Pastor Exploits the Death of a Child for a Sermon Without Apology

Pastor Exploits the Death of a Child for a Sermon Without Apology October 15, 2019

 

Photo courtesy of Grace Ferguson

It takes a special kind of pastor to exploit the tragic death of a child, releasing sensitive details of the tragedy without the consent of the grieving mother, to illustrate some bullshit “god is good” crap in a sermon.

I cannot imagine anything more painful than losing a beautiful child, but last month Grace Ferguson’s world was crushed into a million pieces when she lost her sweet, kind, amazing 14-month-old daughter, Temperance in a tragic accident.

Grace herself doesn’t identify as Christian and doesn’t attend Midland Evangelical Free Church in Michigan, but because some extended relatives attend the church, Pastor Jeremy Lobdell decided that he had the god-given right to open his sermon last month by exploiting Temperance’s very recent death to manipulate – I mean – illustrate his sermon on “What to Do When Tragedy Strikes.” How convenient for him.

Video Clip From The Friendly Atheist Blog

Notice how he says, “but god is good” after announcing a tragedy that he had no business sharing in the first place before moving on to talk about an f-ing teacup.

Naturally Grace was incredibly hurt by the insensitivity of Jeremy’s decision to exploit her daughter’s death, but after reaching out to the Pastor, he continued to show the true colors of White-Jesus Christianity of the white-washed tomb variety.

Recently, Grace released the following statement on Facebook illustrating the depths of Jeremy’s extreme lack of basic human empathy.


“On Sept. 13th 2019 my daughter died. My heart still feels like it’s been ripped out of my chest.

The day after, a 180 person pray chain was sent out to the MEFC pray chain; the church which my parents and former MIL attend. I woke up to about 50 text messages and 28 phone calls. I personally felt since the word would spread that I should announce her death myself.

Sept. 14th, 2019, my reverend, from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Midland reached out to me and asked if he could announce Temperance’s death to the congregation. And let me stress this; NO ONE FROM MEFC PERSONALLY CAME TO ME NOR MY FAMILY TO ASK IF I WOULD BE OKAY WITH ANNOUNCING TEMPY’S DEATH.

On Sept. 15th, 2019, Jeremy Lobdell, (the head pastor or as they phrase it the “preaching pastor”) announced to the congregation, Temperance’s death. I believe at times, that congregation holds up to 600+ people in its seats.

This was only a few days after her death. I was in shock still. I had no time to process what was happening before everyone I didn’t want to know, knew. I feel disrespected by Jeremy’s actions. I was deeply upset and hurt.

To address with Jeremy Lobdell directly how I felt, I called him this morning. I expressed to him that while I do not attend MEFC that I was affected by his actions in a negative way. I explained that it caused me deep upset and that the right approach to the situation would have been to call me and extend the courtesy of asking for permission or at least informing me that he planned on publicly announcing her death.

Here’s why I made this post; I’m an atheist. I’m open about my beliefs. I don’t believe in god, like I don’t believe in the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus. I was raised Christian, and as an adult with a careful analysis of both my faith and biblical texts, I realized that there wasn’t a god. This is my belief. I understand that this is not a shared belief. I simply ask that people ESPECIALLY NOW, respect my mourning and that I don’t believe in god. Your prayers may help you, but they don’t bring me comfort.

Jeremy Lobdell told me that he was sorry and it was clear that in this situation we had different opinions. No sir, this is gas-lighting. It’s not just a matter of different opinions. My daughter died, the VERY least you could do is respect that she was my daughter who I carried for 9 months of hell with Hyperemesis Gravidarum (which almost killed me), birthed, breastfed, and raised practically on my own. I knew her the best. I loved her the most. The VERY least you could have done, (although it would have been rude) would have been to text me.

When I tried to continue the conversation, Jeremy cut me off and told me that if I wasn’t going to repent and turn to Jesus that our conversation was over. I at this point asked him to not proselytize me. He told me I could repent and in turn go to heaven to be with my daughter or not.

I DO NOT BELIEVE IN HEAVEN. We sir, do not share this belief. If anything I believe in reincarnation.
This conversation could have been a chance for Jeremy to extend me pastoral care. This has not been the only time I have asked him to not proselytize me.

