A Baptist church in South Carolina plans to remove a hand-carved statue of Jesus Christ because some congregants believe it's too "Catholic" for their place of worship.

The hand-carved 2m tall statue and accompanying reliefs depicting scenes from Christ's life have been displayed outside Red Bank Baptist Church in Lexington for a decade.

But in a letter to the artist, Pastor Jeff Wright said the art would be removed this week.

"We have discovered that there are people that view the art as Catholic in nature," Wright wrote in the letter to Delbert Baker jnr. A friend of Baker's posted the letter on Facebook.

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Wright wrote that the statue and reliefs bring into question "the theology and core values of Red Bank Baptist Church".

The letter said Baker had until today to remove the art if he wanted to keep it. If not, it would be destroyed.

The dispute is a symptom of a larger "dysfunction" in the Southern Baptist Convention, said Bill Leonard, a professor of Baptist studies at Wake Forest University.

"Almost week to week there's another incident in which southern Baptists portray themselves ... having convictions that look like bias and prejudice in the larger culture," Leonard said. "The bias is so deep that they even think they have the wrong Jesus in front of their church."

In his own letter responding to Wright, Baker explained his vision of the art, saying it was meant to show Red Bank Baptist had a focus on Christian outreach.

"This is why Christ is represented as though he is stepping outside of the building, not just confined to the idleness of inner walls," Baker wrote in the letter, which his friend also posted on Facebook. "Under each arm, the reliefs depict scriptural and historical events that we as Christians believe represent the life of Christ."

- AP