Senate candidate George Allen said he will continue to attend Aldersgate United Methodist Church despite criticisms of the pastor’s decision to allow members of a nearby mosque to hold Friday prayers at its facility.
The issue was brought up by a local blogger, not affiliated with Patch, who pointed out Tuesday that Allen’s membership in the church might not sit well with “evangelical conservatives” who would be critical of the church’s decision.
“Lost in all of this coverage of Aldersgate United Methodist Church was one key fact- this is also the church of Former Senator and Governor George Allen,” wrote the blogger on Not Larry Sabato.
Just before 6 p.m. on Wednesday, the post had garnered 36 comments and caused a spike in Fort Hunt Patch traffic on Tuesday. Patch automatically publishes links to local bloggers in its "Around the Web" section, which is powered by Outside.In.
In a statement to Fort Hunt Patch, George Allen argued that the church’s decision was an internal matter and other issues like gas prices, jobs and the nation’s debt should take center stage in the campaign.
“We understand that good people will have differing opinions on this, but as I stated when entering this Senate race I will endeavor to focus on the concerns that I hear from Virginians,” he said.
The Allen family has been attending Aldersgate since they first arrived to the Mount Vernon area almost 10 years ago. Earlier this year, George Allen hosted Aldersgate’s annual pancake dinner, which raised thousands of dollars for the church’s mission trips.
Allen said his two youngest children were confirmed in the church and many of his family’s friends worship there.
Aldersgate first allowed members of a local Islamic Circle of North America mosque to hold Friday prayers in the church’s Guback Center around Labor Day. Since then, the decision has gained attention from national media organizations, sparking critics to send angry emails and phone calls to Aldersgate pastors.
A “handful of folks” have left the church since then, said Rev. Jason Micheli, a pastor at the church.
“We said 'yes' because we thought it was the right thing to do,” said Micheli.