Allendale United Methodist Rev. Andy Oliver delivers scathing rebuke in controversial House prayer
Pastor Andy Oliver is well-known for his inclusive positions and support for the LGBTQ community. Photo courtesy: Allendale United Methodist Church

Andy Oliver
In just two minutes. Oliver managed to mention almost every controversial issue facing lawmakers.

Allendale United Methodist Church Rev. Andy Oliver delivered a controversial invocation during opening proceedings on the House floor Wednesday morning.

The St. Petersburg pastor’s remarks touched on several issues Republican lawmakers either do not support or actively work against including LGBTQ protections, living wages, and reproductive rights.

His jaw-dropping comments were the talk of Tallahassee for the rest of the day as members, the majority of whom are Republicans, saw the invocation as a politically-motivated speech rather than the traditional inspirational message lawmakers normally hear during symbolic invocations.

The remarks could also land Rep. Jennifer Webb, a Democrat from Gulfport, in hot water. Webb sponsored Oliver’s invocation and he was there at her behest.

No one has said directly, but the House has a track record for handing down retribution to lawmakers who have upset the natural order of business in Tallahassee.

House Speaker Jose Oliva did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Webb offered a swift apology.

“I apologized to the Speaker and my colleagues for Pastor Andy’s decision not to follow the rules,” Webb said. “I was excited to bring in Pastor Andy because he is a well-regarded religious leader from my home county. His church is known to be an inclusive space that brings together a myriad of people, something I value on a personal level.”

But it was those rules that prompted Oliver to go rogue in the first place.

Oliver said he received, just 24-hours before he was scheduled to deliver the invocation, a revised set of guidelines for his prayer.

The new rules specifically banned advocating issues. The previous rules, for which Oliver had already been provided and wrote his initial remarks based upon, specifically allowed advocacy.

“The idea of saying a prayer that doesn’t advocate is nonsense. The very essence of a prayer is to advocate,” Oliver said of his decision to go off script and out of bounds.

His original prayer had similar themes, he said. It included advocacies for marginalized communities and the same call for quiet contemplation to hear the voices of those often forgotten. But it’s pointed critique of politicizing individuals seeking protection had been absent.

“The different people that I lifted up are all people that are specifically marginalized by many of our state laws and practices and they need to be at the center of our conscience as we are gathered in this body to make laws,” Oliver said. “So my role as a pastor is to come into that space for two minutes and to raise the conscience, remind lawmakers of the people they represent. The people they represent are not just the people who write the biggest checks.”

Oliver’s comments took many in the House by surprise as he delivered a straight forward rebuke on Tallahassee politics.

“How is it, oh God, now too political to advocate for the working class and for those living in poverty, folks who increasingly can’t afford Florida? Why is it too political to pray for our teachers and state employees to be paid enough for food on their tables and roofs over their heads,” Oliver began his two minute prayer.

He went on to ask similar questions about climate change, clean water, white supremacy, LGBTQ equality, abortion rights and just about any contentious policy one might conjure when thinking of Florida lawmaking.

“Remind us, oh God, that you did not create the marginalized and oppressed political, but all your children you created in your image and you called them good. We lost our way when we chose to politicize their very existence,” Oliver said.

“If we’re not affected by minimum wage or threatened with deportation, if we can afford health care or if the color of our skin or the faith we practice or the person we love doesn’t dictate how we are treated, then it’s easy for us to politicize the lives of others. So forgive us we pray, embolden us to speak out for the vulnerable, quiet us to listen to their voices, convict us to put your people before party and liberate both the oppressed and the oppressor in your longing for beloved community,” Oliver concluded before the requisite “amen.”

Oliver is well-known in the Tampa Bay area for his often controversial actions and statements. He spoke out publicly when the United Methodist Church governing body decided not to overturn its long-standing ban on same sex marriage. He supported a move to split the church into two denominations — a traditionalist sect that continues banning same-sex marriage and one that allows it.

He also found himself in hot water when he officiated a same sex wedding, an act the church bans. The ceremony was not on church property, but Oliver authorized a celebratory statement on the church’s marquises congratulating the brides.

Webb knew about Oliver’s inclusive views, but didn’t expect such a controversial prayer.

“My actions as a Legislator show me to be a member that values coming together across differences to forge legislation that is good for all families in Florida. I look forward to focusing my time here on doing just that,” she said.

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected]


15 comments

  • Jim Donelon

    January 30, 2020 at 2:15 pm

    Good for Pastor Oliver speaking truth to power.

    Jim Donelon, President – Democratic Club of St. Petersburg

    • Ron

      January 30, 2020 at 3:17 pm

      Give a Democrat a chance to shoot his mouth off in front of God, and he will take it. This sort of people have their place in the Bible. The Lord called them “stiff-necked.”

    • gary

      January 31, 2020 at 12:33 pm

      You are pathetic Jim and so is the non-pastor Oliver! I support the deportation of all demoRats to the socialist country of their choice!

      MAGA2020!

