Jesus Christ is being removed from a South Carolina church.
A statue of Jesus Christ and accompanying artwork that has been displayed at Red Bank Baptist Church for more than a decade will be taken down by Thursday, according to church officials.
The art will be removed because a majority of the congregation voted that the 7-foot-tall statue and sculpted reliefs were "causing some confusion."
According to the church, many people think the sculptures are Catholic and not representative of a Baptist church.
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"We have discovered that there are people that view the art as Catholic in nature. We understand that this is not a Catholic icon, however, people perceive it in these terms," said a letter that was signed by Dr. Jeff Wright, Red Bank's senior pastor, and Mike Dennis, the church's Chairman of Deacons.
The letter was sent to Bert Baker Jr., the Midlands artist who hand carved the statue for the church in 2007. Baker is a former member of the Red Bank Baptist Church congregation.
"I'm not interested in stirring the pot, but people not liking it because it looked too Catholic is crazy, man. It's been up there for 11 years," Baker told The State on Tuesday. "I don't agree with the letter, it bothers me."
Both the church's letter and a two-page response from Baker were shared on Facebook by Rhonda Davis. Like Baker, Davis is unhappy with the church's decision to remove the art.
In her Facebook post, Baker called the art "a wordless story of Christ’s life, death and resurrection." She said its removal is sad and regretful because it "insults and prejudices" another denomination, which she described as "totally unbecoming of anyone who calls themselves a representative of Christ."
"It is both disturbing and sad that in a time when we are all needing to come together as brothers and sisters in Christ to project and reflect His love to a lost and dying world, Red Bank has decided to single out another denomination as the reason behind the decision to avoid any real or imagined fear that they would somehow be associated with them," Davis wrote in her Facebook post.
In his letter, Baker echoed those sentiments.
"These sculptures have been gracing the front of RBBC for 11 years and at no time then or now has anyone ever been 'confused' as to who Red Bank Baptist is nor has anyone ever suggested that they are 'Catholic' in nature," Baker wrote. "I am stunned that your letter both insults the intelligence of the Red Bank Community (as not intelligent enough to know that Red Bank Baptist Church is a Baptist church despite having a large sign stating as much); and, more disturbing, singling out the Catholic church in such a manner as to suggest that their denomination is deficient in theology and lacking in Christian core values."
In the church's letter, it offered Baker the opportunity to remove the sculptures if he desired to keep them, adding: "The art needs to be removed by May 31, 2018."
Baker said he hopes the statue and artwork are not destroyed — but instead given to another church or sold, with money raised to support missionary work.
"I was commissioned to make the sculpture, and whatever they choose to do with it is their prerogative," Baker told The State. "I just didn't want it destroyed. I don't want to take it down personally, but I hope they find another place for it."
Baker said he knows there are other churches that have reached out about acquiring the art, but he has not heard from the church beyond the original letter.
Messages left with the church were not answered.