When it started to decline in the ’60s, the slide happened so quickly, as one resident put it to me, that there wasn’t time or impetus to try and implement the “urban renewal” plans that plowed freeways through cities across the US. An invitation to attend Grace Baptist Church on Sunday, June 28, was paired with a blurry picture of an AR-15 and a promise that all winners would have to undergo a New York background check. Videos posted on social media show parishioners, both black and white, being harassed and physically assaulted at Grace Baptist Church in Troy, New York. In 1990 — as in 2020 — the more coverage he received, the more righteous his message. He hired no one else. How's your head feel, pastor?" “And I think most of the other people would too. He mocks sexual abuse victims and the #MeToo movement. And the house of worship plans to hold on Monday another AR-15 raffle. This story has been shared 107,095 times. According to reports the harassment started at the end of June. They scrolled back a few months in Koletas’s son’s tweets — frequently retweeted by the Grace Baptist account — and saw a picture of a farmhouse with a Confederate flag flying in front of it. The piece of paper with the name of the man who did win — Ron Stafford, from nearby Schenectady — was the fourth drawn from the pile. “He screams so loud — people don’t want to walk by.”. Several videos posted to social media show both black and white churchgoers being verbally harassed and assaulted outside of the Grace Baptist Church in Troy, New York. Forbes has become synonymous with the capital-area Black Lives Matter movement. Koletas did eventually preach. That’s the point.”. In person, Koletas is, as his daughter put it, a sort of Dr. Jekyll and Rev. “And this is something I hold on to, because I should not run from it.”, Forbes doesn’t care if others know about his past. There were no deacons, no overseers, no assistant pastors, no children’s pastors. For years, Gerencser would go to the fairgrounds and preach, claiming it was his right to preach on public grounds. Five minutes later, the protesters had had enough. But that didn’t mean he didn’t borrow some of their tactics. It’s just like, oh, that’s just crazy Johnny.”. We’re protesting this church.”, Posted on August 9, 2020, at 9:46 a.m. “And I look at the flyer and am like, ‘What the fuck. Grace Baptist Church in Troy, NY, has never cancelled church services in the past, we have NOT cancelled church services for tomorrow, and we will NEVER cancel church services while I am the pastor. Low church attendance? So they showed up again. Black Lives Matter (BLM) activists have been attacking churchgoers at the Grace Baptist Church in Troy, New York since the end of June. Forbes says that his team’s first goal was to get between the protesters and the church members and create some sort of barrier that would discourage a physical altercation. This attitude is part of the reason that Koletas’s own daughter, who asked not to be named because of threats to her immediate family, has taken years to speak out against him: She knew exactly how he’d internalize, and weaponize, her criticism. Kirk, the founder of Turning Points USA, has 1.8 million followers. He just cares about how McCashion is going about it. — Grace Baptist Church (@realgbctroyny) July 3, 2020 In another video, a church member attempts to go up the church steps but is assaulted by protesters. He got on his hands and knees and prayed for their souls to be saved; during prayer, he broke into tears. On the church’s website, he declared the raffle was meant to “honor hunters and gun owners who have been so viciously attacked by the antichristian socialist media and antichristian socialist politicians over the last few years.”. But like everyone else I talked to, Pelletier knows none of that’s probably going to happen. In sermons, he refers to this period of his life as a time of great radicalism: He was as Marxist and socialist as could be. For 15 minutes, Koletas offered his “message to the protesters.” He said he grew up in a neighborhood that was 85% Black, and 95% of his friends growing up were Black. Today, those buildings are the exact sort of thing people want to transform into lofts or coffee shops with reclaimed wood tables. He’d yell so loudly, and persistently, that local business owners filed official complaints. Back at the church, they’d have their own Sunday school classes, separate from the rest of the congregants. Only the King James Version of the Bible, written in the 17th century, is accepted as Scripture. Bringing his name up, it’s like, What are you doing? She doesn’t see rec centers, or pools, or anything to keep kids occupied and out of trouble. Persecution for any of the above was just evidence that they were doing it right. Stafford won a voucher from the church to purchase an AR-15 at the Oakwood Trading Post in Troy. The church is protected under freedom of religion — but also freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, just like the protesters are. Many send their children to IFB schools or homeschool because public school is far too liberal. But in 2012, it moved to a new building: a once-beautiful brick structure that had been home to Mills Memorial Baptist Church for more than a century. And Lukee Forbes is an employee of the City of Albany in one of its youth programs. Image modified from original. But many in Troy were appalled: The town had been racked with gun violence for years, and local faith leaders and public officials had organized gun buy-backs to get firearms off the street. The Outsiders’ job, as Forbes put it to me, is simple: “We go to each protest and we try and keep them safe.”