Back in 2013, Oxygen premiered Preachers of LA, a new kind of reality TV show that gave the world a glimpse into the lives of several prominent preachers. Fast forward to today and the success of the show has lead to its first spin-off, Preachers of Detroit. The new series, which premiered a few weeks ago, features a new cast of prominent preachers from the Detroit area who promise to keep viewers tuned in every week. The cast includes, Bishop Charles Ellis, Bishop-elect Clarence Langston, Bishop Corletta Vaughn, Pastor David Bullock, Pastor Don Shelby, Pastor Timothy Allen and Evangelist Dorinda Clark-Cole. Just in case you’ve missed out on the first few episodes, here are a few things we’ve learned since the show’s premiere:
1. Men of God Are Flawed Too
I honestly don’t even know where to start with this one. Wait, I know! Let’s start with Pastor David Bullock, the fearless activist of the show. Bullock was raised in Detroit and is a man who is determined to make a difference in his hometown. As the youngest in the group, he also doesn’t mind face-to-face confrontation with some of Detroit’s most influential and more seasoned leaders. The first couple of episodes featured Bullock coordinating a rally to bring awareness to the voting rights of the citizens of Detroit. So far, so good, right? Oh, but wait. It gets better.
Although Bullock means well, sometimes his communication with other cast members can come across as condescending and, one might even say, a bit disrespectful. For example, he referred to other leaders as “ignorant” and out of touch with the community because they no longer live in the actual city of Detroit. All of this comes to a head during a “pow wow” organized by Bishop Charles Ellis—yes, that Bishop Ellis, pastor of megachurch Greater Grace Temple and the presiding bishop of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World— who serves as the peacemaker of the show. The entire cast attended the meeting in an attempt to get all of the leaders on the same page. But, despite the bishop’s efforts, the conversation quickly turned sour among the group, especially between Pastor Bullock and Bishop-elect Langston whose views on ministry and leadership tend to vary. After a couple more encounters full of insults and egos, Langston finally set up one more meeting in an attempt to apologize for his part in the conflict. Eventually they both realized that they have the same goals, which is to find a way to serve the people of Detroit, and all was well.
2. Males Aren’t the Only Ones Against Females in Leadership Roles in the Church
Bishop Corletta Vaughn, the leading lady of the show, is Detroit’s first African-American female bishop, and as you can imagine, her role in the church hasn’t come without a price, including backlash from male leaders in the church and conflict in her marriage (We’ll get to that part later). But, let’s be honest here. The debate on whether or not it’s wrong for females to serve as leaders in the church is nothing new. Therefore, that storyline certainly wouldn’t have been enough to hold our attention or keep those television ratings flowing.
But when the show sheds light on the opinions of other women who also disagree with the idea of females serving as bishops? See, now you have our attention, and this is where Evangelist Dorinda Clark-Cole comes into the picture. You might have heard of her thanks to her huge success as a member of the Grammy award winning Clark Sisters. Well, during the show, we also learn that Clark-Cole is a woman who firmly believes that “it’s a man’s church” and the idea of a woman serving as a bishop is “inappropriate.” Believe it or not, Clark-Cole is not alone. In fact, the wife and daughters of Pastor Don Shelby also agree with this sentiment. We were able to witness this heated debate during a women’s luncheon that was organized by Chrisette Ellis, wife of Bishop Ellis. (Can you tell that the Ellis family is all about unity?) However, the spirited debate came to a head when the topic of the “S-word” hit the table.
It was time to talk about submission.
Although all of the women agree that the term “submission” means something different for each woman, depending on your biblical beliefs and how you’re raised, Pastor Shelby’s daughters were particularly passionate about their stance on a woman’s place in leadership. One of the sisters even went so far as to say she probably wouldn’t vote for a female president because women should not hold those kinds of leadership roles. Yes, you read that correctly. I’m sure as time goes on, we will see how these views change or stay the same. Personally, I’m all about change.
3. There’s More Than Meets the Eye
By now we know that all pastors have a story. Sure, you can find them in the pulpit on Sunday morning inspiring the masses and saving souls, but that is just one part of who they are and where they’ve been. In fact, many of these same leaders are from the very streets that they preach about.
Let’s take Bishop-elect Langston for example.
Today, you’ll find the Detroit native rolling in his gorgeous white Bentley and living the lavish life in his beautiful home along with his wife and kids, but what many people don’t know is that Langston has a story filled with drugs, violence and even suicidal thoughts. His biological mother was murdered when he was very young and he eventually chose to embrace the streets of Detroit and live a life of selling drugs and violence. During the premiere episode, he opened up about trying to kill himself by holding a gun up to his head and pulling the trigger multiple times. Fortunately, the gun never went off. And as time went on, Langston eventually received his calling and is now one of the most influential pastors in Detroit.
Like Langston, Bishop Vaughn knows all about having only certain aspects of her life on public display, while there are other things that go on behind closed doors that only you and a spouse struggle with. As if the stress of being a female bishop isn’t enough, Vaughn is also dealing with the current challenges of her marriage. Her husband, Gilbert, actually resides in two states, Michigan and North Carolina, and has been traveling back and forth between the states for more than 11 years. However, lately he’s been spending more and more time in North Carolina which doesn’t sit well with the bishop and has caused a huge strain on their marriage. Hopefully, the couple will find a solution in a future episode.
4. Preachers in the Black Community Still Have a Lot of Influence
One thing that I have noticed throughout all of these episodes is the need for preachers to be involved in major issues affecting the community. Once upon a time, a community—especially a black community—wouldn’t make any major decisions without the input of the local church leadership. I think we can all agree that times have changed, but today’s preachers still have a lot of influence within their communities.
A great example of this was when Bullock was coordinating his rally. He knew that in order for his agenda to change the local voting rights to be a success, he would have to take to the streets of Detroit and reach out to people from all walks of life, including the ‘hood, so he enlisted Pastor Mo, a friend and colleague who was a product of the streets to help recruit attendees for the rally. Sure, Bullock started receiving some traction using the grassroots method, but he knew that in order for the rally to be a success, he still needed more support of other local pastors in the area, particularly Bishop Ellis. Unfortunately Ellis was unable to attend the rally, but it doesn’t change the fact that his influence, like so many other pastors across the nation, is unavoidable.
5. It’s Refreshing to See Positive Images of African Americans for a Change
Regardless of how you feel about reality TV, you can’t deny the positive aspects of Preachers of Detroit. Not only does the show create awareness around the issues that have been haunting the city for years, such as poverty and violence, but its national platform also showcases positive images of the black family unit.
One relationship that is featured during every episode is the father-daughter bond among the pastors and their daughters. We get to witness Pastor Shelby taking his youngest daughter, Amber, on her first date as a way to teach her a lesson on chivalry and self-respect. Towards the end of the date, Shelby gifts his daughter with an adorable teddy bear and a purity ring, which symbolizes her vow of abstinence until marriage.
Another great example is the fact that the majority of the cast are in long-term, committed relationships and support their spouses. Sure, each relationship is drastically different (please refer back to ladies’ conversation on submission), but what relationship isn’t? The bottom line is that viewers are able to see multiple African American Christian couples in long-lasting, monogamous relationships, which isn’t so common in today’s society. So far, all of the couples seem like they’re in it for the long-run. Then again, we still have several episodes to go, so I suppose we’ll have to stay tuned.
Be sure to come back next week for a recap of future episodes.