Magazine article The Christian Century

Bachmann's Former Church Explains Antipapal View

Magazine article The Christian Century

Bachmann's Former Church Explains Antipapal View

Article excerpt

The Lutheran denomination that GOP presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann quit in June has sought to explain its belief that the papacy is the Antichrist after reports questioned whether Bachmann is anti-Catholic.

Six days before Bachmann officially launched her presidential campaign, the Minnesota Republican and her family made a verbal request to leave Salem Lutheran Church in Stillwater, Minnesota, which is affiliated with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS).

Synod spokesman Joel Hochmuth said July 14 that the Bachmanns had been members of Salem Lutheran for more than a decade but had not attended the church for at least two years. The family did not request a transfer to another congregation, he said.

The denomination says on its website: "We identify the Antichrist as the papacy. This is a historical judgment based on scripture." Bachmann's campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Republican, who has surged in recent presidential polls, denied that she is anti-Catholic in a 2006 debate. "It's abhorrent, it's religious bigotry. I love Catholics, I'm a Christian, and my church does not believe that the pope is the Antichrist, that's absolutely false."

Bachmann also said that her pastor, Marcus Birkholz, told her he was "appalled that someone would put that out." According to Hochmuth, the pastor told Bachmann that WELS "primarily views the office of the papacy as the Antichrist, not the individual popes themselves."

Asked for comment, Birkholz said on July 14,"I have been asked by my congregation not to give any more interviews. …

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