Bethlehem Baptist Leaders Clash Over ‘Coddling’ and ‘Cancel Culture’

A debate over “untethered empathy” underscores how departing leaders, including John Piper’s successor, approached hot-button issues like race and abuse.

This was supposed to be a landmark year for Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, as the historic congregation, best known for John Piper’s 33-year tenure as pastor, marked its 150th anniversary.

Bethlehem College and Seminary (BCS)—which grew from the church’s lay training institute to an accredited program—also has reason to celebrate. This fall, the school will inaugurate its second president, 10 years after its first graduating class.

Ahead of the commemorations, though, the community finds itself in the midst of what current leaders have called “a confusing and challenging time” and “a hard and difficult season in the life of our church.” Three pastors and a staff member resigned from the downtown campus of Bethlehem Baptist Church in recent months, alongside dozens of lay members. Another four faculty and staff left the college and seminary in the past year.

Some of the faces that appear in the compilation video of “150 God’s Grace at Bethlehem” no longer belong to the multisite Twin Cities church—most prominently Jason Meyer, Piper’s successor and Bethlehem’s pastor for preaching and vision. Members who spent 10, 20, or even 30 years worshiping and serving there, who expected they would be part of Bethlehem for the rest of their lives, said goodbye to their spiritual home.

“Bethlehem was the plan until we were going to be in Jesus’ arms. We can’t even think about what’s next,” said Debby Pickering, whose family left when her husband, Bryan, resigned his position as pastor. While he was trying to work for resolution, she didn’t know where to go with her own frustration and anxiety. “Nothing in …

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