|Pastor experiences racial threats, cross burning|
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
Dec. 13, 2007 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)
The Rev. Robert Utley is recovering from a heart attack after finding a
burning wooden cross and noose on his front porch Dec. 10.
The Rev. Robert Utley
Utley, pastor of Clark United Methodist Church, McMinnville, Tenn.,
reported hearing someone banging on his door shortly after midnight.
When he investigated, he found a small wooden cross on a stack of
newspapers burning on his porch. On his gutter a thin white rope had
been tied into a noose.
The Rev. Daniel M. Hayes, a close friend and mentor, said the shock
of the incident sent Utley to the hospital, where doctors determined he
had suffered a small heart attack. Hayes is pastor of Gordon Memorial
United Methodist Church, Nashville, Tenn.
Police are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.
Nashville Metro Police spokeswoman Kristin Mumford said a note left at
the scene contained "threats of a racial nature" toward Utley and a
co-worker. Utley is a supervisor at Caremark, a pharmaceutical services
provider. He is a resident of Davidson County.
"There is some thought that the incident may be related to his work
(at Caremark), but that is still under investigation," Mumford said.
Hayes said he also thought the incident was related to Utley's job at
Caremark. "He and a couple of other people at work received white
envelopes containing white powder a month ago," he said.
Hayes describes Utley as a "very generous, very giving man."
"We decry any form of racism and violence against other people," said
Bishop Richard Wills Jr., episcopal leader of the Memphis and Tennessee
Annual (regional) Conferences.
Bishop Richard Wills Jr.
"I have a zero tolerance for racism or gender bias against any of our
churches or any of our people. This act was so blatant and easy to see.
My experience is that racism is still around but has grown more subtle
and harder to identify," he added.
"This is a terrible thing to be happening in this day and time,"
Hayes said. "We have to look at different ways of venting our
frustrations and not through hatred and not through any means of sending
messages of this nature. This kind of thing is not of God and is not
something God's people will tolerate."
Wills noted that several superintendents and laity in leadership
roles will be at Lake Junaluska, N.C., this weekend for a training event
"We are trying to make sure all people in leadership are aware of the
importance and values of diversity and those forces which try to block
our efforts to be God's people in an imperfect world."
* Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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