Is P.J. Smyth Pro Abortion/Pro Gay Marriage and Does He Believe in Mixing Politics With Religion

By | May 13, 2016

Hello Everyone:

Introduction

This Janna L. Chan, a team member on this blog. This post  primarily asks whether Pastor-Elect P.J. Smyth (he appears to have the job pending receiving a visa to work in the United States), of Covenant Life Church (CLC), is pro abortion and pro gay marriage given his decision to endorse Ike Leggett, a liberal politician whose record indicates that he supports gay marriage and believes that abortion should be legal in many circumstances, during the Sunday worship service on May 15, 2016 per this notice on CLC’s website:

Sunday Morning, May 15

10-11:30 a.m.  |  Sunday Service and Mission Offering

  • Spotlight Interview: Ike Leggett, Montgomery County Executive
  • PJ Smyth: The Message of the Mission
  • Mission Offering

http://www.covlife.org/events/2016-04-05/mission_weekend

As a secondary issue, this post asks whether it is ethical or legal for P.J. Smyth and Covenant Life Church as a whole to be endorsing a politician during a worship service per the Internal Revenue Service’s (U.S. entity that determines how the tax exempt funds that Covenant Life Church raises may be used) guidelines below:

Guidelines Covenant Life Church Must Follow

Per its by-laws, Covenant Life Church is a 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt organization and is prohibited from endorsing political candidates per the standards below:

The Restriction of Political Campaign Intervention by Section 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Organizations

Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity.  Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes. (Emphasis added)

Certain activities or expenditures may not be prohibited depending on the facts and circumstances.  For example, certain voter education activities (including presenting public forums and publishing voter education guides) conducted in a non-partisan manner do not constitute prohibited political campaign activity. In addition, other activities intended to encourage people to participate in the electoral process, such as voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives, would not be prohibited political campaign activity if conducted in a non-partisan manner.

On the other hand, voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, will constitute prohibited participation or intervention.

Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 15-Dec-2015

Background Information About the Concerns Pertaining to P.J. Smyth Raised In This Post

As someone who has advocated against the commission and cover-up of child sexual abuse at Covenant Life Church (CLC’s) for several years, in large part because it is a menace to my community – Montgomery County, Maryland – I periodically look at CLC’s website to see what events it is planning. I continue to hope it will seriously address its long and ongoing history of covering up child sexual abuse, yet realize this is likely a pipe dream at this point.

Covenant Life Church is a mega-Church that’s reputation and financial stability has been rocked by lawsuits and criminal cases pertaining to an ongoing child sexual abuse scandal which has been covered by both this blog and many mainstream media sources. Addressing the totality of that issue is not the point of this article. However, monitoring CLC’s priorities is always important because it is a danger to the community.

Thus I and others were disappointed, though not surprised, that Covenant Life Church is holding a “Mission Weekend,” which seems designed to solicit donations to “ministries” that bring new members and their pocket books to the Church, as opposed to addressing CLC’s legal and moral problems pertaining to covering up child sexual abuse and addressing other less-than-savory issues.

We were not shocked because P.J. Smyth, CLC’s new Pastor-elect, has spent the much of his little time in the U.S. to date soliciting donations for his “Advance” para-Church organization rather than publicly addressing the major legal and moral challenges facing the Church he is supposedly spiritually leading right now. Specifically, he has made no public statements pertaining to the most recent arrest of a CLC member, on March 16, for 11 counts of child sexual abuse and false imprisonment.

Instead, the full itinerary of the “Mission Weekend,” which Pastor P.J. Smyth is focusing on,  taking place this weekend, can be seen here:

Missional God, Missional Church
Mission Weekend 2016

Friday-Sunday, May 13-15

RSVP to the Mission Weekend

Have you noticed the shift? Over the past three years our church has been waking up to the glory of God’s mission. From nearby neighborhoods to distant nations, more and more members have been declaring and displaying the good news about Jesus. But God’s mission is a lot bigger than we have imagined. It’s not just for the world travelers…it’s for all of us!

God is mobilizing Covenant Life Church on four fronts to love our neighbors, renew our culture, serve our city, and reach the nations. Every member is a missionary! No matter how old or how bold, God has a place for each of us in his mission. Together as a church family let’s be energized and equipped during Mission Weekend 2016!

