Meet minister the Rev. Richard Pope, the subject of CL columnist John Grooms' Aug. 2 column.
Grooms, a passionate social justice advocate, attended St. Peter's Catholic's annual celebratory mass for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. While heading inside, he saw Pope standing outside holding a sign, which quoted Revelation 21 Verse 8: "But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars — they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
Pope, who wasn't identified in Grooms' column (Grooms actually thought he looked like infamous pastor Flip Benham from Operation Save America, but admitted he wasn't completely sure), spoke with Creative Loafing about his apparent encounter with Grooms and why he's so passionate about what he preaches.
"I'm just a minister," he said. "My congregation usually consists of preaching in front of a liquor store or a street corner. I have preached in prisons, but as far as a regular church, no."
So, when Pope went to St. Peters, he was doing his regular thing. "I went to preach to the people coming in that they were being lied to. No. 1, the priest would condone sin by so called blessing a homosexual or a lesbian, which is in complete violation of the word of God. I was down there to show them the Bible verse that condemns sin and that the only way they could be forgiven is to repent of their sins and come to the Lord Jesus Christ and turn from their wicked ways. I was standing there in front of the Catholic Church, and all of sudden Mr. Grooms came up and he was very, very agitated. He just started cussing and calling me names. I was nice to him, and I told him I appreciated him saying all the bad things about me. And according to the Bible, if I get persecuted for preaching righteousness, then my reward is great in Heaven. He kept on and on and told me that he ought to beat the s-h-i-t out of me. I just told him that he should realize what the word of God said and wages of sin is death."
Pope said after Grooms went on for about five minutes, the columnist left and went inside the church. "I wouldn't have thought that he was any kind of writer. In fact, the way I caught wind of it was, I was at the abortion clinic on Saturday — I go out there every other Saturday — and I got a call from Flip Benham, who I do know. I really can't understand why people get the wrong impression of Flip Benham."
Pope said he's used to getting reactions like Grooms' as he his laughed at and called names all the time when he's out in the street doing his preaching. But he said that he knows what he's doing is right and what God wants him to do.
"25 years ago, in 1986, I was a dope addict, an alcoholic. I was a sexual pervert. And I said to myself: 'I need some help.' I started reading the Bible and after three months of studying the word of God, I bowed down on my knees and asked God to save me from my sins. I haven't been a drug addict or a sexual pervert since that day."
Pope said since he is ordained to preach, he has to tell sinners that they're going to die if they don't repent.
For more, watch Pope in action at a Mecklenburg County Commission Meeting.