. “I am a leader of a leaderless movement,” he wrote in the introductory post to a tea party blog hosted by the Times-Union. “Most people think he’s really weird, and some are scared of him,” an assistant manager of a downtown clothing store told an AP reporter in 1990. @timesunion W H I T E W A S H just an innocent basketball player ha ha.” The story made the local news, but as with Koletas, the negative attention only underlined that he’d touched the right nerve. Grace Baptist Church (@Realgbctroyny) in Troy, New York had an angry mob chanting "This is what democracy looks like!" Street preaching is different than a guy handing you a pamphlet and kindly asking you if you know about his cool pal Jesus. I’m a Christian. Koletas preached his long, typically admonishing sermon against a backdrop of the American flag, flanked by printouts of the First and Second Amendment. The Democratic city council president referred to him as the city’s “resident funnyman” in his state-of-the-city address. The remaining church members wanted to give the building to another church, any church. “It’s extreme poor taste, the … This led a small group of "protesters" to stand in front of the church yelling at people going inside, cursing at them, and threatening them. The clip followed the same path as so many incendiary local news stories: from small accounts (Kevin McCashion) to large ones (Charlie Kirk et al. The town, located on the Erie Canal, had once been one of the richest in America. “We’re protesting this church. According to Koletas lore, retold in sermon after sermon, back in 1987, he was driving around the capital area, saw the broken windows and dilapidation of Troy, and decided to start a church there. The result was a downtown still filled with architecturally beautiful, largely untouched, old buildings: When Martin Scorsese needed a place to shoot 19th century New York for his 1993 adaptation of The Age of Innocence, he chose Troy. Anne Helen Petersen is a senior culture writer for BuzzFeed News and is based in Missoula, Montana. “I think a lot of people on the outside look at an IFB pastor and think, Oh, he’s just like the Methodists, or the Presbyterians,” Bruce Gerencser, a former IFB pastor, told me. “I learned how to fight and play basketball pretty good,” he said. He reported receiving death threats. A BLM protester attempts to stop a line of worshipers from entering the Grace Baptist Church in Troy, NY (Photo: Twitter) Black Lives Matter (BLM) activists have been attacking churchgoers at the Grace Baptist Church in Troy, New York since the end of June. Today, he looks like a Santa Claus who’s retired to his Ohio farm, and devotes his time to his wife of 42 years, his many grandchildren, and collecting and analyzing the theology of fundamentalist pastors on his website. And I defeated it! He just thinks of his entire life, pre-IFB, as unspeakably liberal. There’s no IFB seminary for prospective clergy, although some go to Bible college, and Koletas hadn’t done that either. A mob has repeatedly gathered in front of the church and shouted at worshippers as they enter the building, intimidating them, and getting quite aggressive. In June, Koletas’s father fatally shot his mother in a dispute in their New Jersey home, which, in his daughter’s words, “really shaped a lot of how my dad to this day thinks, believes, preaches, and reacts to everything.” In September, Irene gave birth to the first of the couple’s six children. No continued coverage of the church. The Times Union wrote a story about it, including a sharp condemnation from a local black pastor. This time, the strategy was to hold a peaceful candlelight vigil, with some protesters modeling their own, non-racist racists religious rituals. The St. Louis lawyer who went viral after wielding a... Post was not sent - check your email addresses! “It’s disrespectful to the mothers in the area — the ones who’ve buried their children in this last year. Some IFB churches do have Black members. Want to see more stories like this? After the June 29 service, both Grace Baptist Church and Kevin McCashion, the radio shock jock, immediately began tweeting video and images from the scene outside the church. “But when they finally are, BLM inc. rioters are allowed to assault them. And within IFB, Koletas was stricter than anyone. But according to journalist Tyler A. McNeil, who documented the service, the protesters