Friday Night, May 13

6-7:30 p.m.  |  Food Trucks ($), Friends and Fun (Back Lawn)
7:30-9:15 p.m.  |  Missional God, Missional Church (Part 1)

  • Guest worship leader
  • PJ Smyth: The Great Mission (30 minutes)
  • Personal stories of God’s power in people’s lives

9:15-10:30 p.m.  |  Bonfire and S’mores

Saturday Morning, May 14

8-9:30 a.m.  |  Missional God, Missional Church (Part 2)

  • Free pancake breakfast
  • Activities, videos and games (Kids and Adults)
  • PJ Smyth: Four Fronts of Mission (15-20 minutes)

9:30-10 a.m.  |  Coffee Break
9:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m.  |  Kids Activity: Around The World in 150 Minutes!

  • All kids between ages 3-14 are welcome
  • Group activities in various stations (art, crafts, storytelling, songs, and more)

10 a.m.-12:15 p.m.  |  Workshops (30 minutes each)  |  Workshop Descriptions

  • Track 1: Loving My Neighbors
         o   The 1-Minute Gospel Workshop
    o   Welcome To Discovery Bible Studies
    o   What Controls My Neighbor?
    o   Learning To Be Good Samaritans
  • Track 2: Renewing The Culture
         o   Can I Share My Faith at Work?
    o   The New Breed of Missionaries
    o   Social Justice and Mercy in South Africa
    o   Our Role As Culture Makers
  • Track 3: Serving Our City
         o   Learning From The Pros (Panel)
    o   Reaching the Unreached In Your Own Back Yard
    o   Why We Moved To The Bad Part of Town (Panel)
    o   South Lake Elementary School: A Vision for Community Transformation
  • Track 4: Reaching The Nations
         o   Meet Our Partners in Japan and Uganda! (Skype Call)
         o   Church-Planting Adventures in Central Asia
         o   How NOT To Be An Ugly American
         o   Bible Storytelling to Point to Christ

Download workshop descriptions

12:15-12:30 p.m.  |  Great Commission

  • “A Thousand Questions” (video)
  • Resources for loving our city
  • Special gift for kids

Sunday Morning, May 15

10-11:30 a.m.  |  Sunday Service and Mission Offering

  • Spotlight Interview: Ike Leggett, Montgomery County Executive
  • PJ Smyth: The Message of the Mission
  • Mission Offering

11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.  |  Mission Festival (Back Lawn)

  • Food Trucks ($) and Games
  • Exhibitors: Organizations serving our community and Covenant Life’s Local Outreach Teams
  • Bake Sale Fundraiser for the youth missions trip

http://www.covlife.org/events/2016-04-05/mission_weekend

Why Has P.J. Smyth Has Invited a Prominent Liberal Politician To Do a “Spotlight Interview” At This Sunday’s Worship Service

The above “Mission Weekend” event did not raise any bells until someone noticed that P.J. Smyth has invited Isiah “Ike”Leggett, a prominent liberal politician whose record appears to indicate that he favors the legalization of abortion in many cases as well as the legality of gay marriage, to do a “Spotlight” interview during Covenant Life Church’s standard public Sunday morning worship service.

Due to the length of this article and the difficulty in gauging a politician’s specific views on broad social issues, I will merely reference broad information about Ike Legett and invite readers to research his voting records about abortion and gay marriage on their own.

Information about Ike Legett can be found at Montgomery County Maryland’s website pertaining to the Chief County Executive, who is Mr. Leggett:

Recommended FY 2016 Operating Budget

https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/exec/

Mr. Leggett was also named the Washingtonian of the Year in 2015 by Washingtonian Magazine:

Washingtonian of the Year 2015: Isiah Leggett

In other words, Ike Leggett is not a light-weight politician. P.J. Smyth will be sharing his sermon time, this Sunday morning, with the most prominent politician in Montgomery County, Maryland, the community in which Covenant Life Church is located. And P.J. Smyth must know that Ike Leggett is pro gay marriage and pro abortion (for the most part) as a simple Google search would tell him that.

Is P. J. Smyth a Hypocrite or Is He Really Pro Abortion and Pro Gay Marriage?

Some people’s reaction to learning that P.J. Smyth was sharing the stage with a political candidate whose views on abortion and gay marriage are not aligned with the views on those issues that members and leaders of Covenant Life Church have traditionally held, was that Smyth is a hypocrite.

I’m not sure that’s the case as P.J. Smyth has never commented on the issues above, to my knowledge, and has virtually no paper trail whatsoever. Smyth’s predecessors at Covenant Life Church, C.J. Mahaney and Joshua Harris, were both prominent Pastors who had written several books and many articles about their beliefs on a number of issues, including abortion and the implications of same-sex marriage.

By contrast, I was surprised to find that P.J. Smyth has virtually no paper trail whatsoever despite having been a prominent Pastor in South Africa for many years. For example, I could not find a single article that Mr. Smyth has written when I did a Google search for him. Nor has he written any books, to my knowledge. His sole social profile appears to be video interviews in which he promotes his “Advance” para-Church organization, that’s website’s content is very vague and does not seem to address issues such as gay marriage or abortion in depth.

