David G. Bromley

Global Vision Bible Church

GLOBAL VISION BIBLE CHURCH TIMELINE

1971 (April 24):  Melissa Kay Biggers was born.

1976 (May 18):  Gregory Duane Locke was born in Nashville, Tennessee.

1992:  Locke converted to evangelical Christianity.

1995:  Locke and Melissa Biggers became engaged and married a year later. The couple had four children.

1996:  Locke founded Global Vision Baptist Church in Mt. Juliet. The church later changed its name to Global Vision Bible Church.

1996-2006:  Locke worked as an independent evangelist.

1998:  Locke graduated with a degree in Theology from Ambassador Baptist College, Lattimore, North Carolina.

2000:  Locke received a Bachelor’s Degree in Biblical Studies from Baptist Theological School New England, Pascoag, Rhode Island, 2000.

2001:  Locke received a Master’s Degree in Biblical Studies from Baptist Theological School New England, Pascoag, Rhode Island.

2004:  Locke received a Doctor of Divinity Degree from Baptist Theological School New England, Pascoag, Rhode Island.

2006:  Locke founded the Global Vision Bible Church in Mt. Juliet.

2016 (April 26): Locke posted a video on Facebook challenging Target’s policy of allowing customers to choose the restroom and fitting room appropriate to their gender.

2017:  Locke divorced his first wife, Melissa.

2018:  Greg Locke and Taisha Cowan McGee were married.

2020:  Locke founded LockeMedia, a conservative media outlet.

FOUNDER/GROUP HISTORY

Gregory Duane Locke [Image at right] was born in Nashville, Tennessee on May 18, 1976. His early life was tumultuous. As he has described his teenage years: “I moved away, [from Mt. Juliet, Tennessee] and I was actually in state’s custody. I was arrested six times. On probation five times. I was just a wayward teenager. My father was in the Tennessee State Penitentiary for about ten years, and I hated my stepdad … so, I was actually shipped off to a boy’s home, and I became a Christian ten days after I got there.”

At age fifteen, after five arrests, he was placed in the Good Shepherd Children’s Home in Murfreesboro. At sixteen he converted to evangelical Christianity. His personal conversion story was later featured in 2004 on Unshackled (“Unshackled” 2021), a popular radio drama series produced in Chicago by Pacific Garden Mission. It was also at the Good Shepherd Children’s home where he met his first wife, Melissa Biggers, who was on staff at the facility.

He was only nineteen when in 1995 he became engaged to Melissa Biggers. Within a year the couple was married and eventually had four children. The following year he founded Global Vision Baptist Church in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee. Locke later found the independent Baptist tradition overly confining and changed the name of the church he founded to Global Vision Bible Church. Bible churches present themselves as adopting the Bible as their standard for doctrine and practice and profess the inerrancy of the Bible text.

Between 1996 and 2006 Locke worked as an independent evangelist. He also pursued a series of academic and pastoral credentials. In1998, Locke graduated with a degree in Theology from Ambassador Baptist College in Lattimore, North Carolina. In 2000, Locke received a Bachelor’s Degree in Biblical Studies from Baptist Theological School New England in Pascoag, Rhode Island. The following year he received a Masters Degree from the same institution, and he was awarded a Doctor of Divinity Degree in 2004. Locke then founded the Global Vision Bible Church in Nashville in 2006. In addition to his pastoral career, Locke has pursued commercial interests, developing a casual clothing line and a line of drink shakers.

Locke’s rise in national visibility began in 2015 when he posted a video decrying the Tennessee governor’s veto of a bill mandating the Bible as the state book of Tennessee. He followed that video up with another alleging that the local county school curriculum was indoctrinating students with Islamic beliefs. However, his rise to national internet prominence occurred in 2016. In a Facebook video post he opposed the Target store chain’s policy announcement that customers could choose bathrooms and fitting rooms based on their gender identity (Humbles 2016). In his video, Locke stated that

Your political correctness has caused you to do something extraordinarily stupid,” Locke says in the video. “… Because you’re not targeting and being inclusive to transgender people by doing this. They make up 0.3 percent of the population. What you are targeting are perverts, pedophiles, people who are going to hurt our children.

The post received more than 10,000,000 views I just a few days. His subsequent internet posts increased his national visibility as he became a prominent voice in the anti-vaccine movement.

