Emily Wagster Pettus, AP, December 21, 2016
A Mississippi man arrested in the burning of an African-American church that was spray-painted with the words “Vote Trump” is a member of the congregation, the church’s bishop said.
Andrew McClinton, 45, of Leland, Mississippi, was charged Wednesday with first degree arson of a place of worship, said Warren Strain, spokesman for the Mississippi Department of Public Safety. McClinton is African-American.
Hopewell Bishop Clarence Green said McClinton is a member of the church. Green said he didn’t know about the arrest until he was called by The Associated Press.
Greenville is a Mississippi River port city of about 32,100 people, and about 78 percent of its residents are African-American. While it’s not unusual for people of different racial backgrounds to work and eat lunch together, local residents say the congregations at most churches remain clearly identifiable by race.
After the fire, Hopewell congregants began worshipping in a chapel at predominantly white First Baptist Church of Greenville. The Hopewell bishop, Clarence Green, said last month the generosity of First Baptist demonstrates that “unlimited love” transcends social barriers. James Nichols, senior pastor at First Baptist, said the Hopewell members are welcome to stay as long as they need a home.