Rev. Robert Lee IV, a descendant of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee who recently landed in the public spotlight after declaring he supports removing Confederate monuments, announced Monday that he has resigned from the Bethany United Church of Christ where he held a pastoral post.
Lee said he resigned after members of his congregation put his tenure to a vote after his well-publicized speech at MTV's Video Music Awards.
Lee said in an open letter that members of his church expressed concern over the content of his speech, as well as the attention that it brought. In his speech, Lee had expressed shame at his personal ancestry and declared support for the Black Lives Matter movement and the Women's March, saying,
“My name is Robert Lee IV, I’m a descendant of Robert E. Lee, the Civil War general whose statue was at the center of violence in Charlottesville. We have made my ancestor an idol of white supremacy, racism, and hate. As a pastor, it is my moral duty to speak out against racism, America’s original sin.
Today, I call on all of us with privilege and power to answer God’s call to confront racism and white supremacy head-on. We can find inspiration in the Black Lives Matter movement, the women who marched in the Women’s March in January, and, especially, Heather Heyer, who died fighting for her beliefs in Charlottesville.”
The 24-year-old said in his letter, "A faction of church members were concerned about my speech and that I lifted up Black Lives Matter movement, the Women's March, and Heather Heyer as examples of racial justice work."
Lee continued, "I want to stress that there were many in the congregation who supported my right to free speech, yet were uncomfortable with the attention the church was receiving. The church's reaction was deeply hurtful to me."
The young pastor continued:
“I regret that speaking out has caused concern and pain to my church. For this is I offer my heartfelt apology. I understand that my views could be considered to be controversial. I never sought this sort of attention. But, I do believe in God’s role in calling out for positive social change for the good of all.
We are all called by God to speak out against hate and evil in all its many forms. There are so many good things going on with this congregation and I do not want my fight to detract from the mission. If the recent media attention causes concern with my church, I reluctantly offer my resignation.”
Lee ended his letter by saying that he will continue to pursue avenues to challenge violence and oppression and that he will be looking forward to "God's unfolding future."
In case you missed it, here was Lee's speech at the VMAs:
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