Since Jeremy is so quick to turn his beliefs on me let me point him to his bible. His holy than thou attitude was condemned by Jesus in Matthew 23:27-28: ” “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 “So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

Your inability to apologize and correct fault with me shows me that you are no better than a pharisee.”


This White-Jesus type of behavior is absolutely disgusting.

Like really Jeremy?

You couldn’t just accept that what you did was immensely hurtful and apologize?

And it gets worse.

After making the decision to peacefully protest outside the church, Grace received a wonderfully thoughtful letter gaslighting her, threatening to have her arrested if she stepped foot on their precious church grounds.

Honestly what this guy is doing goes beyond insensitivity, it’s manipulative and it’s abusive.

It’s the classic narcissistic White-Jesus pastor mentality where the ways of the pastor are elevated above, and even contradict, the ways of Jesus, the guy they claim as savior.

 

This past Sunday, Grace and others peacefully protested off church grounds while inside the church walls, Pastor Jeremy Lobdell received a standing ovation, because according to the Gospel of Narcissists, this guy was the real victim here.

 

 

And here is the thing, all Grace is asking for is that Jeremy and his church to do the bare minimum to be a decent human, which Grace laid out in a public Facebook post yesterday.


“I still have not received a sincere apology from Jeremy regarding the insensitive sermon he delivered to his congregation with personal details about my daughter’s death, the phone call I made where he told me to repent, the letter he sent threatening to report me to authorities for expressing my dissatisfaction.

People may want to know if anything can make me feel better. Nothing will bring back my daughter, but I’m simply asking that Jeremy publicly apologize for not consulting me ahead of time, retract his letter regarding (legal) protests, and never use Temperance’s name without my permission. If these things were done — sincerely — then we would not have any need to express our concerns on Sunday.

Beyond that, I would strongly urge the church and congregation to better handle situations as sensitive as this one by undergoing mandatory trauma and grief training yearly, from a third party source that would require compliance, for their staff members . I would also have them adopt a formal policy regarding how they announce deaths so that the people closest to the deceased are not blindsided by the pastor’s statement as I was.”


Grace’s requests here are pretty f-ing reasonable, especially considering what this church is putting her through during the worst time in her life.

Again Jeremy, where the hell are the ways of Jesus in this?

How does your refusal to show compassion reflect the guy you call savior?

Grace had planned to continue to peacefully protest but has since received what she feels are threats from members of the church to the point that she is afraid to continue to speak out and feels it would be best for her to step back and focus on her family.

Way to do “god’s” work MEFC.

Regardless, the protest will continue and if you are in the Michigan area, please come out!

Though it seems Jeremy Lobdell has little if any remorse for the hurt he continues to inflict on Grace, she is determined not to let him and his church ruin her beautiful child’s memory.


“One thing I won’t let MEFC do is ruin Tempy’s memory. Please share this, because this is what I want people to remember who she was

So who is Temperance?

Photo courtesy of Grace Ferguson

She was sweet. She loved to give kisses and hugs. She would climb up into my lap and just sit there. She had this amazing belly laugh. She would stomp her feet and shriek in joy.

She was beautiful. She had a grin that could light up your face.

Her eyes would light up at the sight of food. She would clap her hands until you gave her food. And boy could she eat, she would eat and eat. She love Mac and cheese and getting all messy. No matter what, Tempy was always finding new ways to get messy.

Sometimes I don’t even understand how she got messy, but nevertheless she did. This picture for example, is a perfect demonstration. What I love about it is her grin. She can’t wait to run in the sand and get all dirty.

She had this cry, that made her sound like Chewbacca, and as soon as I would sweep her up into my arms it didn’t take much until she calmed down.

She loved have her nails painted. I would always let her pick out the color, she always chose red. She got a unicorn for her birthday. She carried it around the house and slept with it, cuddling it all night long.

She had the chunkiest cheeks that were so cute. I called her my chunky monkey. She loved to dance. I would make dinner in the kitchen and she would run around and bounce. She loved “I can see clearly now” and “dancing queen”.

She loved her brother. I nursed the both of them and they were very close. She would run up to him and hug his legs. The two of them liked to play tag, and Orrin loved to make her laugh. She liked to stand in downward dog a lot, mostly because she watched me do my yoga routine and was trying to mimic me. She liked to be tickled by her brother. And she loved animals. She co-slept with me for about six months in a bassinet and I used to breastfeed her at night and after she would curl up next to me and my heart would melt.

