Sunday, April 26, 2015

UMMC revokes contract for church service

Todd Starnes, a Fox News commentator, reported on a dispute between a local church and UMMC.  The church apparently made a contract to hold an Easter Sunday service at a conference center.  UMMC the cancelled the contract nine days before the service.  Mr.  Starnes wrote: 

Easter Sunday is sort of like the Super Bowl for preachers.

It’s all but guaranteed the pews will be packed and that presented a challenge to Roderick Richardson, the pastor of The Word Center Church in Jackson, Miss.

The non-denominational church has a membership of about 1,200 people – but only 275 can fit in the sanctuary. And the preacher estimated they could have as many as 1,500 people show up for Easter Sunday.

So last January Pastor Richardson started scouting out a new location for his growing church. And it wasn’t long before he found a solution – a conference center run by the University of Mississippi Medical Center

He signed a contract to rent the space on Jan. 27. On March 27 – the university abruptly canceled the contract and told the church they would not be allowed to use their facility.

“It was a week and two days before the largest service of the year,” Pastor Richardson told me. “They told me the climate at UMMC was not conducive for us to have a service at the facility.”

The climate was not conducive?

“They were afraid IHL might come and say something about a church having a service (in their facility),” the pastor said. IHL is also known as the State Institutions of Higher Learning, the agency that oversees Mississippi’s eight public institutions of higher learning.

“We’re not angry at them because we are Christians,” the pastor said. “We’re just a little frustrated that this particular institution did not keep its word.”

Marc Rolph, a spokesman for UMMC, confirmed they canceled the church’s contract – a week and two days before Easter Sunday.

“It was unfortunate that the timing of the cancellation was so close to (the) date of the event,” Rolph told me.

He denied it had anything to do with the church being a church. He said the booking should never have been made in the first place because they only allow their facilities to be used by health-related organizations.

“The event is not health related and thus is not compliant with our policy,” Rolph said.

He said they didn’t realize the church was a church until last week when the director of the facility ran it up the flag pole.

“It was deemed not within the guidelines of our policy and could not be allowed. The church was immediately notified,” Rolph said.

UMMC offered to let the church hold their service inside a medical mall instead. The church declined that offer. I mean – who wants to hold a church service in a mall?

Pastor Richardson said UMMC’s excuse doesn’t make any sense.

“If that was a policy we should have been told back in January when we signed the contract,” he said. “We’ve been preparing for this for two and a half months.”

And it’s not like the church was hiding the fact it was a church.

“On the very first page of the contract it asked for the type of event and it says ‘church service’,” the pastor told me.

Pastor Richardson told me he feels like David battling Goliath.

“They are so large and so powerful they can do us however they want,” he said. “They simply did not conduct business in an adequate fashion.”

The church has been forced to hold services in their small sanctuary. The pastor said they will accommodate the crowds by holding multiple services throughout the day. Rest of Article


Anonymous said...

old a$$ news, slewfoot you lagging.

Anonymous said...

KF often offers up stories that are days and weeks old for consideration and comment. 5:41 PM undoubtedly is a JJ greenhorn of the highest order.

Anonymous said...

Dan Jones? What ever happened to all that ruckus?

Anonymous said...

Not Health related???!! Really? Well, 4 of us will be checking in to UMMC for surgery next month: God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and me. Do I need to declare that and see if we are welcome?

Kingfish said...

I just became aware of this last week when a reader sent it to me. Apologies.

Anonymous said...

5:41 Has any other news outlet in Mississippi or Mississippi-based blogger reported on this story yet?

I didn't think so.

As a former Medical Mall employee I have seen notices of dozens of non-health related meetings in the facility. Did UMMC have a health-related conference scheduled for Easter Sunday that need the conference hall at the same time? Do they even have a conference hall that holds 1000 people? I have lectured to full meeting rooms at the conference center and one room barely holds 100 and the other might be twice as big.

Kingfish said...

As long as they are treating all faiths and denominations the same, there should be no problem. They know that.

Hmmm Is All said...

Legally, is there a state law (this is public property in Mississippi) state the rules for use of the facilities?

That aside, it was poor judgment to cancel the event one week ahead of it's scheduled occurence.

There are public facilities in every community being used for religious purposes (not associated with school instruction). I'd like to know what the law says about it, not what some atheist at the university thinks about it.

Anonymous said...

Some church has been having Sunday services in Madison Central HS and the sky has not caught on fire.

Anonymous said...

Every college under IHL has church services on campus so this is not IHL and is UMMC acting stupid. I would have thought the Dan Jones management team would have been pro church.

Lightning Could Strike said...

Municipal buildings, schools, colleges and other public places all over this state allow congregations to assemble on their premises, typically on, but not restricted to, Sundays.

While I can see the need to not have a bunch of unnecessary traffic in and around a trauma center or have a need to restrict available meeting rooms to emergency and crises management use only, this doesn't seem to be the case. Or if it is, it was not stated in the media.

Was the preacher an MSU grad?

Anonymous said...

" I would have thought the Dan Jones management team would have been pro church."

The team he assembled is beyond stupid. The place has been circling the drain since Wally Conerly stepped down as Dean and VC.
Jones NEVER had a vision for the future of UMMC, or at least he was unable to communicate such a vision to the faculty. Conerly had a vision; under Jones the ship just drifted aimlessly except for various pointless endeavors that all failed or fizzled out.

Lightning Could Strike said...

Fine, 1:19, but that has nothing to do with the refusal to allow the church service or the untimely cancellation of the event one week prior to its being scheduled. There has been no explanation in the media or HERE for that action.

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