It's Time to Stop Giving Black Christian Leaders a Pass

by Makeda Vaughn

As a pastor’s daughter and granddaughter, I have always eavesdropped on conversations about church mess that I wasn’t supposed to hear. As an adult, this has extended to news about prominent public Christian figures. Lately, there have been a growing number of scandalous stories on black religious leaders and gospel artists. It seems that black church leaders are just letting it all hang out. (Literally.)

When it comes to celebrity news and gossip, it’s hard for most people not to become absorbed in the juicy tales, for which they then crucify whatever celebrity made the mistake. However, I find it amusing and disturbing that many of these people are ultra forgiving (and nonjudgmental) when it’s a gospel artist or church leader who made the “mistake”.

When the recent news came out about singer James Fortune striking his wife with a bar stool, I was extremely disappointed. I enjoyed listening to his radio show on my way home from work and admired his story. But when I found out that he had previously been convicted of domestic abuse charges, I knew I couldn’t support anything that had to do with him moving forward. Shockingly, so many others didn’t feel the same. I read the comments shared on a gospel group’s Facebook page (which is now removed) and couldn’t believe the debate that took place by black Christians. Some of the people were defending Fortune by saying, “He’s not perfect,” or “That battle with the flesh is real. We should pray for him,” or “We all make mistakes,” and my favorite “Who are we to judge? Only God has that right.” Seriously?! I bet these were not their sentiments about Ray Rice and Chris Brown. It seems like some of these “loving Christians” are more critical on celebrities than they are of their own religious leaders. That’s backwards.

While no one is perfect—Christian or not—we need to start holding our faith leaders more accountable for when they behave in truly reprehensible ways. It is time for those who are active in, and passionate about, the black church to think about our own contributions to the negative hype. It is time for us to hold our black religious leaders responsible for their actions.

Being held accountable isn’t dismissing the possibility of forgiveness and second chances. I’m all for that and have been for some past leaders that made mistakes, confessed with an apology, and stepped down from leadership for a while. Now that’s humbling yourself and pushing ego aside. I can handle that. But when we constantly make excuses for these leaders and do not require them to face any consequences, it sends the wrong message to the masses.

Mixed signals translate into hypocrisy. Hypocrisy turns the ones looking for truth far away from the church. Whenever something within the black Christian community makes the news you can always count on someone to say, “This is why people leave the church,” or “This is why people don’t go to church anymore.” And it’s true: Who would want to listen to a sermon on what they shouldn’t do, and then see the same leaders act the fool after service is done? It’s confusing and frustrating.

In some churches, unwed pregnant women are required to cease serving (the choir, usher board, anywhere you will be seen) and publicly ask the church for forgiveness. So young unwed pregnant women are held accountable for the act of “sin,” but the leaders aren’t? Do you see how crazy this sounds?!

Leaders, regardless of the institution, used to be held to a higher standard. These days, it looks like any and every pastor or deacon can commit adultery, do drugs, or abuse their partners and face no consequences. The bar must be set higher. No excuses. Here are some things we can do to help turn things around in our own church communities:
  1. Know what’s going on in your church. Be an active member. Attend church conferences and business meetings. You will learn more about what’s actually taking place in your church. This is also the time to bring up concerns that you may have and propose new ideas. 
  2. Be sure you know the protocol of removing a pastor, minister, and other church leaders. In many churches, leaders can be voted out of position. Know how it’s done, what the removal process is like, and what kind of legal action must also be taken. 
  3. Practice what you preach. We go to church to commune with others with our beliefs, as well as to learn how to better apply spiritual principles to living our lives. We have to be willing to hold ourselves up to the same high standard we hold our pastors and other church staff to.
  4. Talk with others. When church members communicate with each other, it provides opportunities to share experiences and also seek guidance. If you’re not happy with something, talking about it may help you realize you’re not the only one. And together, you and other members can take collective action. 
  5. Understand your power as a member. In the same way that you have the power to request church leaders be removed, you also have the power to remove yourself from a church that insists on being “messy.” 
I miss the days of the fearless old mothers in the church. They shared their criticism with the pastor; they didn’t hold back because they believed and cared about the church. They had true backbone. That backbone is dwindling.

For those who feel that perhaps I’m being unrealistic with wanting leaders to walk the walk they preach every week, then maybe the pastor should preach something different. If you believe that it’s not humanly possible to follow all the rules all the time, maybe the rules should be changed. I’m not the person to debate what should be in the Bible or church doctrine or anything of that topic.

I just ask that a leader leads and stay true to his word… and ultimately, God’s Word.

Makeda Vaughn is a blogger. You can find more of her writing on her website She can also be found on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.