The congregation at Freedom House Church in Charlotte, North Carolina has a few bones to pick with their pastor, Makeda Pennycooke. Pennycooke sent an email asking that “only white people” stand at the front door to greet the congregation.
Apparently Pennycooke was trying to get some diversity at the front door, but the congregation isn’t buying it.
Carmen Thomas, who has attended and served at the church for the past two years, sent us the email. She was appalled.
“I was floored,” she recalled. “Like it was a jaw dropper. You can put a white face all over the front door. But when you come through those doors, you’re going to see African Americans, you’re gonna see Asians. You’re going to see people of color.”
In the email, Pastor Pennycooke reminds volunteers that fall is one of the busiest times of year for the church.
“We anticipate having an increase in the number of people visiting and attending Freedom House over the next few weeks,” Pastor Pennycooke says in the email.
She then says that “first impressions matter” and says the church wants “the best of the best on the front doors.”
“We are continuing to work to bring our racial demographic pendulum back to mid-line,” she continued in the email. “So we would like to ask that only white people be on the front doors.”
Thomas told WBTV she knew exactly what Pastor Pennycooke meant by that statement.
“Too black,” she said. “It wasn’t a conclusion that I drew. It was something I read.”
Pennycooke then acknowledges the request is a “sensitive situation” and said quality trumps quantity.
“We would rather have less greeters on the front door if it means that the few that we have will represent us the best,” Pastor Pennycooke wrote.
Thomas also told us that she’s been an active and engaged member of the church for more than two years. She feels race isn’t the only issue but also the church’s bottom line.
“Perhaps you believe that with a certain congregation that eventually your finances are going to run out because maybe we aren’t the moneymakers,” she said.
In a statement to WBTV a spokeswoman for the church confirms the email was sent out by Pastor Pennycooke, which reiterated that the pastor was attempting to have the greeters reflect diversity of the entire congregation. “However, she admitted it was a mistake to overemphasize any specific group and sent an apology email within 24 hours of the original email going out.”
A letter of apology was issued to “some” of the congregation from Pennycook and other senior pastors. The spokesperson also emphasised the church’s commitment to diversity. “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.”
But failed to mention it’s commitment to using tact.