In Redding, Calif., members of a single evangelical megachurch now control a majority of seats on the City Council.
While this is a highly unusual situation for a city of nearly 100,000 people, Bethel Church is a highly unusual congregation as well.
The Pentecostal church may be best known nationwide for its “volunteer worship leader” Sean Feucht, who is an outspoken political conservative and led “worship rallies” nationwide during the COVID-19 pandemic despite public health warnings and restrictions.
The 10,000-member church is well-known for its elaborate healing services that draw thousands of visitors each year and for its teaching of Seven Mountains Dominionism, an extreme form of Christian nationalism that seeks to take control of politics and culture.
Bethel Church already had one member on the five-member council. Now two more Bethel members have been elected to the group.
Tenessa Audette, 45, and Jack Munns, 64, will now join Bethel elder Julie Winter on the council.
Audette is a businesswoman who works for state Sen. Brian Dahle, who was the Republican candidate for California governor in the November elections. Munns is a retired police sergeant. Winter is a nurse practitioner.
No national database is available to indicate how rare it is for a single church to have majority control of a city council.
Bethel Church runs its own music labels, Bethel Music and Jesus Culture ministries, which are a popular source for contemporary worship music and generate millions of dollars of income. The church also operates Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry to spread its beliefs among a couple of thousand people who attend its events every year.
The church teaches the literal manifestation of miracles, including faith healing of cancer, regrowing limbs, raising the dead, speaking in tongues and casting out demons. The congregation is known for its leaders’ claims that they have witnessed angels appearing and “balls of electricity” throwing people into the air. They also claim to have witnessed a cloud of gold dust or gold glitter falling from the roof of the worship space, what they call a “glory cloud.”
The Los Angeles Times reported in 2020 that Bethel’s leaders explicitly endorsed Donald Trump for president and have engaged in other political activities. The church also was accused of sparking a major outbreak of COVID by denying the need for health restrictions on public gatherings.
Ministry Watch reports that “some (Redding) residents have grown frustrated with Bethel’s combination of other-worldly theology and increasing this-worldly clout, as the appearance of ‘Buck Fethel’ T-shirts show. Local critics oppose Bethel’s promotion of gay conversion therapy, and its fight against COVID masks, vaccinations and closures. There’s also concern that Bethel members are fanning secessionist movements and supporting militia groups in Shasta County.”
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