Grace in Government - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Grace in Government: How does a pastor/politician balance both careers

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Prayers in the pulpit are traded for debates on laws of the land.

There's just a handful of men who try to find the balance between the two. 

Whether Republican or Democrat, faith is often a unifying factor. Two churches are trying to lead by example.

"I still have to be that Christian person," said Pastor Tryone Ellis. "I have to walk that walk." 

"You will have people wanting to do the right thing if they're taught from that bible," explained Ellis.

More than a hundred miles away, the message remains the same at Gum Springs Baptist Church in Braxton.

"Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, the life," Brother Andy Gipson preached.

That Sunday, Gipson preached about heaven.

"As a minister, preparing for Sunday morning is a lot of preparation is involved," he said.

It's preparation for one day of the week. But three months out of the year, both Andy Gipson and Tyrone Ellis take to a different kind of podium. They serve as state representatives.

They are among five lawmakers who currently pastor a church.  Representative Tracy Arnold is senior pastor at The Vineyard in Booneville. Senator Phillip Gandy has served at Liberty Baptist in Waynesboro for more than 20 years. And Senator Gary Jackson pastors Kilmichael Baptist in Kilmichael.

Whether at church or the Capitol, Ellis uses the Bible as his guide book.

"I feel an obligation to speak up and speak out and say this is not right," explained Ellis. "You know it's not right. And if I have to use a scripture. I'll use a scripture."

Andy Gipson has a similar view about the use of scripture.

"I've voted no on legislation because it simply did not line up with what I believe," said Gipson. "And specifically this book right here, the bible. If the bible teaches it I believe it."

Ellis said the transition between the two titles of pastor and politician are seamless.

"Ambassadors for Christ. So whether you are in government or whether you're working on the ship or in the ship yard, you are an ambassador for Christ," said Ellis. "And every opportunity that it affords you, you are to try to represent Christ."

Gipson doesn't consider it a struggle.

"I always tell people," said Gipson. "I am not two different persons. I'm one person. And my faith is extremely important in what I will support and vote for at the Capitol."

When you flip that distinction between politics and the pulpit, the men draw the line.

"If the bible speaks to an issue, yes I will preach about it and talk about it," asserted Gipson. "But never a specific bill. There is a line not to be crossed there."

"An issue may carry into a sermon because of the circumstances surrounding it but I don't get involved with using the pulpit as a forum to discuss those issues," said Ellis. "Because I think that would be out of order."

For Republican Gipson, the Bible is clear on certain issues that come up at the Capitol.

"The first one that comes to mind is protecting life," he explained. "Life of all people. Life of the unborn. Life of the children who are born."

Democrat Ellis also finds what he preaches on Sunday pulling at his heartstrings at the Capitol.

"The first thought that comes to mind, spirit wise is reconciliation," Ellis said. "Because my ministry is in fact my calling is predicated on reconciliation."

Job descriptions for these two men make it nearly impossible to separate church and state.

"I think that the more people that are involved in the body of government that comes from a body of grace, I think the better off we will be," said Tyrone Ellis.

"We don't check our faith at the door and not ashamed to stand up for what we believe," added Andy Gipson.

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