It was reported yesterday that a church in Charlotte, NC was in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. WBTV reported that the controversy started when an email went out to congregation members of Freedom House Church requesting that “only white people” serve as greeters. This in itself is shocking, but what is even more shocking is who the letter was written from.
Pastor Makeda Pennycooke is herself an African-American woman and was planning for the fall, one of the church’s busiest seasons. “We anticipate having an increase in the number of people visiting and attending Freedom House over the next few weeks,” Pennycooke said in the email, “We are continuing to work to bring our racial demographic pendulum back to mid-line, so we would like to ask that only white people be on the front doors.” She went on to say that “first impressions matter” and that they only want the “best of the best on the front doors.” Pennycooke is not the senior pastor by the way.
This situation is offensive on so many levels. I can’t imagine being told that I could no longer serve as a greeter because of the color of my skin. The obvious bait and switch approach of trying to fool white people is appalling as well. But stepping aside from the racial issue, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard of pastors wanting to feature only the “best of the best” in roles of greeters, ushers and the like. First impressions do matter – to some. But the classic question comes to mind: what would Jesus do?
Jesus wasn’t too keen on the idea of “good first impressions.” Remember, he hung out with smelly fisherman, loathed tax collectors and prostitutes. Imagine a church with those people serving as greeters.
This is just another symptom of a growing problem among churches of our life time. Somewhere down the road, someone “discovered” that many people didn’t attend church because it wasn’t “cool” or “professional” enough. You’ll have to look hard to find a church today that doesn’t have its own logo when the symbol of the cross was once enough. Many churches go out of their way not to “look” like a church too. Pastors serve more like CEOs than shepherds. Even in the story above, the church contacted its PR firm on how to get out of the debacle. Did they really need someone else to tell them that they needed to apologize?
For the record, it was also reported that an apology email letter was sent out within 24 hours of the first letter stating: “The pastors have been meeting with staff and church members to confirm their commitment to diversity and to ensure nothing like this happens again…Freedom House believes in a diverse relationship within its membership, reflecting the larger community in which the church resides, doing life together as a church representative of everyone – culturally, ethnically, economically and generationally.”
Anyone else skeptical?