Honor by atheists, freethinkers not a conflict for pastor

The Rev. Mike Burr, pastor of Koinonia Church, speaks to a meeting of Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers in the community room at Mesa Mall after receiving the group’s second Person of the Year award Sunday. “In many ways, we’re fellow travelers in the search for peace and justice,” Burr said.



Koinonia Church Pastor Michael Burr acknowledged it sounded like an “oxymoron” for a Christian preacher to receive a Person of the Year award from Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers.

But Burr said it’s what he has in common with the group that makes the award a perfect fit.

“In many ways, we’re fellow travelers in the search for peace and justice,” Burr said Sunday after receiving the award at a Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers meeting.

This is the second consecutive year the group has bestowed the honor. The award’s first recipient was a public figure whom Freethinkers President Earle Mullen said he’d rather not name because of that person’s wish not to be “outed” as a person sympathetic to the group.

Mullen said the criteria for the award is not that a person be an atheist, as some of the group’s members are church-goers. It’s more about sharing the group’s commitment to peace, community and public service, Mullen said.

In addition to hosting meetings and being advocates for separation of church and state, members of Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers have contributed to the local food bank, performed highway cleanup and donated money to the school district, to name a few good deeds.

“We’re trying to be a public-spirited organization to combat the image atheists have horns and tails,” Mullen said.

Mullen said Burr fits the group’s ideals because he is an advocate for the poor and exploited at home and in other countries and pushes for separation of church and state, a goal Burr said is rooted in the Church of the Brethren, with which the Koinonia Church at 730 25 Road is affiliated, along with the American Baptist Church.

“The congregation is progressive Christian with a strong emphasis on social justice,” Burr said.

Church members are starting a community garden and for the fifth year will travel to El Salvador to build schools, Burr said.


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