first had to sit through sermons from George Koletas, who described the protesters as “hoodlums” and “cowards,” as well as a visiting pastor. The Daily Wire writes:. But they didn’t know that he’d spent years refining his posture for this moment, to make his point by any means necessary. But for many of today’s activists, those days — and that sort of polite reticence to engage — are over. Hyde: He can be charming and charismatic, and come off as totally normal, especially in his formal capacity as a government employee. The video was picked up by a who’s who of conservative and fringe media: Dinesh D’Souza, Nigel Farage, Laura Ingraham, OAN, the Daily Wire, the Blaze, PJ Media, and Mike Cernovich. But the giveaway had attracted the attention of someone whose style complemented Koletas’s — and who knew how to translate the pastor’s trolling skills to the internet. A Black Lives Matter mob of rioters stormed Grace Baptist Church in Troy, New York, reportedly in retribution for an AR-15 giveaway organized by Pastor John Koletas, requiring members of the congregation to guard a black family as they entered the church. He’s half-smiling. Troy, NY 2020. Christians are told to be in the world, but not of the world, and they take it to the extreme: Don’t watch TV and don’t listen to music, but also be afraid of Black people, and of the Other, and if anyone tries to infiltrate that world, be afraid of them, too.”. As one former IFB member put it to me, “think Duggars plus Amish.”. Do Not Sell My Personal Information. The small worship service was underway when about ten or so protestors walked into the church and announced “black lives matter.” One masked protestor walked up to a man inside the church and showed her tattoo, saying “Look. Two days after the USA Today article was published, he announced that Grace Baptist would be holding a similar giveaway in Troy — only he’d be giving away an AR-15. He preaches that Democrats are “mentally retarded.” Like many fundamentalists, his politics are best summarized as somewhere between libertarian and constitutionalist: There should be very little government intervention in, well, anything — but the Constitution, and American nationhood, is also divinely inspired. Sorry, your blog cannot share posts by email. During the massive Troy protest, his group helped identify and direct police to a group of armed men in military gear and bulletproof vests; one of their vehicles was discovered with two AR-15s and thousands of rounds of ammunition. “I knew it was a trap,” Lukee Forbes, one of the leaders of the local Black Lives Matter movement, told me. Grace Baptist Church in Troy drew protesters Sunday morning with its flyers to “WIN A FREE AR-15,” news station WRGB reported. For the last several days, BLM protesters have made a point of harassing church goers at Grace Baptist Church in Troy, New York. Because they wanted to serve the beer that they were already serving, but do it legally?”, A few years later, the county passed a law that would allow liquor to be sold in the county. Bruce Gerencser … “There were never signs on the door that said No Blacks Permitted,” Gerencser said, “but it was made known, in some churches, that Blacks weren’t welcome.” IFB members would sanction Black believers marrying each other, but not a Black church member marrying one of their white daughters. Why is the mob beating church members in Troy, NY for … Koletas refers to Facebook as “Fake Book” and generally shuns social media. Black Lives Matter is a global movement with a local focus: Each group, from tiny towns to big cities, targets different areas, practices, and organizations for reform. But then Grace Baptist announced they’d be doing a second AR-15 giveaway — the very next night. They could always get a few new people in the door. “And I will continue to do things.” He works with reentry programs, talking with people transitioning out of the justice system. But as nouveau bourgeois as downtown Troy has become, the renewal aesthetic fades within blocks. The protesters … Tweets Deleted for grammatical errors only - No apologies.” (George Koletas did not respond to a request for an interview). “They’re just not here for it. At Grace Baptist, Koletas’s daughter said, “normal families” didn’t stick around for more than a few weeks. In a photo of him following a court appearance, syndicated in papers throughout the capital area, he’s young, dapper-looking, dressed in a dark suit. But McCashion posts dozens of times a day — a habit he shares with Koletas’s son and presumed successor George, whose Twitter bio describes him as “Right-wing Libertarian. Other prominent pastors condemned the move. In Albany, Gov. Andrew Cuomo had recently signed the SAFE Act, making it much more difficult for civilians to get their hands on semi-automatic weapons in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. She decided they had to do something. But like any piece of local media that goes viral on a national level, the video is missing years — in truth, decades — of context. I won a great victory, but I look back on it now, and I ruined my ability to meaningfully affect other people — because why? Where is the media coverage of this?”