She was unique and a wonderful little girl. This post can’t even cover all the wonderful things about Temperance.

Jeremy may say god is good, I disagree, Temperance is good. Remember Tempy for who she was, not what Jeremy saw.”


If you would like to show some love for Grace during this incredibly difficult time when hurt surounds her, please consider donating to and sharing this Go Fund Me that was set up for her.


 

For more of Sheri’s work, go to www.SheriFayeRosendahl.com  or check out her book Not Your White Jesus.


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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Al Cruise

    This post is an educational piece on the inner workings of evangelicalism. I will be getting young people to read it .

  • Roger Morris

    What a sanctimonious, histrionic, narcissistic and self-righteous scumbag that pastor is. A parasite on society.

  • lagibby

    My heart weeps for this bereaved mother. The person who needs to repent is that pastor. I hope she is able to feel some love from others who sympathize with her and know that there is a positive force in the world, regardless of her (or my or anyone else’s) views on the existence of god.

  • Rudy Schellekens

    As one who does believe in God, who does not think that the f* word should be used in writing, I do apologize for how this particular preacher dealt with this enormous sadness. As a grandfather of a beautiful little girl who will need medical attention for the foreseeable future, I understand the hurt somewhat. and to have this time of sadness trampled on is beyond careless.
    But do not judge all who claim faith in God by what happened here…

  • jimoppenheimer

    This is why it is generally a bad idea for a church to operate without the oversight of an actual body of organized believers. Some self-righteous person can set himself up as if he is somehow chosen by god, and then assume that he has the right to do what seems good to him and not to apologize when he goes over the line.
    This lay person leading a church needs to learn the wisdom of humility and repent of his self-serving behavior. His congregation needs competent leadership.
    Perhaps this can have a good result in giving them a wake up call to mend their fences and return their worship to a Christ-centered model.

  • Al Cruise

    This is where education comes in. Educate young people to be able to recognize the signs of this behavior and avoid these Churches altogether. Use social media to spread the word around to their friends to do likewise. Gen Z is excellent at this. Working together we can stop the growth of these Churches and choke off the tithes. These Churches don’t change, they will just work on better sheep costumes to hide the wolf beneath.

  • Alan

    This pastor is not an outlier. I remember when I was in high school the senior pastor of my church arranged for a homeless man, fresh out of jail, to use the church’s parsonage, which was otherwise vacant. It was a kind offer, until the pastor started using the man almost weekly in sermon illustrations of someone who made bad choices in comparison to the pastor’s *good* choices. I was uncomfortable at the time. In another instance, a woman in the congregation was severely ill, and the pastor led the congregation in prayer for her weekly, and announced (almost weekly) that the Lord had told him she was cured. After she died, her grieving husband left the church and was subsequently vilified for his faithlessness. Even then I got it! Why should he believe in a church that either (A) had a fickle God, or (B) had a fake connection to God? Evangelicalism, at least in large part, is about making people feel better about themselves and more hopeful of their own personal safety. Unfortunately, the feelings don’t always ring true enough to allow evangelicals to look on others with compassion.

  • Al Cruise

    I heard this quote , it lines up with what you say. Jesus never intended his Church to be a place to give power to the status quo or the self appointed religious elite. He intended his Church to be place to give hope to people who didn’t have any.

  • James Elliott

    I’m pretty sure there are some laws about confidentiality that have been violated (depending on the state the woman lives in). In recent years, i have observed some pastors who have been very free with using recent deaths of children/youth to urge people (particularly young teens) to be baptized. In one case a girl’s name was invoked with the plea, “she would want you to do this.” Like Rudy, i would respectfully remind us that not all Evangelicals are like this.

  • Al Cruise

    ” not all Evangelicals are like this” Yes that is true . However most of the large conservative evangelical Churches and the conservative evangelical leaders that are prominent in society with power and influence are this way.

  • James Elliott

    Therein lies the problem. I have to keep reminding myself that most of those describing themselves as Evangelical (I used to be one) are like sheep being led to the slaughter by all the Dobsons, Robertsons, Falwells, and of course the one described in the blog. I once saw a bumper sticker that responded to this ilk… “Jesus is coming back, and man is he tic’d off!”

