Trent Somes: Activist Pastor in July 4th Gettysburg Encounter No Stranger to Controversy - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Trent Somes: Activist Pastor in July 4th Gettysburg Encounter No Stranger to Controversy

In a screenshot from trentsomes.com, Pastor Trent Somes can be seen in undated pictures visiting the Gettysburg Eternal Peace Light Memorial, arriving at his new church home, and actively participating in demonstrations.

 

*** UPDATE ***

Rev. Trent Somes has been dismissed from his position at First United Methodist Church in Hanover, PA.  Somes made the announcement earlier this week in a series of posts on social media. Janelle Walker — Director of Communication for the Susquehanna Conference of the United Methodist Church — confirmed the accuracy of Somes’ announcement and passed along a statement from the congregation. Walker declined to provide specific details, saying the final decision to dismiss Somes was made by the Staff/Pastor Parish Relations Committee of the Hanover congregation. Walker then added, “What we can say is that we respect Trent’s passion for social justice and that it was such a great honor to serve with him in ministry. We pray for Trent’s success in the future.”

First Hanover United Methodist Church Public Statement regarding Trent Somes:
“With heavy heart we share the news that First United Methodist Church of Hanover has decided to part ways with pastoral intern Trent Somes. Trent’s public activism has brought a spotlight to our congregation, exposing the same deep political and racial divisions and distrusts currently being suffered by our nation. Our congregation has healing and learning to do.

“Due to the ongoing controversy within the congregation and community we cannot guarantee the stable healthy learning environment for Trent expected of us by Wesley Theological Seminary. We have negotiated a severance package that will assist Trent with his transition and wish him well in his future studies and service to God’s Church.”

 

*   *   *   END UPDATE  *   *   *

 

“Hi, I’m Trent and I’m a pretty stereotypical millennial. I love Starbucks, travel, social media and smoking tobacco pipes with my friends. And in this photo I am holding an ‘assault shotgun.’” (Trent Somes III on Instagram circa Nov., 2016)

The (Libertarian) Party must develop consistent and welcoming messaging… invest heavily in youth outreach efforts… invest in strategy research… invest in staff empowerment. I’ll commit to attempting all of those things. (Trent Somes III declaring his candidacy for the position of Vice-Chair for the Libertarian National Committee ~ The Liberty Herald May 19, 2017)

“I knew that I was privileged, but I did not know how privileged I am, nor did I ever have the chance to see the full effects of my upbringing compared to those that didn’t have it. This I confess to you and I ask sincere forgiveness from God and those that I did not attempt to help in my time of ignorance.” (Trent Somes’ sermon Valuing Justice over ‘Peace’.” Aug. 25, 2019)

“Jesus was an incarcerated brown guy who was executed by the government how are Christians missing the connection between the gospel narrative and #BlackLivesMatter” (Trent Somes on Twitter June 20, 2020)

“One of my life goals is to be quoted in the @washingtonpost. This is not how I imagined it going down.” (Trent Somes on Twitter July 5, 2020)

“This Is Not How I Imagined It Going Down.”

Perhaps the last thing anyone expected to happen in Gettysburg on July 4th, was a confrontation between a Methodist minister and a testy gun-toting throng.

Gettysburg, PA July 4, 2020: Two patriots with long gun walk through Gettysburg. They and dozens more were in Gettysburg on July 4th because of a ANTIFA/BLM threat to burn flags in the Gettysburg National Cemetery. credit BPE Staff

Two patriots with long guns patrol the streets of Gettysburg. (BPE Staff)

The town was already on edge because of an online threat, ostensibly from ANTIFA/BLM. But when Pastor Trent Somes of Hanover, PA. encountered a group of “patriots” on guard against a potential flag-burning protest in the National Cemetery, his decision to wear a Black Lives Matter t-shirt while walking about the cemetery was met with anger and some pointed questions.

Somes told the Washington Post he was minding his own business and simply visiting the grave of a Civil War ancestor, when he was encircled by dozens of bikers, militiamen and veterans. Law enforcement eventually intervened and – after getting Somes away from the hostile crowd – proceeded to ask him to deescalate the situation and suggested he leave the cemetery. So he left, without a punch being thrown or a shot being fired.

Later that day, Somes posted his encounter on YouTube, with the title: Man in BLM shirt surrounded by white supremacists at Gettysburg.

