- Associated Press - Friday, September 15, 2017

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) - The governing board of a North Carolina church where a descendant of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was pastor didn’t know any members who had a problem with his comments supporting racial justice activists on an MTV broadcast, a church leader said Friday.

Bethany United Church of Christ Governing Council chair Jerry Clodfelter said the first he heard of the Rev. Robert W. Lee IV’s comments Aug. 27 at the MTV Video Music Awards was when Lee emailed his resignation more than a week later.

Clodfelter said he refused Lee’s resignation at first and asked to talk about any problems with the Winston-Salem church. He said the congregation enjoyed the part-time pastor’s preaching and leadership since he came to the church in May.

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“No one at Bethany was aware any problem existed, and we were unprepared for the media attention. To the knowledge of the governing council, no one at Bethany had an issue with Pastor Lee’s statements on television,” Clodfelter said in a statement.

Lee praised the Black Lives Matter movement as he introduced the mother of a woman killed during demonstrations over a Robert E. Lee statue in Virginia.

“We have made my ancestor an idol of white supremacy, racism, and hate,” he said at the award show. “As a pastor, it is my moral duty to speak out against racism, America’s original sin.”

Lee, 24, said a faction of the members of the church 100 miles west of Raleigh did not like his comments. He said he resigned after the congregation decided to put his job to a vote.

Lee stood by his version of events in a statement issued Friday through his publicist, saying he did not want to “engage in a press war with a congregation that did not want me to continue on as their pastor.”

“It is clear to me that people like to view the world with rose-tinted glasses. While my world has been turned upside down by this church, I refuse to engage in a he-said-she-said account of what happened. My only wish is that they would do the same,” Lee said.

Clodfelter said the only vote took place last Sunday, when the church agreed to accept Lee’s resignation.

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