After calling Black Lives Matter an organization filled with hate, violence and intolerance, the senior pastor of a Lancaster County-based church has apologized for the “inflammatory” statement in a sermon.
“I’m sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me,” David Ashcraft, a senior pastor at Manheim-based LCBC, said in the sermon. LCBC stands for "Lives Changed by Christ."
Ashcraft voiced his criticism of Black Lives Matter during a June 14 sermon, which was broadcast online with the potential to reach the church’s about 17,000 weekly attendees.
The sermon came after weeks of protests across the country, including in Lancaster County, where demonstrators have called for an end to systemic racism and advocated for criminal justice reform surrounding police use of violence against unarmed Black people.
Ashcraft referenced those protests before denouncing racism in the June 14 sermon.
“Matter is the minimum,” he said. “Black lives are worthy. Black lives belong. Black lives are needed.”
But after voicing that support, he honed in on Black Lives Matter, a nationwide anti-racism movement involved in many recent protests.
In a recording of the June 14 sermon, Ashcraft pointed out a perceived difference between using the slogan "Black lives matter" and subscribing to the beliefs of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Saying ‘Black lives matter’ is simply saying what God himself says,” Ashcraft said. “The other is an organization that is filled with hate and violence and intolerance. It’s unacceptable, so be careful, and don’t confuse them as being the same.”
Ashcraft did not elaborate on his criticism, but his sermon was enough to anger at least one listener, who wrote to LNP | LancasterOnline to say he was “disgusted” with the pastor’s comments.
Altogether, church officials received about two dozen complaints, James Byers, LCBC’s communications director, said.
And this past weekend in a subsequent sermon, Ashcraft apologized for the words he used to describe Black Lives Matter.
“Last week, I made a statement that was inflammatory. I went too far. ... I was wrong for making it,” Ashcraft said.
“When it comes to racial reconciliation and justice, I don’t claim to have this whole thing figured out -- far from it. Instead you are watching me try to figure it out and live it out in real time. . . . There’s no hiding,” Ashcraft continued.
Ashcraft’s “inflammatory” statement was removed from a video of the sermon posted to the LCBC website. As of Tuesday morning, the criticism had not been removed from an audio recording also on the site.
Ashcraft did not respond to questions sent into the church, but they were answered by Byers.
“Over the last couple weeks, Pastor David has been challenging our church to stand with the Black community against racism, violence and hate and to support Black lives,” Byers said.
The church’s congregation has been ranked as the 12th largest in the United States, and it has 16 physical locations across Pennsylvania, Byers said.
Attempts to reach local Black leaders for comments about the sermon were not immediately successful.