As of this writing, Somes’ video has 1,500 comments and nearly 90,000 views, even though to the best of our knowledge he has provided no evidence that the people who surrounded him were “white supremacists.”

In the aftermath of his July 4 encounter, Somes returned to his pastoral duties in nearby Hanover. The bikers returned to Gettysburg this past weekend to enjoy a country ride and kick back with a beer.

As noted in our previous story, when we reached out to Somes – both by phone and email – to ask about the encounter, he respectfully declined, saying he is presently refusing all press requests. Absent his help, we started looking elsewhere. In the process, we discovered some apparent inconsistencies in Somes’ Gettysburg story and beyond that, learned even more surprising facts about Trent Somes.

Who is Trent Somes?

Depending on where you look, you’ll likely come up with a different answer to the question “Who is Trent Somes?”.

If you comb through Tinder circa 2018, for example, you’ll find a fairly humorous, razor-sharp Somes in his Marine dress blue uniform.

More recently, however, in his church biography, he forgoes the dress blues in favor of a white clerical robe.

Somes readily offered to the patriots he encountered that he is a Methodist minister. He currently serves as a Pastoral Intern at First United Methodist Church in Hanover, PA.

It’s a position he has occupied for roughly two weeks.

A screenshot of Trent Somes III Tinder profile as it appeared in the April 3, 2018 edition of Task and Purpose.

A screenshot of Trent Somes III Tinder profile as it appeared in the April 3, 2018 edition of Task & Purpose.

Somes’ official church biography states that Trent was born in Montgomery, Alabama, to an educator and a career Air Force pilot. After his father’s retirement from the service, the family settled in the suburbs of Pittsburgh. Upon graduating from high school in 2017, Trent enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve and continues to serve with 3/25 Kilo as an infantry rifleman.

“He is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College,” states the church biography, “where he attended from 2017-2020 studying Political Science and Religion. Trent was awarded for having a distinct Christian influence on his peers and having the highest GPA in the Religious Studies Department. While in college, he was active in the Interfaith Leadership Club, Beta Theta Pi, and political activities on campus and in the Washington community. He is an Eagle Scout and is still involved in Scouting.”

The bio also says that Somes plans to pursue his Master’s of Divinity at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. this coming fall.

Somes’ church biography includes such standard fare as his personal interests and musical likes. Missing, though, are some of the more peculiar aspects of Somes’ political ventures.

In a Facebook post from January 13, 2017, Somes shared with his friends that, in 2014 (at age 15), he had become a Foundation Member of the Libertarian Party.

A September 2018 story in the Observer-Reporter notes that, by age 17, Somes was identified as one of the youngest Libertarian leaders in the United States.

Somes’ rise in the Libertarian Party may be confirmed by a brief story in The Liberty Herald (May 19, 2017). There, Libertarians had a chance to consider Somes’ youth-oriented platform, as he sought election to the position of Vice-Chairman of the Libertarian National Committee.

What is strange about Somes’ rapid rise in the Libertarian community and his common-sense approach to addressing issues of concern to party members, is a rather jarring Instagram post from mid-November of 2016.

This post (which is attributed to Trent Somes III) does not currently appear on Somes’ Instagram page but is accessible in the archives of an internet aggregator.

The post reads in full:

“Hi, I’m Trent and I’m a pretty stereotypical millennial. I love Starbucks, travel, social media and smoking tobacco pipes with my friends.

“And in this photo I am holding an ‘assault shotgun’.

“We don’t have guns with retractable stocks, shortened barrels and pistol grips so that we can shoot a squirrel. We have them so when a fascist wins the office with the most power in the entire world and then starts making Muslim registries, forming internment camps, violating our privacy, even further, closing the borders, giving more power to police while making them less accountable, etc., we can defend our fellow citizens.

“If you care at all about the people I am talking about, go buy a gun and learn how to use it. Now isn’t the time to wear a wristband in support of people who will be oppressed if these policies are enacted, or change your Facebook profile picture, or send out some supportive tweets. Now is the time to prepare to defend the life, liberty, and property of your neighbor.

“I pledge to my friends who are Muslim, refugees, immigrants, marginalized, or those who are other wise genuinely scarred by the rhetoric coming from our highest office: I will defend you. #libertyordeath

It’s not known if this particular post is an earnest call to action or if it was meant to be a joke. Or if it had anything to do with Somes’ losing bid to replace then-embattled Libertarian Party Vice-Chairman Arvin Vohra. (Vohra lost his re-election bid to Alex Merced the following year.)

