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Consuming Fire Fellowship Engulfs Emotions at Ole Miss

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It started out with a phrase Tuesday morning that echoed outside the Student Union at the University of Mississippi. A middle-aged man, wearing a black T-shirt and a camouflaged hat, yelled out a sentence that made students walking across campus turn their heads.

“You’re all sinners, the lot of you!”

The Consuming Fire Fellowship arrived on campus Tuesday and Wednesday morning to preach their interpretation of the Christian gospel. At first, only a few students stopped and listened to the church’s preaching. By Tuesday at noon, however, a crowd formed and encircled the speaker, known as Pastor Matt.

“I noticed the students forming a circle around him, and when I figured out what he was saying, I chose to stay away,” senior Jacob Woten said. “I don’t really care when other people start forcing other people to convert to their religion.”

The crowd, small at first, grew to at least 200 students by 3 p.m. Tuesday. Some students stood and watched in confusion, while other students shouted back, explaining their interpretations of the Bible. Harsh language was used on both ends, with students retaliating at Pastor Matt’s accusations toward them as he explained how their actions were sinful.

Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 1.36.14 PMOne student, Thomas King, asked how Pastor Matt could judge other students when supposedly God was the only one that could judge them. The crowd cheered upon mentioning this, but Pastor Matt still continued speaking.

“The Bible does say that only God can judge us,” senior Clint Tucker said.

“However, it also says that members of another church are the only ones that can judge other Christians. Both parties are at fault in this case because yelling at each other won’t change anything.”

Pastor Matt of Consuming Fire Fellowship came back on Wednesday with more members of their church to preach to students. They handed out pamphlets explaining the ways to reach heaven, what sins a person should not commit, and the church’s contact information. They heavily preached against fornication, drinking and homosexuality.

“I think they need to mind their own business and stop coming to persecute people,” junior Gregory Munster said. “There are people here who are living their lives perfectly fine without them and their ministry.”

Some students saw this as an insult considering the most recent religious freedom law passed in Mississippi by Governor Phil Bryant on April 5. The bill, which will not go into effect until July 1, allows for people to not be discriminated against for their religious beliefs.

“Their religious freedom does not give them the right to trample over my religious freedom,” Woten said.

Conflict between the church and the students escalated on Wednesday to the point where members of the church had to be behind police barricades. It did stop both sides from physically interacting with each other, but the match was not over. Both sides continued to yell at one another until students left for class or the church members left for the day.

Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 1.36.21 PM“I honestly think if they come again we should just ignore them and not give them a platform to speak,” Munster said. “Ignoring them is the only way they are going to go away.”

Consuming Fire Fellowship resides in Gloster, Mississippi, with church services happening on Sunday and Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings. They go to college campuses and preach the King James Version of the Bible regularly. More information about their fellowship can be found at www.consumingfirefellowship.org.

Madi Van Zile is a senior broadcast major at The Meek School of Journalism and New Media. She can be reached at svanzil@go.olemiss.edu.

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