. Lukee Forbes (center, standing), one of the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement in Troy, New York, is seen at anti-racism protests. The agitated group of protesters verbally abused several churchgoers. But Koletas was different — in pretty much every way imaginable. “It’s extreme poor taste, the time that they decided to raffle off a rifle when we have all of the shootings going on in all of our communities,” protester Steven Negron told the outlet. Standing apart from culture is their main objective. So did RT, the state-controlled Russian propaganda network. Grace Baptist has always met in Lansingburgh, the long, skinny neck of Troy that stretches north along the Hudson River. There was no discernible bump in attendance. You’re doing something right. “They’re much more radical, and don’t put up with the same shit,” one member of the movement, who chose not to comment publicly because of her job, told me. The Daily Wire reports the group of protesters frequently shouted “Black Lives Matter” as they used several megaphones to scream at families with small children while going up the church’s front steps. Grace Baptist Church, Troy, New York. The flyer advertising Grace Baptist Church's AR-15 giveaway on June 29. A cursory Google search reveals that before joining BLM, Forbes spent seven years locked up for participating in the brutal beating of a 30-year-old man walking home after Albany Pride. In this file photo taken on Wednesday, March 5, 2014, the Rev. It’s also different than the proselytizing practiced by Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses. But others refused to let something so flagrantly offensive go unmarked. Most IFB pastors grew up in the church. Another church Gerencser pastored was in West Unity, Ohio — located in what, at the time, was one of the last dry counties in the state. Koletas grew up on the Philadelphia Main Line, between Ardmore and Bryn Mawr, the son of Greek immigrants. “What he said, went,” his daughter said. Anyone who disagreed was either damned or, in IFB terms, “backsliding.” Other IFB churches think you’re too extreme? And you can always convince yourself you’re being persecuted.”. The church's pastor jumps into the fray and was apparently assaulted, according to The Daily Wire. " A video of BLM protesters chanting their titular slogan while invading Grace Baptist Church in Troy, New York has gone viral on social media. BLM might have “lost” on the national optics on this particular protest action. And McCashion posted all of it. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is,” the flyer proclaims, “there is liberty.”. Share This Post On Social Media: Tweet; More ; The Sounds of Fundamentalism: IFB Preacher John Koletas Defends Use of the N-Word. But now that they have, there’s energy and anger and a refusal to look the other way. If you’ve seen street preaching before, maybe you get it. “We promulgate the gospel as peacemakers. Most news outlets covering this story focused on the Black Lives Matter protesters attacking churchgoers; local New York news focused on the church gun giveaway as a trigger for those protests. The flyer advertising the AR-15 giveaway wasn’t fancy. He has repeatedly tagged Forbes’ supervisor at the City of Albany. The church had previously raffled off assault rifles, hosting giveaways at least twice before in 2014 and again in 2017, WRGB reported. “I don’t think there’s a pastor out there who’s to the right of my dad,” his daughter said. The conflagration at Grace Baptist, then, is what happens when that sort of visibility is what its targets crave most. I went door to door, and I let everyone know that they were trying to bring liquor into our county. On May 28, Grace Baptist tweeted for the first time: The church would be giving away another AR-15. IFB has no official governing body, but they do have conferences and gatherings, which Koletas would only sporadically attend. And I’d say, go right ahead. Another group, led by Forbes, had been invited by Koletas to enter the church. For whatever idiotic reason they have, the Black Lives Matter movement decided to label Pastor John Koletas of Grace Baptist Church in Troy, New York as an alt-right extremist. He thinks Black History Month is “communism and Marxism month.” He calls Black Lives Matter protesters “savages.” He places a pork product — a ham or hot dogs — at the door, and requires all church attendees to touch it, supposedly to ward off would-be jihadists. It is loud, and confrontational, and urgent. The upstate … Sometimes the outrage feels undeniable. As part of the directive to separate yourself from the world, IFB members don’t watch movies or television, or listen to “secular” music — including Southern gospel music. The Daily Wire reports that members of Grace Baptist Church in Troy, New York, many of whom were women and children, were harassed by Black Lives Matter protestors as they entered the church for a Sunday Morning service on July 5, 2020.. “Peaceful” protestors disrupt church service with profanity and violence while pastor gives the gospel message. “My dad’s parents, my mom’s parents, they just went along with it,” Koletas’s daughter said. People saw Koletas’s sermon titles, and heard Koletas calling protesters savages and rioting a by-product of sin. Contact Anne Helen Petersen at anne.helen.petersen@buzzfeed.com. “But they’re really not. Koletas essentially created a feedback loop of infallibility. 