Marital issues resulted in Melissa and Greg Locke divorcing in 2017. The following year he married Taisha (Tai) Cowan McGee who was a member of the church congregation. [Image at right] The divorce and remarriage became a major issue within the conservative Bible Church Movement.

DOCTRINES/RITUALS

The Global Vision Bible Church website (2021) describes the church as a place where “Where Broken People Find New Meaning To Life. The church mission statement goes on to state that

We endeavor to reach out to those who are hurting, marginalized, broken and in need of restoration. We have found that when we go after the people that nobody wants, the Lord sends us the people that everybody wants. Our entire congregation is known for being accepting, loving, gracious and forgiving Bible church.

The church prominently displays the doctrinal precepts of a Bible church (Global Vision Bible Church website 2021):

We believe the Bible is the perfect Word of God.
We believe that salvation is provided by Jesus Christ and Him alone.
We believe in the eternal salvation of all believers.
We believe in the Bible doctrine of the Trinity.
We believe that the local New Testament Church is God’s ordained institution.
We believe that Baptism is a fundamental step of obedience in our walk with Christ.

For example, in explaining the second doctrinal precept, Locke asserted that

If you believe that there are multiple ways to Heaven then you are not a Bible believer, because the very essence of the Gospel — the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ — is not that Jesus is a way to Heaven, He is the one and only way to Heaven… (Blair 2017a).

In addition to the church’s organizational principles, Greg Locke has published several books in which he connects religious doctrines with a conservative political agenda. Locke has published two recent conservative call to action books: This Means War: We Will Not Surrender Through Silence (2020) [Image at right] and Weapons of Our Warfare: Unleashing the Power of the Armor of God (2021). Locke also distributes his ideas through a weekly radio broadcast, “The Windows Of Heaven.”

ORGANIZATION/LEADERSHIP

From the founding of Global Vision Bible Church, Greg Locke has served as Lead Pastor. For a time, Jarrod Almond served as Executive Pastor, but he was dismissed from his position around 2018 (Dunn 2018). Through the history of the church, therefore, Locke has largely administered the church without the participation of elders, deacons, or formal congregational input. His wives both have served as administrative assistants.

The church building, which is located in the small community of Mt. Juliet is rather modest in size. [Image at right] Through its history it has grown to several hundred, primarily through adding services within the existing facility (Humbles 2016). The church has explored the purchase of additional land for church expansion. The church also accepts what it refers to as “internet members” who participate in the church through the internet (Dunn 2019). Indeed, Locke’s public prominence is primarily the product of his substantial internet presence. He reportedly has 2,200,000 Facebook followers, 195,000 followers on Instagram, and 102,700 followers on Twitter (VoleNath 2021). He also has videos posted on YouTube and a podcast (On Point). Locke acknowledges that he has lost church members as a result of his controversial social and political positions but vigorously asserts his commitment to the course he has charted

ISSUES/CHALLENGES

Locke has staked out a strongly conservative position on a variety of contemporary religious and political issues and has used his internet presence to give voice to those positions. The result has been that he has attracted both support and opposition from a variety of religious and secular groups. His marital situation, his opposition to vaccination for Covid-19, and his  rejection of LGBT rights have been major flash points (Duke 2021).

Given their doctrinal emphasis of the sanctity and permanence of marriage, it is not surprising that numerous conservative Christian leaders have excoriated Locke over his divorce and remarriage. For example, an article in Pulpit and Pen asserted that “It is a reproach to Christ’s church that a man like Locke masquerades as a man of God when really and truly, he is an adulterous internet religion huckster” (Dunn 2019). Another leader called for his resignation as pastor (Blair 2018):

If your marriage fails, then you have failed as a leader in the most fundamental way. Now you can sit there and make all the excuses. Of course everyone who gets divorced always tells you how it’s 100 percent the other person’s fault. Even if that were true, even if it was 100 percent her fault and we don’t know the details, he still must step down as pastor.

While Locke did announce his divorce and remarriage to his church congregation, he rejected the label of adulterer and asserted that he planned “to keep living for God” (Blair 2018). Nonetheless, he has continued to face opposition within his faith tradition for what is regarded as violation of a foundational precept.

