Church sign about pope draws criticism in Newport

Church sign about pope draws criticism in Newport

An assistant pastor at the church says people are misunderstanding the sign. An assistant pastor at the church says people are misunderstanding the sign.

April 11, 2005

By SHASTA CLARK
6 News Reporter

NEWPORT (WATE) -- A sign in front of a Baptist church in Newport is drawing criticism from other churchgoers because of its reference to the pope and hell.

Posted on the sign in front of Hilltop Baptist Church is the message, "No truth. No hope following a hell-bound pope." The other side of the sign reads, "False hope in a fake pope."

An assistant pastor at the church, who declined to go on camera, told 6 News the sign's main message is that people shouldn't put their hope in the pope alone. He insisted the church isn't trying to say the pope is in hell, saying that people are misunderstanding the sign.

"That's what Catholics would say, too. We don't put our hope in the pope alone," explained Father Vann Johnston, with the Knoxville Catholic Diocese. "The pope has a specific office to...a specific function within the Catholic church. But we only claim Jesus Christ as our lord and savior."

Dr. Dan Riley, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Knoxville, said, "That's pretty strong language. It's really not about whether you're part of the Catholic church or if you're a Baptist. I know some Baptists who I think are probably not going to be in heaven and I know some Catholics who I think are. That's not our decision. It's really all about Jesus and your relationship with him.""

Johnston said his reaction to the sign is, "It certainly doesn't make me feel good. It makes me feel sad."

Hilltop Baptist isn't listed as part of the Southern Baptist Convention, the umbrella group for most Baptist churches.

A spokesman from the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville would not specifically comment about the sign, but added, "It's highly presumptuous for any person or church to assume they know for certain the eternal destination of any person."

Father Johnston says some people have misconceptions about the Catholic church's beliefs. Before they judge Catholics, he suggests they talk to a knowledgeable source about the faith.

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