By Calvin Moss
The skate ramp has been torn down; the Peace with Justice Pantry and Venice Food not Bombs has been forced out. What exactly is happening over at the Venice United Methodist Church? Has Pastor Rev. A. Okechukwu Ogbonnaya, a Fundamentalist Evangelical Christian, brought third world anti-gay bigotry and combined it with good old first world white racism?
Pastor Ogbonnaya travels as a preacher to Uganda and Nigeria – countries with extremely homophobic Christian movements in favor of laws that criminalize Gay people. One of these laws in Uganda was the Gay Kill Bill, which was strongly condemned by the United States government. Fundamentalist Evangelical Christians in the United States fund and lobby in favor of this incredible evil and these archaic laws against Gays.
The Church’s present and former trustees are known to have antigay fits and make sick racist comments. One trustee seems to delight in making sick racist comments about African-Americans. Once during a food give away in the Church parking lot he said, “ Someone is going to whack that Sambo” referring to President Obama. Another racist comment made by the same trustee in the church office about the AIDS epidemic that has devastated communities in Africa is: “All those bunnies jumping around in Africa.” Carol Green, the resident churchmarm, chuckled “no one pays any attention to him,” but someone inside the Venice United Methodist Church obviously did.
Cedrick Bridgeforth, the Los Angeles Area District Superintendent of the United Methodist Church, appears to be empowering the Pastor and the trustees to wreck the progressive faction within the church, despite letters and complaints from liberals in the community.
Another former head trustee was seen shaking hands with and befriending a young woman who had just committed a felony hate crime on the former pastor. Rev. Tom Ziegart had his car covered with swastikas and was threatened by this young woman and members of a white youth gang. Even the present Church trustee chair is believed by some to have extreme antigay opinions and allegedly resorts often to openly lying about recent evictions.
Pastor Ogbonnaya is quoted in the press saying that the church could not afford the $1000/month insurance for the ramp when it was $1,100 a year. He said that there was a drug problem at the ramp, but the problem kids were kids from the neighborhood (not the skater kids) that the church intentionally looked the other way about. Now Pastor Ogbonnaya is rumored as saying the skate ramp was removed because of sexual molestation! This Pastor is known by some to make up wild stories like “someone just flashed a gun at me” while the people standing next to him saw nothing.
One other side to this sad story is when Pastor Ogbonnaya met with local L.A.P.D. Captain Peters and other intolerant Evangelical Ministries in Venice. What was said at these meetings is unknown, but one can only think that multiple evictions could be the bitter fruit of this, along with Councilperson Bill Rosendahl and the City’s support of the anti-homeless, hateful gentrification movement in Venice. Are the recent events at this Church an indication of the future of Venice? A right wing, kid hating, poor hating, gay hating intolerant Venice?
A positive solution to the terrible intolerant mess at the Venice United Methodist Church – mainly caused by District Superintendent Cedrick Bridgeforth and the Right Wing Church Members – is to close down that church, donate the Church Hall and parking lot to a local non-profit for conversion into housing for the poor with a ground floor storefront. The Church building, which is separate from the hall, could be turned into a multi-denominational church and community meeting hall used to teach peace with justice and tolerance – the true soul of Venice.