By AT News Team, June 29, 2015, updated July 1: College Hill Adventist Church in Knoxville (Tennessee) was burned last Monday (June 22). The fire department has reported that an arsonist deliberately set fire to the building owned by a predominantly African American congregation, according to WATE Channel 6 News, the ABC television station in Knoxville.
Last week three other historically African American churches were also set fire by arson. Tuesday (June 23) God’s Power Church of Christ in Macon burned, and arson was confirmed by the Macon-Bibb County Fire Department. Wednesday (June 24) Briar Creek Baptist Church in Charlotte (North Carolina) was hit by an arsonist according to the local fire department, reported the Associated Press wire service. Friday (June 26) Glover Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Warrenville (South Carolina) was destroyed by fire and the state fire marshal is investigating it as a suspicious fire.
Two other churches, also belonging to black congregations and located in the same region, burned during the week. Authorities believe they were caused by lightening in one case and faulty wiring in another, according to local news media in Gibson County, Tennessee, and Tallahassee, Florida.
National news media in the United States have reported all six fires in the same stories which may be an exaggeration of the facts. There has been a long history of white racist groups burning African American churches in the United States which has led to speculation about these fires on each day of last week, the week after much attention was given to the shooting of nine people during Wednesday night Bible study at the first black church in America, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston (South Carolina).
The fire at the Adventist church in Knoxville was set by someone who stacked hay bales against the building, according to the Washington Post. The paper quoted Pastor Cleveland Hobdy III; “Horror … what’s going on?” The congregation has about 300 members and is affiliated with the denomination’s South Central Conference.
Updated July 1: An unmarked van parked near the College Hill Church was destroyed in the fire, but damage to the church building was not sufficient to prevent the congregation from meeting on Sabbath, according to the Los Angeles Times. Several Adventist churches in the Knoxville area with predominantly white memberships joined the College Hill Church for worship, sources have told Adventist Today. Hobdy told the newspaper that the person or persons who set the fire “did not lave the typical stuff that hate-crime stuff leaves” and it may have been “just some crazy kids.” He also said that the when he talked recently to one of the investigators, the officer said there are “too many burnings” to ignore the arson possibility.