Church of The Highlands Exposed: Uncovering the Chris Hodges Controversy

Explore the recent spotlight on Church of The Highlands exposed: who’s responsible, why, and the ensuing fallout.

Church of the Highlands began in 2001 with a modest congregation meeting in a rented auditorium at Mountain Brook High School.

Over the years, it has expanded its influence to become Alabama’s foremost church, with over 22 locations statewide.

With Hodges facing scrutiny, will 2020 mark the year he confronted the consequences of social media scrutiny?

Church of the Highlands' rock

Controversy surrounds Church of the Highlands’ rock concert-style services, with accusations of drawing congregants from established churches.

Hodges’ sermons, infused with Louisiana charm and folksy humor, focused on lifestyle, prompting theologians to question their orthodoxy.

Church of the Highlands surmounted challenges, expanding with a $16 million campus in Irondale, renting auditoriums for services, opening new branches, and live-streaming sermons statewide.

By the start of 2020, each location regularly saw over 50,000 attendees at services.

Highlands College is now training a new generation

The Church’s unparalleled rapid expansion drew pastors from afar seeking to learn from Highlands’ success. Highlands College is now training a new generation of millennial ministers.


Despite canceling Sunday services due to a coronavirus outbreak since March 10, Church of the Highlands has continued to flourish.

Transitioning exclusively to online delivery was seamless for us, given our longstanding commitment to providing top-notch live-streaming video services.

Since church members were already giving tithes online, revenue remained stable during the transition.

Since church members

The organization is forward-thinking and tech-savvy, with a predominantly younger membership residing in suburban areas and a focus on millennials. Both in theology and politics, the Church maintains a conservative stance.

The tragic killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police on Memorial Day escalated racial tensions, providing Hodges’ critics with an opportunity to challenge his stance.

He had been endorsing the controversial pro-Trump activist Charlie Kirk, president of Turning Point USA, an organization known for its mission claiming that “White Privilege is a myth.”

The English teacher in Birmingham City Schools ignited controversy by highlighting Hodges’ culturally insensitive social media “likes,” sparking a storm of reactions.

English teacher in Birmingham City Schools

In response to the backlash, the “Dream Team” of volunteers from the Church of the Highlands has ceased mentoring youngsters and conducting social outreach in Birmingham’s public housing estates.

On June 8, the Birmingham Housing Authority terminated its partnership with Christ Health Center, which had been providing healthcare services to residents of public housing.

In March, Christ Health Center provided complimentary drive-through mass Coronavirus testing on the Highlands campus.

Christ Health Center

While that service is no longer offered, residents of Woodlawn can still access free COVID-19 testing at the clinic.

On June 9, the Birmingham Board of Education voted to sever connections with the Church. The Church had been leasing space at Parker and Woodlawn High Schools from Birmingham City Schools since 2014.

Parker and Woodlawn High Schools from Birmingham City Schools

Hodges has tearfully expressed remorse for endorsing Kirk’s social media messages, emphasizing that Kirk’s opinions do not align with his own.

However, the criticism continued to escalate. According to Hodges’s friends, this news has deeply affected him.

“Pastor Chris doesn’t have a racist bone in his body,” stated Associate Pastor Layne Schranz, who moved to Birmingham to help establish the Church. He emphasized that Hodges’s 20-year track record reflects this.

Pastor Layne Schranz

Hodges has consistently placed a high priority on welcoming individuals from all backgrounds and serving the broader community of the city.

He purchased a closed fire station and transformed it into the Dream Center, dedicated to assisting the underprivileged for over a decade.

The Church’s volunteer efforts in the community have centered around this location. Hundreds of “Dream Team” volunteers frequently assist with tasks such as garbage pickup and home repairs for those in need.

Some prominent black pastors responded negatively to Hodges’s 2018 announcement of founding a church in West Birmingham.

A pastor at a white church downtown labeled Hodges as a “slavemaster” and displayed a sign stating, “Black Folks Need to Stay Out of White Churches.”

Church of the Highlands hired Mayo Sowell, a former Auburn University football player, as their black campus pastor. The congregation opted to pay $3,000 per month to rent the Parker High School auditorium from Birmingham City Schools for their Sunday morning services.

Before the Coronavirus shutdown, the Parker and Woodlawn high school auditoriums were filled on Sundays with mostly African American members of the Church of the Highlands.

Concerns have been raised about Hodges’s social media activity, which suggests his support for Trump and Kirk.

The Rev. Gwen Webb, who participated in the Birmingham civil rights demonstrations of 1963 and currently serves as an associate pastor at Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in west Birmingham, remarked, “Some people believe it’s deeply ingrained in his heart.”

_Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church

Permitting them to gather near Parker and Woodlawn could potentially provoke significant animosity. It’s advisable to steer clear of further negative reactions in the city at this juncture. Consequences arise from engaging in negative actions.

Recently, some white and black Highlands students have been openly questioning their allegiances.

Christine Clark, who was a member of the Church’s branch in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, penned an open letter to Hodges. In it, she stated, “Mr. Trump’s rhetoric in support of white supremacy, power, and the dog whistle calls for dominance is undermining the principles of inclusivity and equality that you preach, teach, and endeavor to uphold here in Alabama.”

President Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., expressed his support for Hodges via Twitter. Former Attorney General and current Senate candidate Jeff Sessions also defended Hodges.


Sessions asserted that the actions taken by the Birmingham Housing Authority and the Birmingham Board of Education against the Church of the Highlands violated the Church’s rights to freely exercise religion and free expression.

According to Flynt, the fact that Hodges shares Turning Point USA’s and Trump’s political views should not have surprised anyone.

Flynt commented, “I’m not shocked that he supports Trump.” Given that a predominantly white evangelical megachurch pastor in the United States is 90% likely to support Donald Trump, I fail to see why it’s such a big deal.

Flynt speculated that the economic downturn during the lockdown and the transformation of protests against police abuse into rioting in several cities might have diminished support among white evangelicals for Trump.


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