Lerone Martin, an assistant professor of American Religious History at Eden Theological Seminar in St. Louis is speaking out against Creflo Dollar for remarks he made during his June 5 sermon telling visitors to return to Bishop Eddie Long’s church no matter what he did.
Dollar was working to discourage people from leaving New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia to join his church, World Changers. “If you’re from that church then you know I’m talking about, you trying to join here, I don’t want you to join here. You need to go and join where you’re supposed to be,” Dollar said.
The Open Letter is as follows:
Dear Rev. Dollar,
I hope this letter finds you well. I know you are very busy, so I won’t take up much of your time. I recently watched your sermon from last Sunday when you addressed the Eddie Long case. I commend you on your adamant calls for forgiveness. Love and forgiveness are indeed characteristics that all should seek to cultivate.
However I fear your comments on Sunday (particularly those addressed to visitors from New Birth), conflated two very important, yet distinctive issues: forgiveness and accountability.
You see, Long’s case was not simply, as you suggest, a “wreck” or a car “accident,” but a case of DUI: Driving/Pastoring under the influence of unchecked power and accountability. This continues to be a historic problem with commercial celebrity preachers, and given your status and peer group, I’m sure you know this all too well.
Long’s move from adamant public denial to private settlement left no way for onlookers and members alike to obtain an account of what exactly happened. They have been left in the dark as to whether their shepherd indeed has an ongoing problem.
Therefore, individuals who have departed New Birth or are wavering in their commitments to the same are not necessarily withholding forgiveness nor questioning the embattled preacher’s call/vocation or if he is indeed heaven-bound as you mentioned. Rather, like any good parent, many are just concerned with one simple question: Are my children safe in the presence of this trusted authority?
You mentioned that those who left New Birth were hypocritically holding Reverend Long to a higher standard for his recent (to use your words) “wreck.” Actually the reverse is true. They are simply seeking to hold Reverend Long to the same level of accountability and transparency as other public servants who work closely with our children. Rather schoolteachers, YMCA childcare counselors/providers, or local babysitters simply want to make sure that our children will be safe in the presence of such authorities and role models. As a parent I’m sure you understand this sentiment.
You emphatically directed members of New Birth not to join your church but to return and support their pastor. Perhaps you did this in the spirit of looking out for your friend and clerical colleague. But view this as a parent Reverend Dollar:
Would you send YOUR kids back to a summer camp where one of the key officials was shrouded in the “wreckage” of sexual abuse? Or would you keep your kids home that summer?
Would you send YOUR kids back to a mentoring program where the leading mentor privately settled his sexual abuse “wreck” out of court for millions of dollars? Or would you cover your babies and run for safety?
Would YOU continue to unquestionably financially and otherwise support a non-profit organization where the power structure was clouded in a questionable history of inappropriate sexual contact with children? Or would you seek to place your family’s treasures, time, and talents elsewhere?
Would YOU tell your catholic neighbors to send their children back to the same parish and priest that allowed children to be sexually abused? Would you tell them its only a “wreck?” Or would you tell them to find another church home?
Those who left New Birth came to you hungry for the bread of healing, safety, and community; unfortunately you offered them the stone of reckless authority by giving them guidance that you yourself would not follow were you in their shoes.
Those who have been affected by this storm are not scapegoat refugees, but bystanders who have been deeply wounded by the wreckage of sexual abuse. I hope you will publicly reconsider your stance and comments.
Always praying for the guidance and courage of the clergy,
Lerone A. Martin, PhD
What do you think? Do you agree with him or not?