Chicago church stands by move to 'fast' from 'whiteness' during Lent

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The pastor of a Chicago-area church that called on parishioners to “fast” from “whiteness” during the Lenten season is defending the controversial move amid public outcry.

In a statement to Fox News Digital, First United Church of Oak Park Pastor John Edgerton appeared to defend his church’s decision to abstain from performing any music that is associated with White people during the season of Lent.

First United Church of Oak Park
(Google Earth)

“Our Lenten theme has spurred considerable discussion, with some people questioning the message,” Edgerton’s statement said. “In keeping with the Lenten spiritual discipline of fasting, our intent was to lay aside our usual frames of reference and open ourselves to hearing the Gospel message through the voices of Black People, Indigenous People, and People of Color. Our worship services in Lent have been diverse and beautiful, joyful and Spirit-filled. We pray that God oils the hinges of our hearts doors that they might swing open gently to receive the good news of Christ’s resurrection, which we all await at the culmination of Lent.”

The church gained national attention earlier this week after a Turning Point USA report highlighted a note on the church’s website letting parishioners know that songs from White composers would not be played during Lent.

Window light is shining on rows of empty church pews in a church sanctuary.

“In our worship services throughout Lent, we will not be using any music or liturgy written or composed by white people,” the website for the First United Church of Oak Park reads. “Our music will be drawn from the African American spirituals tradition, from South African freedom songs, from Native American traditions, and many, many more.”

The statement continued, “For Lent, it is our prayer that in our spiritual disciplines we may grow as Christians, united in the body of Christ with people of all ages, nations, races, and origins.”

The church also reportedly erected a sign promoting the racially-charged Lenten fast saying that it would be hosting worship services “around the voices of Black people, indigenous people, and people of color.”


Rev. Lydia Mulkey, identified as the associate pastor of education, explained the fast in a video posted on the church’s YouTube channel. 

“In this fast from whiteness, of course, I cannot change the color of my skin or the way that allows me to move through the world but I can change what I listen to, whose voice I prioritize,” Mulkey said. “And so that is kind of the place for our worship services, through Lent, that we would fast for a time from prioritizing White voices.”

News of the controversial Lenten fast spread on social media earning criticism from many on Twitter.

(AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

“Jesus LOVED EVERYBODY and never saw COLOR or RACE in his teachings,” Pastor Dr. Willie J. Montague posted. “Pastor John Edgerton needs to rethink his calling.”

“The good will of mainstream Protestant denominations has been co-opted by next-generation racists and authoritarian socialists,” former Republican Congresswoman Nan Hayworth tweeted.

Edgerton did not respond to a request for comment from Fox News Digital whether the Lenten fast from whiteness will continue until Easter. 

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