Locke has been an equally staunch opponent of transgender rights, and has referred to transgender parishioners as “the sodomite crowd infiltrating the church” (Bolinger 2020). Indeed, it was his opposition to Target’s policy of allowing staff and customers to select restrooms and fitting rooms consistent with their gender identity that initially fueled his internet celebrity (Blair 2017a). He has based his opposition on the assertion that

Transgenderism is not a civil right. It’s not normal, it’s anti-biblical. And I’m sorry, just because I have morals and values that does not make me a discriminatory bigot. I’m sick of the day and age in which we live when people call good evil and evil they call good…”

Locke’s Facebook post was temporarily removed by Facebook; he was later able to repost the message. His position has, of course, been met with determined resistance from more liberal Christian groups pursuing policies of greater inclusiveness as well as LGBTQ advocacy groups (Smith 2019; Bollinger 2020).

His controversiality notwithstanding, Locke has continued to build his following by connecting with three interrelated groups: supporters of former president Donald Trump, QAnon participants, and Anti-Vaccine activists. Locke has thereby clearly merged religion and politics. He has repeatedly identified himself as a Trump supporter, [Image at right] appeared publicly with Trump allies (Roger Stone, Mike Lindell) and referred to opponents as “Godless Democrats.” In his support of Trump, he asserted that the election was “crooked” and supported the Capitol insurrection on Twitter just prior to January 6 (“If you don’t have convictions worth dying for, you’ve never learned what living is” (Pidcock 2021). He often wears Trump-themed clothing accents. Locke has also repeated the central tenet of QAnon ideology that a satanic underground group of Washington politicians and Hollywood celebrities is abusing young children (Bromley and Richardson 2022; Crump 2021). For example, he has referred to President Joe Biden as  a fraud and “a sex trafficking, demon-possessed mongrel (Peiser 2021).

Drawing on the intense conflict surrounding vaccination and related issues during the Covid-19 pandemic, Locke’s greatest public impact to date has grown out of his opposition to vaccination and mask-wearing . With respect to the pandemic, he asserted that the pandemic has been a “hoax,” the death reports are “manipulated,” the vaccines were dangerous (“This evil vaccine will cause remarkably more deaths and problems than the virus itself.”), and the vaccines contain “aborted fetal tissue.” He has repeatedly stated that his church would continue to meet as an “essential service” despite mask and gathering regulations (“No masks, no temperature checks, no social distancing and no apology”) (Pidcock 2021).

Locke has been provocative in his approach. For example, concerning social distancing in church, he asserted that “We have a 2nd Amendment right to worship. If that’s impeded upon, we will invoke our 2nd Amendment right and meet you at the door” (Pidcock 2021). Most notably, he has threatened to expel anyone wearing a mask to a Global Vision service [Image at right] (Breslow 2021):

If they go through round two and you start showing up in all these masks and all this nonsense, I’ll ask you to leave. I will ask you to leave. I am not playing these Democrat games up in this church. If you want to social distance, go to First Baptist Church, but don’t come to this one. As a result of his inflammatory rhetoric, Locke has been banned from Twitter, first temporarily and later permanently (Lund 2021).

What the future holds for Global Vision Bible Church is less clear. The church and its charismatic leader have rapidly emerged from relative obscurity to a prominent place among conservative religious groups promoting a radically conservative agenda on a specific set of social and political issues. In the moment, given the intensity of conflict and polarization, the most extreme position prevails. Still, Global Vision’s success depends largely on Greg Locke’s personal appeal, a continued high level of societal contestation, and an ability to maintain a high level of involvement simply through religiously themed internet postings. Focal political issues will shift, the pandemic will ultimately subside, and there will be winners and losers in the struggle for political advantage. There is no heir apparent to Lock, and there is no assurance that when new focal issues emerge the positions offered by Global Vision will resonate sufficiently to maintain the size and degree of involvement it now engenders. In this sense, Global Vision faces the same kind of challenge as have many emerging religious movements headed by a charismatic figure (Reeve, Guff and Russell 2021).

IMAGES
Image #1: Greg Locke.
Image #2: Taisha (Tai) Cowan McGee and Greg Locke.
Image #3: Book cover to Greg Locke’s book, This Means War: We Will Not Surrender Through Silence.
Image #4: The Global Vision Bible Church in Mt. Juliet.
Image #5: Greg Locke wearing a Trump-Pence cap.
Image #6: Billboard outside the church meeting tent instructing parishioners not to wear masks inside.

REFERENCES

Alund, Natalie. 2021.Tennessee pastor Greg Locke accused of spreading false info about COVID banned from Twitter.” Nashville Tennessean, September 14. Accessed from https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2021/09/14/tennessee-pastor-greg-locke-banned-twitter-accused-covid-misinformation/8341396002/ on 5 October 2021.

