The White's Ferry Road Church of Christ in West Monroe, La., is making headlines these days as the home congregation of the Robertson family of "Duck Dynasty" fame.
For me, mention of the White's Ferry Road church brings back fond memories totally unrelated to duck hunting or reality television. That's because -- for two years during my early childhood -- the Ouachita River community of West Monroe was my hometown and the White's Ferry Road church my home congregation, as I shared in a 2012 column.
In light of the controversy over "Duck Dynasty" patriarch Phil Robertson's comments on homosexuality, The Associated Press sent a reporter to cover Sunday services at the Louisiana church this past weekend.
The top of the story:
WEST MONROE, La. (AP) -- "Faith. Family. Ducks." It's the unofficial motto for the family featured in the TV reality show Duck Dynasty and that homespun philosophy permeates nearly everything in this small north Louisiana town.
It's perhaps most on display at the White's Ferry Road Church of Christ in West Monroe, where the Robertson family prays and preaches most Sunday mornings.
The family — including patriarch Phil Robertson, who ignited a controversy last week when he told a magazine reporter that gays are sinners and African-Americans were happy under Jim Crow laws — were in a front pew this past Sunday. And standing by beliefs they say are deeply rooted in their reading of the Bible.
The rest of the flock, decked out in Duck Dynasty hats and bandannas, stood by the family and the sentiments Phil Robertson expressed.
Alan, Robertson's eldest son, helped deliver a Christmas-themed sermon. He started off by referring to last week's controversy.
"Hope your week went well," he dead-panned. "Ours was kinda' slow." He was referring, of course, to Phil's forced hiatus: TV network A&E suspended Phil last week after remarks about blacks and gays caused a public uproar.
So far, so good.
But then came this spit-out-out-your-Diet-Coke transition, if you happen to be a part of this particular branch of the Christian faith:
But the controversy barely resonated above the organ music at White's Ferry Road Church. Son Willie -- the CEO of the multimillion dollar Duck Commander duck call and decoy enterprise that inspired reality show producers to give the family a show -- put on camouflage wader overalls and baptized three people, including one man with cancer.
"Who's going to be the lord of your life?" he asked, before dipping the man back into the baptismal pool at the front of the church.
Now, the baptisms weren't surprising. Churches of Christ generally believe that baptism for the forgiveness of sins at the "age of accountability" is an integral part of the salvation process. That's a different view of baptism than many evangelicals, which explains this reference in a "Duck Dynasty" column recently by Russell Moore:
If I don’t like that he goes to a church with a different view of baptism than mine, then I can go on the Internet and say why I think he’s wrong. And if you don’t like his religious views on sexuality (views held also by Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and evangelicals as well as by many Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and the Dalai Lama), you’re free to say why you think he’s wrong. And you’re free to change the channel.
But the first part of the paragraph did surprise me.
Organ music!?! Forget the "Duck Dynasty" wars! Now we're talking about a controversial issue.
The Restoration Movement fellowship to which the White's Ferry Road church belongs typically emphasizes a cappella singing (read: non-instrumental). A few Churches of Christ have added instrumental worship in recent years, but the trend is controversial.
To the best of my knowledge, the White's Ferry Road church had not added an organ to its worship assemblies, so the AP reference caught me off guard.
I messaged the congregation's minister to ask if the "organ music" note was accurate. He replied that it was not. However, the church played a video at its Sunday service titled "The Christmas Scale." The video includes an organ. Still, the AP wording seems strange given that the story deals with an a cappella church.
I'm curious whether the reporter included that reference or if perhaps an editor unaware of the church's a cappella music tradition added an awkward transition.
Does this issue really matter? Trust me on this one. It does.