  • Mike Shultz

    January 30, 2020 at 2:25 pm

    WELL WELL A FORCE THAT HAS SOME MERIT BUT ALSO A FORCE THAT DESTROYS CHRISTIANITY AS WE HAVE BEEN TAUGHT! I WILL NEVER AGREE TO LGBT NOR WELFARE NOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS I WILL NEVER ACCEPT ALLAH AS ALLAH IS SATAN HIMSELF!! ON HIS OTHER POINTS WE ALL NEED TO TAKE TIME AND THINK IT OVER !! I AM A 5th GENERATION FLORIDA KRACKER AND I AM NOT PREJUDICE NOR RACIST IAM PRO LIFE PRO GUN AND A CHRISTIAN REPUBLICAN I DESPISE THE SO CALLED DEMOCRATS HERE IN FLORIDA I AM HIGHLY PISSED AT BILL GAVALON WITH HIS ACTIONS THERE IS A MOVEMENT HERE IN OUR GREAT STATE BY THE EVIL SOROS SOCIALIST COMMUNIST LIBERAL DEMOCRATIC MOVEMENT TO DESTROY OUR STATE HE TRIED WITH GILLUM AND NELSON OUR PAST ELECTION!! SOROS/BLOOMBERG ARE SATANS ADVOCATES THEY OWN DEMINGS AND HER HUSBAND WASSERMAN SCHULTZ GAVALON FREDRICA WILSON AND MANY OTHERS !! OUR GREAT GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA HAS A TUFF ROAD AHEAD THESE DEMOCRATS ARE NOT ALL FROM FLORIDA THAT BRING ALL THEIR NORTHERN IDEAS DOWN HERE THESE BAFOONS HAVE DESTROYED ILLINOIS NJ NY CONN MASS NH AND WANT TO DESTROY OUR SOVEREIGN STATE WITH THEIR INSANITY ! I AM SORRY I SAY HELL NO !! WE OLD FLORIDA KRACKERS WILL FIGHT TO MAKE SURE THIS STATE IS RED IN 2020 !
    THANKS
    MIKE SHULTZ
    RETIRED 798 PIPELINERS UNION WELDER MEMBER
    A PROUD 5th GENERATION FLORIDA KRACKER
    A PROUD PARENT GRAND PARENT OF MORE FLORIDA KRACKERS!
    FORT LONESOME FL

    • Grace

      January 30, 2020 at 4:15 pm

      Hey Mike,
      The God you claim would rebuke you.

      Leviticus 19:33-34
      When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

      The Bible commands you to love the people who come to your land, “legal” or otherwise. Let’s call a spade a spade: your real “God” is not the God of the Bible, it’s the Republican Party.

    • john

      January 31, 2020 at 9:59 am

      You truly are a racist and a bigot, I bet you have a big old red MAGA hat on that empty head above that red neck you are so proud of.

      • Pax

        February 5, 2020 at 11:47 am

        He advocates for abortion rights while praying to God “to embolden us to speak out for the vulnerable”?

        He should be honest and change his prayer to “some of the vulnerable” or “the vulnerable that qualify under my political agenda.”

    • Jerry H.

      February 1, 2020 at 11:10 am

      I’m going to give you this, at least you wear your bigotry on your sleeve. When you and people like you die off,perhaps we can make some progress

  • Carl S

    January 30, 2020 at 7:30 pm

    You go Andy, keep speaking truth to power.
    Mike Shultz you say your not a bigot or a racist, but your words betray you.

  • Bobby Sneakers

    January 30, 2020 at 10:21 pm

    All these people upset by Andy’s sermon maybe aren’t aware what a sermon can be meant to do. Fortunately, their Bibles, the ones that probably have uncracked spines, do include a few examples. Let’s see, there’s Jeremiah, Micah, Amos, Ecclesiastes. Oh, and in the newer testament there’s a wonderful example in Matthew that’s even set off in a lot of editions. Many people call it the sermon on the mount. Huh. Right there in the title.

  • Jeff

    January 30, 2020 at 11:12 pm

    I think one point is that is was not asked to be a sermon, but a prayer. And as for prayer equating to advocating, I’m not sure I agree. Jesus model prayer did not advocate. It was honest communication with the Father. This sounds like a political statement. In a moment with a chance to bring Jesus into the political, this sounds more like using Jesus to advance your political.

  • Tom

    January 31, 2020 at 6:05 am

    Read Corinthians Andy. All of it.

    Hint it talks about marriage sex and sin. You should familiarize yourself with it.

    • Jerry H.

      February 1, 2020 at 11:16 am

      Perhaps you should read the Gospels, you know, where it says do unto others as you would have them do unto you, or where Jesus says, “What you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me”, or “Love your neighbor as yourself”, and last but not least (pay attention, this one is important): “Judge not least ye be judged”

      There are no asterisks or exceptions to these rules. These are basics of being a Christian. They. Apply. To. EVERYONE.

  • Jon J

    January 31, 2020 at 12:35 pm

    God Bless DJT MAGA2020

  • Diane Lebedeff

    February 1, 2020 at 1:35 am

    Love thy neighbor as oneself. Follow the Golden Rule. Rev. Andy follows the path of Christianity and of kind humanity. He is much admired and loved in our community. Yay for Rep. Webb for proposing him.

Comments are closed.


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