Hence I believe it’s possible that Pastor P.J. Smyth, and, by extension, the members and leaders of Covenant Life Church are now Christians who are pro abortion and pro gay marriage, and their past views on these social issues are a thing of the past.

Is It Appropriate For CLC and P.J. Smyth to be Endorsing a Politician During a Church Service

Without exception, the people whom I have discussed this issue with have universally said they are shocked that a non-profit Church would give the appearance of endorsing a politician in the form of a “Spotlight Interview” during a public Sunday morning worship service. Many of them questioned the legality of such an action per the IRS guidelines cited above, and all of them have said it constitutes inappropriate and unethical behavior at best.

Thus it’s fair to ask if P.J. Smyth is encouraging Covenant Life Church to inappropriately and possibly illegally mix politics with religion causes in the United States of America.

I Hope That CLC Members Will Ask Pastor Smyth If Has Political Aspirations And Believes that Gay Marriage and Abortion Should Be Legal 

Covenant Life Church Pastors and lay leaders have long declined to interact with members of the public who have questions regarding their Church. Thus I hope that CLC members will ask P.J. Smyth if has political aspirations that are aligned with being pro abortion and pro gay marriage.

Thanks! Janna L. Chan

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Former CLCer

I agree with your observations, although I have seen other churches have politicians at their services. PJ may not be aware of the workings of politics in the U.S. and clearly no other pastors stated any concerns, or else they were ignored. And as far as the recurrent issues with child sexual abuse, no one is addressing them, sadly.

David

I’m sorry I thought this case was over in the courts. Did I miss something?

Former CLCer

On Monday I called a friend who still attends CLC and asked her about the Sunday service. She said Ike Leggett was there to talk about Montgomery County and the needs, to inspire the church in how they can serve the county. That makes sense, although having any politician at a church service makes me suspicious. I wonder if they shouldn’t have had him at one of the events over the weekend, which were focused on the church’s mission.

That said, I truly wish PJ, instead of jumping in and focusing on missions, would call at least a week of prayer and fasting and repentance in which the whole church prays, asks forgiveness for past sins and tries to mend hurts, to build on a firm foundation. Although one of the problems is that few people in the church now are familiar with that history. Some of my friends just look at me like I have two heads when I bring this up. But I do know one thing – I am tired of hearing PJ’s name from my friends, like he’s some kind of savior or something.

Thanks for the report Former CLCer. Please go to this link:
https://soundcloud.com/kendall-beachey/narcissism-and-the-system-it

I would be interested in knowing if you agree that the narcissistic church Dr. Diane Langber describes sounds like Covenant Life Church. The relevant section is from 39:12-41:30, but you may also want to listen to the 3 or 4 minutes immediately prior to this as Dr. Langber describes another church scenario of hiring a narcissistic pastor.

If it brings you any comfort, most of us who have escaped these systems and speak up about our experiences are looked upon by those still on the inside as if we have two heads!

Former CLCer

It’s funny that you wrote this because earlier today I saw a facebook friend posted that they were at Covenant Life and Ike Leggett was speaking, and my immediate reaction was, “What? Why?”. I unfortunately heard of other churches where politicians have been invited to speak but never at CLC. I kind of assumed that PJ invited him to talk of the state of the county, but I don’t know because I wasn’t there. I wouldn’t necessarily assume either that PJ shares his political beliefs, but maybe wants to get more information. But I don’t know that a Sunday service is the proper format for that, especially since there was a whole weekend of events that he could have been invited to.

My main concern, as a former member of the church who has seen the church implode with horrible issues, is why PJ is doing this, focusing on moving the church forward to their future mission, instead of calling at least a week of prayer and fasting, repenting for past sins, and dialoguing with people to make sure old hurts are mended, inappropriate practices and wrong beliefs fixed, and a solid base built for the church to move forward. I fear that PJ is just moving a bunch of dry bones forward that will eventually explode in an even more horrific manner.

A Long

Well-written Jana. This piece is accurate and fair and professional as it poses hypotheses and questions and not definitive declarations in “grey” areas like was done in the earlier Prater article on your site (by another author) linking his previous job at Wyeth to him “having ties to the abortion industry” (website’s words). This current article is completely fair, germaine, and practical and I thank you for it.

Edward

It’s clearly inappropriate to have a politician speak during a Sunday church service, regardless of that politician’s political affiliation. No church should be stepping so explicitly into the political arena.

However, to assume that P.J. Smyth is pro-abortion or pro-gay marriage based on this information is presumptuous “guilt-by-association”, in my view.