A cropped screenshot of Trent Somes III Instagram post from November 2016 as found on the internet humor aggregator Me.Me

A screenshot of Trent Somes III Instagram post from November, 2016 as found on the internet humor and comment aggregator site me.me

Turning To The Left

In college, Somes abandoned the Libertarian Party in favor of the Democrats. As a sophomore, he was elected to the Washington County Democratic Committee; he then ran a second unsuccessful campaign in 2019 – this one to serve as a city councilman in Washington, PA.

There appears to be nothing out of the ordinary about the city council campaign (which Somes says on Twitter he only lost by about 100 votes) save for a somewhat mysterious, “spuriously” signed letter the Observer-Reporter received in April 2019.

The letter questioned Somes’ residency eligibility.

After speaking with Somes and the county elections director (who confirmed that Somes was indeed eligible to run), the Observer-Reporter tracked down the letter’s supposed author – another Washington & Jefferson student.

The flummoxed student maintained that – while he/she did indeed know Trent Somes – they had nothing to do with the residency challenging missive, adding, “If you find out who the real person behind the letter is, please let me know as using my name like this could lead to action from me and my staff.”

The Observer-Reporter noted that Somes was not cc’d on the computer-generated eligibility letter.

It isn’t clear if the real author of the letter was ever discovered.

Studied The Bible in New And Profound Ways

Time doesn’t allow a thorough examination of Somes’ spiritual journey, though readers would do well to carefully examine his sermons in their entirety. But in Somes own words, “I served under a very progressive Pastor and studied the Bible in new and profound ways.” (Twitter feed from June 16, 2020)

These “new and profound ways” Somes mentions appear to strongly influence his worldview and likely continued to inform his vocation. Students of church history will recognize this phenomenon as a return to what was known as The Social Gospel, which peaked in the mid-19th – early 20th centuries.

“The reality is that radical love is divisive. The reality is, that if we truly love our neighbors and seek justice for them, it is ridiculously divisive. It is so countercultural. It is so radical. And if we are to read the gospel in its context, Jesus’ message of love used some of the most radical examples possible…”

(Trent Somes ~ Valuing Justice Over “Peace” – Aug 15, 2019)

Trent Somes at a BLM demonstration May 30, 2020.
(Screenshot from Twitter)

Since graduating this spring from Washington & Jefferson, Somes has transitioned into the ministry, even as he has continued his political activism – participating in at least two Black Lives Matter demonstrations in the Pittsburgh area.

Somes also traveled at least twice to Gettysburg during the first week of July, just days after starting his new church job. Both trips to Gettysburg occurred as law enforcement and patriots were gathered to deal with the purported ANTIFA/BLM flag-burning protest.

As reported in our earlier story, Somes’ July 4 “surprise” encounter with the well-armed patriots took place in same location where he was July 3 – taking pictures of well-armed patriots.

In the aforementioned series of tweets from June 16, 2020, Somes candidly muses about his rapid political evolution, touching briefly on his social justice orientation and being a proponent of open borders; his stance against the drug war; and his support for BLM and LGBTQ rights.

He concludes this thread by saying, “… I think some of my shift was a reaction to an increasingly militant and authoritarian conservative faction. But I’m curious to know if others that have had shifts since the last Presidential election have thought about why, because I’m not wholly convinced on a particular reason why I moved so quickly.”

* * * * *

Many questions remain about Trent Somes’ encounter with the “Patriots” on July 4th at the Gettysburg National Cemetery – some deal with apparent contradictions which only he can answer. Once again, we invite Trent to sit down with us to talk about that day and about the issues that have surfaced as a result of our investigation.

(Editors Note: If you are one of the patriots who participated in the July 4 dialogue with Trent Somes in Gettysburg we’d like to hear from you too.  Please drop us a line here.)

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About the author

Anthony C. Hayes

Anthony C. Hayes is an actor, author, raconteur, rapscallion and bon vivant. A one-time newsboy for the Evening Sun and professional presence at the Washington Herald, Tony's poetry, photography, humor, and prose have also been featured in Smile, Hon, You're in Baltimore!, Destination Maryland, Magic Octopus Magazine, Los Angeles Post-Examiner, Voice of Baltimore, SmartCEO, Alvarez Fiction, and Tales of Blood and Roses. If you notice that his work has been purloined, please let him know. As the Good Book says, "Thou shalt not steal." Contact the author.
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