The suspect arrested and charged Wednesday in the burning of an African-American church in Mississippi is a member of the congregation.
Andrew McClinton, a 45-year-old African American from Leland, Miss., was arrested and charged with first-degree arson of a place of worship, Warren Strain, spokesman for the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, told the Associated Press.
Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church, located in Greenville, Miss., was burned and vandalized Nov. 1, just a week before the presidential election.
Hopewell Bishop Clarence Green told AP that McClinton is a member of the church and that he had no knowledge of McClinton’s arrest until AP called him. As the investigation continues, a state official told AP that politics did not appear to be a motive for the fire.
Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney, who is also the state fire marshal, said, “We do not believe it was politically motivated. There may have been some efforts to make it appear politically motivated.”
Greenville is a city with a population of 32,156 people, 78 percent of whom are African American, and AP reports that local residents say congregations at most churches are clearly identifiable by race.
According to AP, Hopewell was founded in 1905 in an African-American neighborhood and boasts a congregation of 200 people. Because of the damage suffered in the fire, the church will likely be razed.
Since the fire, Hopewell’s congregation has been worshipping in a chapel at the predominantly white First Baptist Church of Greenville.
Bishop Green said last month that the generosity of First Baptist demonstrates that “unlimited love” transcends social barriers.
James Nichols, senior pastor at First Baptist, said that Hopewell members are welcome to stay as long as they need a home.
Read more at the Washington Post.