  • hrk58

    It bothers me that the pastor used only the first 5 verses of this book because it is the entire story (book) that shows how faith can fill us when we find ourselves emptied. There is no proof that Elimelek went against God in the decision to move his family temporarily to Moab so I’m bothered that the pastor chose to speak of this action as ‘sin’. For all we know, Elimelek could have prayed and felt guided to go to Moab. This leads me to wonder if the listeners to the sermon inferred that the child was lost due to some form of sin. How sad that such a burden be put on any individual by another’s “judgement”. Naomi did what was appropriate, Ruth went above and beyond by caring for her mother-in-law and became a believer of God. What a testament that becomes even better through Boaz. Kindness, compassion, love are wonderful testaments, which lead me to my final thoughts. The letter written by the church to the grieving mother is a perfect example of how not to be a Christian. It rationalized how good things were done for the family members, but nothing was said about that which was done for the mother. Isn’t it the mother who needs solace? Would Christ not have provided solace to the mother regardless of her beliefs? I think so. Then the letter threatened her by stating the law would be called if the protest continued. I am not familiar with any incidence where Christ threatened to call the law on protesters. Once again this pastor missed a true opportunity to share the love and compassion of Christ not only with the mother but with those who supported her. This pastor is limiting himself only to the members of his church to receive compassion and solace whereas Christ reached out to all as does God. I also found it strange that he asked his daughter for permission to tell the story of the saucer but did not ask the Tempy’s mother’s permission. Why does he think there is a difference in this case? I hope that eventually he will see the shortcomings of his actions and follow his own sermon: Lament for the mother’s loss and his lack of compassionate sight and Repent for not comforting her and showing compassion and love.

  • emncaity

    You definitely should feel superior to all like him and have contempt for them, as seemingly all people here do.

  • emncaity

    Well, there’s two. One in Michigan, one from your personal experience. Sounds like a broad conclusion about an entire class of people is definitely warranted.

  • emncaity

    Well now. Aren’t you just the most progressive vulgarity-slinging indignant crusader?

    Okay. So get high-fives from your crowd. It sounds like this guy was a real piece of work. But a run through several pieces at this site makes it completely evident that the point here is to have a “we’re superior, we have contempt for you people, and what characterizes you broadly is what we say does” kind of experience. It’s just another version of “people on your side of the line are ignorant, backward, white supremacist, etc.” If you think this is doing anybody any good or really doing anything but getting kudos from within the echo chamber, it’s not. It’s also not remotely Christian.

  • Alan

    Yes, in my experience, as an evangelical for over 30 years, as a member of several churches, having visited quite a few more, on the board of one, it’s quite common for evangelical pastors to use suffering people as sermon illustrations. Not all pastors will do this, of course. But in my experience, it’s not that unusual. I could give more examples from other churches. The one I cited was just particularly egregious. I won’t even say that it’s entirely a lack of compassion, but more that compassion is secondary to the pastor’s belief that he’s saving souls. Of course, there is a strong undercurrent as well of “people get what they deserve”.

  • Al Cruise
  • Jennifer A. Nolan

    “Evangelicalism, at least in large part, is about making people feel better about themselves and more hopeful of their own personal safety. Unfortunately, the feelings don’t always ring true enough to allow evangelicals to look on others with compassion.”

    Thank you for saying this! Now I have a better idea of where so much of our American egoism comes from.

  • Kara Hughes

    Yep, in a nutshell. I would add what an ignorant, thoughtless, f ucker, but I think you nailed it.

  • HematitePersuasion

    Waiting for Godot an apology for bad behavior from the self-righteous, Christian or otherwise, is an exercise in futility. Perhaps one might get a cease and desist order against the harassment.

  • janet pesenti

    He wanted the gig, the stage and the mic. And the applause. He certainly has the voice with which to apologize. He’s no victim. And he sure ain’t a pastor.

  • janet pesenti

    …Franklin Grahams, William Jeffresses, Robert Morrises…

  • You’re absolutely right – it is mindboggling how much they insist upon seeing this as a horror- not all of us want our children who died however seen in that light. I work hard as my sons forever Mommy to always keep him my blessing.