Recently, an evangelical church in western Oregon warranted some unwanted backlash for imposing discriminatory weight guidelines upon its staff. But, after receiving much criticism and publicity, the church has now apologized and the guidelines have been removed from its website.
The Oregonian reported that New Creation Church in Hillsboro, Oregon made unfairly biased regulations for its worship leaders on its website, including “no excessive weight.”
Worship leaders are expected to lead the congregation in song as music ministers. According to Christian Post, on Thursday a “frustrated” member of staff offered “no comment” with regards to the apparent fat ban.
As part of the "Worship Team Guidelines," which are still available online, the church stated, “No excessive weight. Weight is something that many people have to deal with. Make sure that you are taking care of your temple, exercising, and eating properly.”
One particularly eyebrow-raising policy stated that staff should be “submissive” to leaders and not offer divergent opinions. “A submissive attitude is very important among the worship team members. Speaking against the leadership will not be tolerated.”
Yet another sexist guideline was directed at women, noting that women should not arrive at the church without wearing makeup. “Ladies, put your makeup on before you get to church,” the policy stated.
On the Facebook page where the document was first posted, Stuff Christian Culture Likes, many were completely outraged by the superficiality of the church’s leadership. The caption appropriately asked, “Are these worship team guidelines or Abercrombie & Fitch’s employee dress code?”
New Creation Church Pastor Rebecca Sundholm said that she was “dumbfounded” by the controversy considering that these guidelines were written several years ago. She reportedly said, “What’s funny is this has nothing to do with anybody else but our church.”
She then proceeded to comment that, yes, the church does have music leaders that aren’t exactly thin, and even the worship leader struggles with weight. Sundholm continued, “If anybody looked at our worship team, they would see they aren’t all skinny… In fact, the worship leader has weight issues.”
On Friday, the church posted a public apology on its Facebook page, adding that they never “enforced” these rules and asked for forgiveness “if [they] offended anyone.”
Although many on Facebook were angered by the superficiality of the guidelines, the policy’s existence points toward a wider social issue regarding stigma against weight and obesity.
That said, since the church is privately funded, its leaders have the right to say whatever they wish to their staff, although it is unbelievably demeaning. Notably, it was not the staff who complained publicly in the first place — it was the media.
Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters