Press Shia Agency – The Board of Trustees of Oak Street Chapel in Brainerd plans to ask Pastor Todd Wooden to resign in the wake of a controversial speaker coming to the church Thursday to speak against Islam.
Press Shia – Board President Dace Julifs said Friday that Usama Dakdok's presentation didn't reflect any of the congregation's views and Wooden did not adequately inform the leadership ahead of time about what would take place Thursday. The board members authorized Julifs to ask for Wooden's resignation.
"That was a pastor gone rogue," Julifs said. "Oak Street Chapel, we are a kind and caring and open people."
Wooden has been a member of the non-denominational Christian church since 2000 and has pastored the church since 2013.
Julifs denounced both the presentation and comments Wooden made in a Dispatch article that ran Friday. Although Julifs did know about the presentation in advance, he said, he was under the impression it would be an informative meeting about the Muslim community and how non-Muslims could co-exist with them. The presentation wasn't sanctioned, he said. Wooden is supposed to represent all of the congregation, but instead he looked out for the needs of just one member: Daryl Bahma, whose "Defenders of the Constitution" sponsored the event in the first place.
"They took it upon themselves to use our facilities," Julifs said. "(The) people at Oak Street Chapel are such good people. It's tearing me up to know that they got ran through the mud like this."
The church was forced to take down its website because of all the negative messages they received in response to the presentation, Julifs said. He said the church's web administrator was reduced to tears after she read some of them.
Julifs was unsuccessfully trying to reach Wooden throughout Friday.
Contacted by the Dispatch and informed the board wanted him to resign, Wooden laughed. He said he didn't regret Dakdok speaking in the church and that he wouldn't resign.
"Why would I?" he said.
Wooden said a screaming match between Dakdok and several protesters was "unnecessary." He also took issue with Dakdok repeatedly calling Americans "stupid" for their acquiescence to the spread of Muslims.
Whether Dakdok's presentation was Islamophobic, though, Wooden couldn't say for sure.
"I don't know how to answer that, really, because I really don't understand all the elements of Islam at this point," he said and later added "that would be like calling a Muslim-American America-phobi(c), wouldn't it? Because they're so passionate about Islam being the only way to bring peace to this world."
Now, the congregation will decide whether Wooden stays on as a pastor.
Wooden said the board doesn't have the authority to ask for his resignation. None of the board members were at Dakdok's presentation, he said. Asked whether he contacted the board directly about the presentation, Wooden said there were flyers distributed at the church that announced it.
He said he talked to the chair of the church's ministry and several members of the church who gave him positive feedback about the presentation. Asked to specifically name people, Wooden said that would be a breach of pastor-parishioner confidentiality.
"When I talk to people, it's all confidential," he said. "Just like a lawyer."
If it does come to the congregation deciding whether or not to fire him, Wooden said they would choose to act in his favor.
"They have confidence in me being the spiritual leader of church," he said.