On Dec. 27, 2023, West Virginia defeated North Carolina by a score of 30-10 in the Duke's Mayo Bowl. The college football game was played at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.
After the game – because it was the Duke's Mayo Bowl – West Virginia head coach Neal Brown received a mayonnaise bath rather than the traditional sports dousing of Gatorade.
Moments after the mayonnaise bath, Daniel Burbank, an anchor and reporter for WCHS-TV in Charleston, West Virginia, posted a screenshot of a humorous Facebook post continuing the riff.
"This is a real statement from the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia," Burbank said.
The Facebook post declared that "putting mayo on pepperoni rolls is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord."
— Daniel Burbank (@DanielBurbankTV) December 28, 2023
As Burbank said, the Facebook post in the screenshot was labeled as coming from the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia. It read as follows:
It’s come to our attention that during tonight’s Duke’s Mayo Bowl, in which WVU competed and won, sports commentators were seen putting Duke’s Mayo on pepperoni rolls. Let it be known that putting mayo on pepperoni rolls is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord. Those who perpetrate this heinous act have committed a mortal sin which can only be forgiven by special dispensation from the clergy of West Virginia. Clergy are permitted to withhold absolution until proper contrition is made — either by burning a couch or making a pilgrimage to the Mothman statue.
This applies only to those who have put mayo on pepperoni rolls. The use of Miracle Whip is unforgivable.
The humorous post about mayonnaise and pepperoni rolls genuinely did originate from an official Facebook page managed by the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia.
The post included a picture of a moment from the football game in which ESPN broadcasters Matt Barrie and Dan Mullen were seen squeezing Duke's Mayo bottles to add mayonnaise to pepperoni rolls – West Virginia's official state food.
We reached out by email to ask the church about the post's popularity. In response, we immediately received an automatically sent reply from Rev. Matthew Cowden that said he was "away from emails during the Christmas season," and that he would only be available for "emergencies."
A check of Cowden's Facebook posts showed that he had hours earlier posted of the pepperoni-rolls issue, "Our Priests of The Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia are standing by to absolve contrite, repentant sinners. Lay down your mayo, my child, and receive the Lord’s mercy."
We later received another response from Cowden. "Yes, this post is us. This is how we pepperoni roll," he wrote. "We have some of the most talented and creative people in the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia and this is an excellent example of the interpretive crossover between church, culture, and humor that our folks do. This particular gem was brought to us by the Rev. Canon Chad Slater and the Rev. Canon Jordan Trumble on staff with the Diocese."
In regard to the attention the post had received, Cowden told us that he and other clergy were "pleasantly surprised":
We were pleasantly surprised by the great response to this post, and yet the Church forms us to trust in the movements of the Holy Spirit, even and especially when she surprises us. It’s been great to share the Church’s talent and fun spirit with so many people. Come for the jokes, stay for the Jesus.