Is Michele Bachmann facing her own Rev. Jeremiah Wright crisis?
The Atlantic’s Joshua Green reports that Bachmann has belonged to a Lutheran church that was part of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, which holds that the Pope is the Anti-Christ:
Bachmann was a longtime member of the Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church in Stillwater, Minn., which belongs to the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), a council of churches founded in 1850 that today comprises about 400,000 people. WELS is the most conservative of the major Lutheran church organizations, known for its strict adherence to the writings of Martin Luther, the German theologian who broke with the Catholic Church and launched the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. This includes endorsing Luther’s statements about the papacy. From the WELS “Doctrinal Statement on the Antichrist“:
“Since Scripture teaches that the Antichrist would be revealed and gives the marks by which the Antichrist is to be recognized, and since this prophecy has been clearly fulfilled in the history and development of the Roman Papacy, it is Scripture which reveals that the Papacy is the Antichrist.” …
[WELS communications director Joel] Hochmuth hastened to add that despite the lengthy doctrinal statement, the belief that the Pope is the Antichrist “has never been one of our driving principles.”
Hochmuth also revealed that Bachmann is no longer a member of the WELS congregation. “I do know that she has requested a release of her membership,” he said, adding that she took the unusual step of formally requesting that release in writing. “She has not been an active member of our fellowship during the last year.”
The Catholic League’s president Bill Donohue released the following statement:
The Catholic League finds it regrettable that there are still strains of anti-Catholicism in some Protestant circles, but we find no evidence of any bigotry on the part of Rep. Michele Bachmann. Indeed, she has condemned anti-Catholicism. Just as President Barack Obama is not responsible for the views of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Rep. Bachmann must be judged on the basis of her own record.
However, just as Sen. John McCain had to answer questions about his affiliation with Pastor John Hagee (who quickly cleared his record), and Sen. Barack Obama had to answer questions about his affiliation with Rev. Wright, it is not inappropriate to ask some pointed questions of Rep. Bachmann and her religion’s tenets.
Rep. Bachmann’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Green included in his piece a 2006 quote from Bachmann addressing the matter in a debate. In response to a question from a moderator noting the WELS’s position on the Pope, Bachmann said, “Well that’s a false statement that was made, and I spoke with my pastor earlier today about that as well, and he was absolutely appalled that someone would put that out. It’s abhorrent, it’s religious bigotry. I love Catholics, I’m a Christian, and my church does not believe that the Pope is the Anti-Christ, that’s absolutely false.”
However, Hochmuth’s comments indicate that Bachmann did not leave the church until sometime in the past year.