I have been blessed with several people in my life that are “Rule Keepers.” You know the type. They have to keep the rules no matter what. They just cannot function in grey areas. If this is the rule, then this is what we are going to do here. Well, those people are very irritating at times, but they also can bring great benefit. There are times that we need to be reminded that there are rules in place for a reason. Rules and structure are needed if we are going to live in any productive, healthy way. A lack of rules leads to conflict and chaos. But, these people likewise need to be reminded of our need for grace. This might be true in the case of University of Mississippi Medical Center.
The non-denominational church has a membership of about 1,200 people – but only 275 can fit in the sanctuary. And the preacher estimated they could have as many as 1,500 people show up for Easter Sunday.
The non-denominational church has a membership of about 1,200 people – but only 275 can fit in the sanctuary. And the preacher estimated they could have as many as 1,500 people show up for Easter Sunday. He signed a contract to rent the space on Jan. 27. On March 27 – the University abruptly cancelled the contract and told the church they would not be allowed to use their facility.
That is right. Less than two weeks before one of the biggest day of church attendance of the year, this church is without the means to facilitate a normal Sunday service. This church has been using the facilities of the University for two months. So what changed? Were they handling poisonous snakes? Raising the medical cadavers from the dead? No, just having a normal service. So why did they get the boot?
“It was a week and two days before the largest service of the year,” Pastor Richardson told me. “They told me the climate at UMMC was not conducive for us to have a service at the facility.”
What does that even mean? Is there an anti-religious organisation that has threatened a lawsuit? Has the ACLU complained? Is there an anti-Holy Spirit climate around the school?
“They were afraid IHL might come and say something about a church having a service (in their facility),” the pastor said. IHL is also known as the State Institutions of Higher Learning, the agency that oversees Mississippi’s eight public institutions of higher learning.
So they blamed it on the government oversight agency. They surely must have realized that this organization existed before they signed the contract. They of course did, but they claim that the church service goes against University policy.
He (Marc Rolph) denied it had anything to do with the church being a church. He said the booking should never have been made in the first place because they only allow their facilities to be used by health-related organizations.
“The event is not health related and thus is not compliant with our policy,” Rolph said.
It is hard to overlook the fact that while negotiating with the pastor no one had the presence of mind to ask if this was or was not the rule. What trouble and questions could have been avoided had someone been a rule keeper. Then, instead of us wondering if the Universities actions had nefarious intent, the church would be looking forward to one rather than multiple Easter service.
As things stand, it would seem that at best the University has shown itself to be poorly managed and at worse to be discriminating against a Christian organization.