7517 Cuvier Street, La Jolla
Pastor: Chuck Norris
Born: Chicago, Ill.
Formation: Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ; Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, IL; Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA
Years Ordained: 13
San Diego Reader: What is your greatest concern as a member of the clergy?
Pastor Chuck Norris: I have this concern that the church continues to weigh in on some of the issues of the day, which seems to be a lot different from how Jesus might approach these issues. For instance, Jesus was always talking about loving one another and we’re always talking about who belongs and who doesn’t. So, my biggest concern is that the church is not exemplifying love to draw people to it, as opposed to the church acting like a police force.
SDR: Why African Methodist Episcopal?
PN: Its roots are in social justice. The African Methodist Episcopal Church is the oldest African-American denomination in the country. It’s existed for over 200 years and started some of the first black colleges in the country, such as Wilberforce University, in Ohio, which was founded at a time when some people were still in slavery in this country. So, its historical roots and its putting its faith into work in the area of social justice is partly what drew me to the denomination. I think its strength is going back to its roots of social justice. The AME was petitioning the White House, and making calls upon President Lincoln along with abolitionists to abolish slavery.
SDR: What is the mission of your church?
PN: At Prince Chapel we really seek to minister to families. Our theme for this year is to help people grow spiritually, to help people glow as a result of the growing, and then to help them go out and help others — so, grow, glow, and go.
SDR: Why did you become a minister?
PN: I knew as a child that there was something different about me, but I tried to ignore it for some time. Whenever I would go to church, it seemed the older women in the church, the church mothers as they were called in some places, always gravitated toward me and always asked me if I knew whether there was a calling on my life. They told me there was, but I never quite believed it as a child. Then, when I started reading the Bible, it made so much sense to me. When I would expound upon it, people would ask me where I learned it — and I’d tell them it just came to me.
SDR: Where do you go when you die?
PN: As the scriptures teach us, heaven is our home and this is about eternal life. It’s not a physical body — because as my physical body turns to ashes, I do believe strongly that my soul goes back to be with God. Our soul is at the center of who we really are…. I believe hell is really separation from God. So, I do believe there is a place for those who have chosen not to be in the presence of God and accept God’s providence; they are in a place away from God. Whether it is fire and brimstone with the kind of torments that is sometimes described is up for debate, but I do believe there is a place out of the presence of God which is a dark place.