Blair, Leonardo. 2018. “Tearful Pastor Greg Locke Admits He Is Now Divorced, but Insists ‘I Am Not an Adulterer’.” Christian Post Reporter, January 12. Accessed from https://www.christianpost.com/news/tearful-pastor-greg-locke-admits-he-is-now-divorced-but-insists-i-am-not-an-adulterer-213572/ on 3 October 2021.

Blair, Leonardo. 2017a. “Greg Locke Denounces Transgenderism, Declares It Mental Illness in Video Once Banned by Facebook.” Christian Post, September 20. Accessed from https://www.christianpost.com/news/greg-locke-denounces-transgenderism-declares-mental-illness-in-video-once-banned-by-facebook.html on 5 October 2021.

Blair, Leonardo. 2017b. “Pastor Greg Locke Slams Evangelicals Who Believe There Are Multiple Ways to Heaven.” Christian Post Reporter, December 20. Accessed from https://www.christianpost.com/news/christianity-is-not-the-only-way-to-heaven-prominent-presbyterian-pastor-says.html on 1 October 2021.

Breslow, Josh. 2021. “‘Stop it!’: Tennessee pastor threatens to oust members wearing masks.” Nexstar Media Wire, July 27. Accessed from https://wgntv.com/news/stop-it-tennessee-pastor-threatens-to-oust-members-wearing-masks/ on 5 October 2021.

Bromley, David G. and James T. Richardson. 2022.The QAnon Conspiracy Narrative: Understanding the Social Construction of Danger.” In The Social Science of QAnon, edited by Monica Miller. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Crump, James. 2021. “Pastor Greg Locke’s Speech Against ‘Pedophiles in Hollywood’ Viewed Over 1.5M Times.” Newsweek, June 28. Accessed from https://www.newsweek.com/pastor-greg-locke-pedophiles-washington-dc-tom-hanks-oprah-1604725 on 5 October 2021.

Duke, Barry. 2021. “The Tide is Turning against COVID-Denying Pastor Greg Locke.” Patheos, August 17. Accessed from https://www.patheos.com/blogs/thefreethinker/2021/08/the-tide-is-turning-against-covid-denying-pastor-greg-locke/ on 5 August 2021.

Dunn, Seth. 2019. “Pastor Greg Locke: Deadbeat Dad.” Pulpit and Pen, January 6. Accessed from https://pulpitandpen.org/2019/01/06/pastor-greg-locke-deadbeat-dad/ on 1 October 2021.

Humbles, Andy. 2016. “Mt. Juliet pastor’s video blasting Target goes viral.” The Tennessean, April 25. Accessed from https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/local/wilson/mt-juliet/2016/04/25/mt-juliet-pastors-video-blasting-target-goes-viral/83499222/ on 5 October 2021.

Global Vision Bible Church. 2021. “About Us.” Accessed from https://globalvisionbc.com/ on 1 October 2021.on October 2021.

Locke, Greg. 2021. Weapons of Our Warfare: Unleashing the Power of the Armor of God. ‎Locke Media Publishing.

Locke, Greg. 2020. This Means War: We Will Not Surrender Through Silence. Locke Media Publishing.

Peiser, Jaclyn. 2021. “Evangelical pastor demands churchgoers ditch their masks: ‘Don’t believe this delta variant nonsense’.” Washington Post, July 27. Accessed from https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/07/27/tennessee-pastor-greg-locke-masks/ on 5 October 2021.

Reeve, Elle, Samantha Guff, and Lacey Russell. 2021. “How a pastor’s spread of Covid misinformation divided one Tennessee family.” CNN, May 28. Accessed from https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/28/us/pastor-greg-locke-tennessee-family-covid-19/index.html on 5 October 2021.

Smith, Reiss. 2019. “Right-wing pastor claims LGBT people are looking for ‘domination’.” Pink News, September 2. Accessed from https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2019/09/02/pastor-greg-locke-boston-straight-pride-domination/ on 5 October 2021.

“Unshackled.” 2021. Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopedias. Accessed from https://en-academic.com/dic.nsf/enwiki/559881 on 1 October 2021.

VoleNath. 2021. “Pastor Greg Locke Wikipedia: His Net Worth, Wife, and Bio Facts.” Famous Celebrities. Accessed from https://famous-celebrities.com/pastor-greg-locke-wikipedia/ on 5 October 2021.

Publication Date:
11 October 2011

 

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