This story is trending today on the interwebs.
A pastor of a church in Charlotte, N.C. recently took heat for requesting that only white people serve as greeters on Sunday morning. Some members of Freedom House Church in north Charlotte expressed outrage after receiving an email from their pastor Makeda Pennycooke asking people of color not to serve as greeters at the 9 a.m. services, according to a report in huffingtonpost.com.
Read the whole, brief article here.
Now, here comes the really, really odd part. When I heard about this I expected three things: 1) The pastor who did this would be a white man 2) the pastor who did this would be middle aged (50ish). 3) The pastor who did this was probably Southern Baptist (my tribe).
But no. I could not have been more wrong (teach me something about assumptions, huh!) Pastor Makeda Pennycooke is none of those things. Look at her–a young black woman and her church, as best I can tell from its website, is not a SBC (or whatever the new title we gave ourselves no one uses) church.
Was her email smart? No. It was not. But is she a racist? I adventure to say, no she is not a racist. My sense on this is that she read one of the many books out there on ‘greeter’ and ‘welcome’ ministries (I have a few of these in my library and they all kind of say the same things) that talk about first impressions and all. The church is clearly a diverse, ethnically rich congregation (I mean, for crying out loud, the executive pastor is a young black woman! Look at her!) so I don’t think her motives were racist.
What were her motives? I don’t know, but probably she is trying to attract more of something. Maybe the church has seen its white membership decline and she is trying to get some of it back or perhaps as things currently stand there are no white people on the greeter teams and so she wants to maybe balance that a bit. I don’t know exactly.
What I do know is that she made a mistake and somehow the media (The Huffington Post) jumped on it and now it is a full blow debacle for that congregation. I feel sorry for her and the lead pastors because I can promise you, from experience, this is not what they want to be dealing with–It is no fun when the news media show up and stick the camera in your face and ask you questions designed to embarrass you and make you look stupid.
Our culture is so hyper-sensitive right now to race issues that we can’t seem to let any of it go. It is sad that racism is a part of our lives, but I don’t think this woman or this church is racist. I think she probably just said something the wrong way in an email that went to the wrong people. We get so transfixed on these types of things that are probably nothing more than miscommunication and we neglect to talk about real racism–the disproportionate number of death row inmates who are people of color, the poverty rate amongst many people of color, discrimination in education and law enforcement and much more. The real problems in our country are complex but that would be hard to focus on. It is easier to throw sticks and feel outrage and then stick our head back in the sand.