2 of 2 Pastor John Koletas leaves Grace Baptist Church where he presides Wednesday, March 5, 2014, in Troy, N.Y. A flier promises a free AR-15 giveaway one person who attends the March 23 … “Oh my God, did it cause conflict. The church had the tools to create a new narrative. In 1983, two weeks after Irene turned 18, John and Irene were married. (The ham had been stolen by protesters the day before and allegedly been fed to a dog; on Monday, it had been replaced by sliced hot dogs.) They posted an image of the witch casting a spell against racists with the caption “BLACK MAGIC MATTERS.” They retweeted praise from community members, and the first story from the local Fox News affiliate, but the story didn’t spread outside of the area. But he broke off the engagement, insisting that she leave her faith and become a Baptist. Mainline churches are part of larger governing bodies; these bodies are responsible for everything from official doctrine and liturgy to helping facilitate ministerial placement. We’re not people who give away guns. And if there was going to be a protest, Lukee Forbes was going to be there. This story has been shared 123,365 times. Protesters and churchgoers clashed outside a church in Troy, New York on Sunday, prompting police to intervene to deescalate tensions. “My dad’s very proud of that — that he’s stricter than all of them.” That strictness — and far-right positioning — manifests in the home, in the pulpit, and in his dealings with the outside world. How do you call yourself a man of God?”. Become a BuzzFeed News member. But Koletas didn’t care if people were offended. After Reagan won, he kept his vow — and became engaged to a 16-year-old girl, Irene, from his Greek Orthodox community back home. With megaphones and shouting, the protesters (a lot of whom are white) intimidated people who were simply coming … He came to the church on a unique path, and has since carved out his own understanding of what an IFB church should be and stand for. The protesters knew Koletas was a racist. But the more she thought about it, the more she thought, This isn’t right. It’s an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church, better known as IFB — a movement that broke off from the Baptists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in order to preserve their more conservative beliefs. Grace Baptist Church in Troy, New York, has posted dozens of videos of the treatment that Christians are subjected to for simply attending services. The official reason: budget cuts. But it didn’t really matter. McCashion has been described as Troy’s “resident gadfly,” a “shock jock,” and, as one of his local adversaries put it to me, “a real dick.” From 3 to 6 p.m., you can find him on his local talk show, ROAD RAGE. They’re wrong. His chief creative officer, Benny Johnson — who also tweeted the video, has more than 315,000. (Pastors of other IFB churches did not respond to requests for comment). Everyone in his family was Greek Orthodox. Over the last few years, McCashion’s demeanor and tactics began to turn darker. Before leaving organized religion in 2005, he was a pastor of fundamentalist evangelical churches, including IFB churches, for 25 years. Everything becomes a hill to die upon. She has a degree in criminal justice, and has been involved in local activist work for the last five years — including, most recently, Black Lives Matter. For the first 25 years, the congregation met in the building that Koletas had purchased in the church’s early years. Grace Baptist has always met in Lansingburgh, the long, skinny neck of Troy that stretches north along the Hudson River. Tasheca Medina lives just a few blocks from the church in Lansingburgh. TROY - A Troy church is facing backlash after giving away an AR-15 at Sunday's service. This story has been shared 146,501 times. In the years to come, the congregation at Grace Baptist would hover between 70 and 100. “It’s almost like they want us to kill each other,” she said. His social media, where he employs a unique, almost haiku style of constant news commentary, became more combative, more conspiratorial, often interspersed with verses from the KJV Bible. But often, it feels manufactured: planned, promoted, captured, and captioned to inflame the most people possible, local skirmishes designed to be folded into the national culture war. He showed up, measured out exactly 1,000 feet, and started yelling the Gospel at every passerby. Koletas rejected all of that. 1400 N. Market St.