt by it for one reason or another.

I imagine there were several folks who read your words and identified with them all too closely. So, to you and to your readers please accept this small apology from one minister who works in a very small corner of Atlanta – “I am sorry. I am sorry for the way in which you were treated by people who claim to represent Jesus and for the ways in which Christians, especially among the Churches of Christ, continue to do you harm instead of good.”

I wish that you knew the kind of people I work with and those who belong to other Churches of Christ in and around Atlanta that I know. It is possible, as you stated, that we are the exception to the rule, but the more I travel and the more people I meet within our small tribe of Christianity the more convinced I am that, to use a very Christian idea for a moment, the Spirit of God is awakening a movement within a group of people who may be conservative in their high view of Scripture, but are downright liberal in their love for their city and their neighborhood.

Take for example our church, Corners Church of Christ, and the work we are doing with illegal immigrants who we believe are treated unfairly (you can read more about some of our involvement here as featured in the Huffington Post in May 2016). Or the work we are doing with disadvantaged (and often immigrant) children all around our city to help improve their educational skills.

[Please understand I am not bragging here – there are more things we could be doing, probably better ways to go about it at times, and it is quite possible we mess up a bit along the way, but these are Christian people caring not just for insiders – those who worship with us, but for some of the most vulnerable outsiders as well.]

Or take Campus Church of Christ who spends every summer feeding children who experience food insecurity during the summer months all around them – children who live in transient/temporary housing, and children who, if it weren’t for their work would lack access to regular meals during the summer because the schools they belong cannot feed them outside of the school year. Or, consider their work with those in the community whose lives are wrecked by substance abuse.

Or take Northlake Church of Christ who is heavily involved in the refugee work in Clarkston, GA. This church works closely as a church and in partnership with other non-profit groups to care for those fleeing war torn countries in the Middle east and north Africa.

Or the countless other Churches of Christ (not to mention so so many other Christian Churches) in Atlanta and beyond who deeply love those all around them.

Why do these churches do what they do? Because this is what a church trying their best to follow Jesus does. Because this is what happens when a group attempts to follow Jesus instead of someone’s politic, ideology or selfish desires – regardless of the name outside their building.

Does any of this undo the damage done to you and countless others by churches with our name on the outside of it? NO, of course not and we should not allow any list of good things happening, including mine, to drown out the bad things being done! You are absolutely right – this is the ugly side of Christianity in general and churches like mine in particular.

I write all of this to say I’m sorry, and to also briefly offer another side to what’s happening in the world. Just as you rightly scorn those belonging to the Churches of Christ for stereotyping others by the worst examples in a group – I would counter by saying those outside (even if they’ve seen behind the curtain before as you have) might benefit from practicing such restraint as well.

If you are ever in Atlanta on a Sunday, you are always welcome to visit with us at the Corners Church of Christ.

Grace and Peace,

Taylor Hammett

Lead Minister

Corners Church of Christ




12 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Ms. Ferguson from a Church of Christ Minister

    • TH

      Right! Yes – we know that Hillary’s experience, while true, exits in all groups. Bigotry and Hatred have a way of creeping int us all. Thanks for reading, Jody.

  1. Absolutely beautiful. Reading this brought me to tears. I think there’s a little bit in each of us that’s been hurt by the church, though it may not be Church of Christ specifically. Your heartfelt apology was salve to a wounded soul. Thank you Good Samaritan.

    • TH

      Thank you for those kind words, Julie. You are right – human beings are capable of great harm no matter their religion or creed – but thankfully we can also be incredibly kind and generous at times even bending the arch of the world a little more toward justice. All the best!

  2. Pam Wagner

    I wish my father could have read your reply. He turned away from the Church because of the hypocrisy he observed. I wish he could have seen the heart of the congregation I now attend, Southside CofC in Ft Worth Texas. The small congregations of the 50’s and 60’s in trying to adhere to what they understood to be God’s will , often demonstrated the opposite of it. I don’t believe they were intentionally being being hypocritical. Most of the folks I knew were wonderful, loving people who would drop everything they were doing if anyone needed help. I am thankful for God’s grace to us as we try to do his will. A favorite author often said “When you know better, you do better. All of us are on this journey and God’s grace is with us just as he was with our brothers and sisters of the past

    • TH

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Pam. I’m glad that you’ve found a community in Fort Worth that expresses well the love of Christ for all. Your father is not alone. My suspicion is that the family members who left a Church of Christ because of hurt or betrayal are too many to number, yet it is important to hear such stories as your Father’s to remind us to take evermore seriously the charge to practice tremendous grace and humility toward each other. Thanks for stopping by to read this and taking the time to comment.

  3. Susie Graham

    I was baptized when I was 25 yrs old after being raised in Methodist/Presbyterian Churches. It was difficult for me for many years (70s and 80s) attending a small West Texas church where most people seemed unhappy and at odds with their community, other churches and even other C of C congregations. So I feel the pain Ms Ferguson expresses. But as I grew in Christ, I learned to stop fixating on my fellow brothers and sisters, and fixing my eyes on Jesus. Later I realized that my brothers and sisters had their own struggles and growth pains. We all do, unless we are just stagnate, stuck in the mud. A little mercy goes a long way. Being able to admit we aren’t perfect makes, but we are saved, helps us be more approachable to the unchurched. Which by the way, is why we are still here. Love to hear all the positive reports of things other Christians are doing. Love to all.

    • TH

      Thank you for those thoughts, Susie. Faith is, by nature, progressive and religion is, by nature, communal. Those to two ingredients often make for difficult living conditions inside our churches. You are right to point out the need for grace and humility; they are essential for us to get along! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. All the best.

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