An Alabama Baptist church that suffered building damage during a tornado is returning a $25,000 donation from a casino, citing a conflict of interest.
Members of First Baptist Church in Wetumpka, Ala., are still recovering from a Jan. 19 tornado that damaged the church’s chapel and also its two-story multipurpose building, The Alabama Baptist newspaper reported. But the church voted Feb. 10 to return the money. The check was never cashed.
“I pointed out we can’t keep this,” pastor James Troglen told The Alabama Baptist. “If it keeps one person from listening to us with the gospel, we can’t keep it.”
Wind Creek Casinos donated a total of $100,000 following the tornado – $50,000 to First Presbyterian Church, $25,000 to First Baptist Church and $25,000 to the police department. All three suffered major damage. The Presbyterian Church’s building was completely destroyed.
First Presbyterian Church pastor Jonathan Yarboro said the congregation accepted its check but will use it to rebuild the community.
“Thankfully we were overinsured,” Yarboro toldThe Wetumpka Herald. “Their intention was to use it to rebuild our building. We asked if we did not need it for that purpose if we could use it to help rebuild the community at large and they said yes.”
Troglen discussed the issue during a Feb. 3 sermon taken from Matthew 17. The church has a history of opposing gambling, according to The Alabama Baptist. When the church voted the night of Feb. 10, about 300 were in attendance, he said.
“To have that many on Sunday night is unheard of,” he said. “But this decision really helped our people understand Baptist polity more. Their vote did make a difference. What they said mattered.”
Troglen said he hopes the money can be used to help others in the community.
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.