AUSTIN, Texas — Prayer and politics. Two things that are controversial in tandem, but at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Austin, Pastor Jim Rigby is all about combining church and state.
What You Need To Know
- St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Austin is taking a stand on Texas politics
- The church is backing a campaign this legislative session to support transgender rights
- Pastor Jim Rigby says more churches need to start taking a stand for human rights issues
- The progressive congregation has LGBTQ+ ministers and administration
“Clergy who remained silent were just as political,” Rigby said at Sunday services.
And he’s not just bringing social justice to his sermons. He practices what he preaches.
“Most ministers fly under the radar on these kinds of things,” said Rigby.
Rigby faces controversy head-on no matter the cost.
“The police kneeled me down in front of the press,” Rigby said.
He was arrested for criminal trespassing outside the governor’s office during a show of solidarity for immigration rights in 2018. Austin American-Stateman photographer Tamir Kalifa captured the moment that went global.
“An unjust law; you have a duty to disobey that as much as you to obey a just law,” Rigby said.
Rigby has rallied at the Texas State Capitol too many times to count in his life. The political preacher says he got his start fighting to make spousal rape illegal after he found out a few of the women in his congregation were raped by their partners.
“It made me realize that standing on the sidelines, that’s not really love, that’s not really helping,” Rigby said.
He’s protested on abortion, immigration, gender equality, racial injustice and, most recently, transgender rights. He’s gone on national television to talk about the church’s political stance.
“It’s real easy to get attention if you stand for anything, because it doesn’t happen as much as it should,” he said
Now the church isn’t just supporting and preaching different causes. This legislative session they’re actually backing a campaign to stop the state from criminalizing gender-affirming care for trans kids.
“Anyone who preaches hate in Jesus’ name and we remain silent, then we are complicit,” Rigby said.
This has led a lot of folks who have been unwelcomed by more traditional, conservative churches, like Babs Miller, who is non-binary. They say most of their life they were shunned by the religious community until St. Andrew's.
“They acknowledged my gifts and my call when no one else would," Miller said. “Had that not had happened, I would have left the church.”
Miller went from being a member to a minister, something they never imaged would be possible.
“I would not be ordained if it was not for this church,” they said.
There are many people who disagree with St. Andrew's “agenda.” People believe it goes against the Bible and is just political bias. Rigby says not taking a stand is just as political. He doesn’t think what he’s doing is all that controversial because religion is all about human rights and helping those in need.
“You can’t really say you love your neighbor if you can’t stand up for them," said Rigby.