Black Church Leadership Gathering Excludes Women

This past Sunday in Miami, Bishop Paul S. Morton opened the Full Gospel’s ‘Generals of Faith’ event, Rebranding in the Body of Christ: The Ultimate Leader Shift, by announcing, “This room represents the movers and shakers of the kingdom.”

Yet there was not a single woman in the room.

According to the press release “by invitation only prominent new generation pastors and leaders filled a room…to interact and to integrate their ideas in bold, powerful and world changing topics.”

The special invite from Bishop J.W. Walker included only prominent black male pastors of larger congregations in the country—and I just have to ask: how can an all-male group possibly create strategies that will impact the “kingdom” and ultimately the world without including the voices of women clergy who labor (twice) as hard and are just as committed?

This event should have been called ‘General Men’s Conference: How to Set the Black Church Back Forty Years’.

This gathering was not about coming together to create new strategies for the church; it was not about social and political reform. This event was an exclusive gathering for black men to huddle in support of men’s ideas and agendas—a slap in the face to countless women who are called and committed to ministry and social transformation. 

Women contribute a huge amount in both attendance and participation within Christian congregations. But Bishop Walker’s group is implying that it is acceptable to take women’s financial contributions, gifts, and talents but is unacceptable to invite them to the table when strategizing for “ground breaking” change. In other words, they want everything women have to offer, except their opinions.

What kind of message does this send to the daughters and wives of these men? It bothers me that men admonish their daughters to be politically involved, but do not put this into practice in their own ministries. 

Sexism is alive and real. Men face racism, classism, and commercialism head on but are complicit in the fight against sexism. They would rather sit comfortably and bathe in their traditions filled with sexism. This attitude is problematic; it is the venom of the church. It condones women’s issues and voices being in the margins. This attitude screams selfishness and that male ideas and issues are priority. Gone are the days when patriarchy is pacified. And here I need to say it: your works are not commendable; they are shameful and irresponsible to the call of God.

Women’s voices are necessary for making strides for positive change in the church, and in the world. Think of women like Fannie Lou Hamer, whose Christian convictions inspired her to fight for voting rights. She didn’t let naysayers, police brutality or her poverty stricken upbringing stop her. Think also of Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, Bishop Yvette Flunder, and Pastor Susie Owens—all influential in areas of advocacy while still committed to ministry.

Women have been making changes in society, fearlessly and fiercely, for decades. With or without the laws and tradition on their side, women have effected social, political and spiritual change. The church has been slow to combat societal issues, and in black denominational bodies, when someone finally steps up to the plate, the male leaders resemble those of the civil rights era, expecting the women to be unequipped to march at the forefront when there would be no forefront without them. 

The Full Gospel denominational body believes that the faces and black bodies of women could not possibly fit the description of a general, chosen generation, or world leader and yet women walk and live in these capacities every day.

Are they really saying that Jarena LeeBishop Vashti McKenzieDr. Jackie McCulloughRev. Gina StewartPastor Claudette Copeland and all the other countless women who have given themselves fully to the call of ministry and service are to be applauded but not thought of as equally equipped to lead the “chosen generation”?

This is the weakness of The Black Church: gender oppression, inequality, and discrimination. The church cannot make moves to build the kingdom and impact the world if sexism is the standard and equality is preached but not practiced. 

When will women’s contributions to ministry be accepted as equal? When will male clergy take their voices seriously? Now is the time.

 

hazelcherry@yahoo.com'

Hazel Cherry [@laydeproclaimer] is an M.Div. Candidate at Howard University School of Divinity. She is a licensed minister in the Missionary Baptist denomination and plans to pursue a doctorate with a concentration in womanist and liberation theologies.