There is a certain sect of Christians so uptight I doubt even the hand of God could loosen them up. Whenever any reality show, or excuse me, “docu-series,” related to the faith surfaces, there is uproar. These are the people who launch campaigns to cancel shows like Oxygen’s Preachers of LA or even the TV Land sitcom Soul Man. Needless to say, upon word of Lifetime’s Preach, which chronicles the lives of four "prophetesses" and their mentees, it’s not surprising to see charges that the women are “exploiting the gospel” and “making a mockery” of prophetic ministry and subsequent calls of its axing.
However, if you watch the series premiere, which airs on Friday at 10/9 C, you’ll see that while there may be showmanship (the series features both the "Beyoncé" and the "blue-eyed soul" of ministry), it’s more substance than spectacle. These women believe in their gifts – i.e. to see catastrophes like Hurricane Katrina before they happen or to bring back people from the dead. Whether or not you believe them is another story.
We spoke with the show's stars – Belinda Scott, Taketa Williams, Linda Roark, Kelly Crews – on sexism in the clergy, motivation to do the show, looming skepticism, and what Preach might do for millennials.
EBONY: Have you been met with sexism as you rose in your career and if so, was there any particular instance that stuck out to you? Like trying to break this “stain glass ceiling” as they refer to it on the show.
Linda: On several occasions, but in one particular was a Baptist man. I was just starting my ministry and I went out asking local churches if there were any extra chairs they would like to get rid of and the Baptist man had ask me what were they for, and as I began to tell him he immediately look at me and said women are not to suppose to preach. I began to tell him scriptures in the Bible, but he wasn't having. Needless to say I walked away without any chairs. But that didn't stop me I'm still preaching the gospel.
Dr. Belinda: About 15 years ago I started receiving letters from an unnamed source that was saying things like you shouldn't be in the pulpit, you shouldn't be in the pulpit, you shouldn't be in the pulpit. I pay no attention to the letters at first, but then they became very, very violent and saying that women shouldn't be doing this and they explained themselves. They didn't give a real name but they explained themselves as being "a Christian, a man of God," and this that and the other. I gave the letters over to the local police authorities who then turned them over to the FBI. Come to find out that it was an individual who really, really hated women in ministry and they handled it from there.
EBONY: What was your motivation to do the show?
Dr. Belinda: To be someone they can look up to say, “If Dr. Belinda can do it, then I can do it.” That's my personal motivation as well as my spiritual motivation. To see women encouraged. I don't just encourage women; I encourage men as well, men prophets and all of that. But it’s definitely to be an encouragement to people in life to be who they have been called to be, to be where they are supposed to be regardless of their gender.
Dr. Taketa: Initially, I shunned the idea of being a part of the reality show because of the stigmas that are associated with such type of work. However, I remembered a prophecy my husband gave me over 20 years now and he told me that my prophetic voice, not just my voice but my prophetic voice, my voice as a prophet would reach into Hollywood and I would begin to bless people with my gift. He told me that over 20 years ago.
Kelly: It took a while. It was a lot of praying and reading contracts. I just believe that people will be touched and that God will be glorified and that he will be able to portray us being his instruments in Earth.
EBONY: In the same way cast members of Preachers of L.A. were criticized, I imagine some church folks will feel a way about you doing reality TV. What do you say to say to those who might scrutinize your decision to do reality television?
Linda: I would just let them know everybody is entitled to their opinion, but that there opinion does dictate to what I know God is calling me to do and that is to take the gospel outside the four walls of the church.
Kelly: Well, I think that at this point I don't have to validate their opinion. I feel that God has given me the green light. I am here to please God and I am not here to please people. I was just telling another lady, I said when Nehemiah was doing his job in Earth and he was rebuilding the wall and people kept intimidating and trying to tell him he wasn't, you know, you are not supposed to do that or whatever. He looked at them and said why should I respond to the likes of you? That wasn't an arrogant answer. It was just that I am confident in who God has created me to be. I am choosing to live outside of the opinions of people and be who God has created me to be in the Earth.
EBONY: Do you have any specific advice to women who want to be ordained?
Dr. Belinda: Women in ministry are needed because they are passionate. We are like mothers many of us. We are nurturers. We are people who can be a lot more compassionate in a very male dominate society. I feel that it's very necessary for women to be in ministry. Women can counsel women that have issues that are private, that they may not want to share with their male pastor or their male evangelist or male prophet. We are necessary. We are part of the body of Christ and we are very very, I think we do a great job, I really do. I feel we do a very good job and so I would encourage her to go forth regardless of anything that she might hear. Or anything that anyone would say.
Dr. Taketa: Well the advice that I would give to any woman is to find that place in life that you can basically identify and being to grip your purpose. When you identify that place, get the passion in one with it. Despite what other people may think. Despite the opinions of man, find out what your purpose is. That's one of my roles as a prophetess. To help people find out what their purpose is and once they identify that purpose, gain that passion so you can ultimately find great fulfillment in your life.
Kelly: First of all, always carry yourself like a lady. You don't have to try to "be a man" or be overly aggressive. You can be a classy confident woman. If you look at examples in the Bible, you can be a Deborah, you can be an Ester and they will be very prominent in your position. I would just definitely advise for her to carry herself like the graceful classy woman that God has created her to be but also to be very relevant and very realistic and very down to Earth and touchable. Don't ever lose that place of being touchable with people because people will put more value in you if you are able to hug them and be touchable with them.
EBONY: Dr. Belinda, in the show you mention having visions of Hurricane Katrina. When you have such visions and you can't necessarily prevent them, does that ever kind of weigh on you emotionally?
Dr. Belinda: Usually when I get those kinds of visions I wake up literally feeling like I am drowning. Of course, I don't swim, I don't know how to swim. When I woke up, my husband said I kept saying "I am literally drowning." That's how it happens to me. I try my best to warn and to share and to deliver the messages that I receive by revelation. I know it sounds crazy but yes it does weigh heavily on me. It weighs tremendously on me and it one of those things that I just go to God and say God why show me these horrendous things? Why? Why? Yeah it does weigh on me deeply and it bothers me deeply. Yes it does.
EBONY: Dr. Taketa, in the pilot episode, you say you are compared to Beyoncé. What is it about you that brought on that comparison? What do your parishioners tell you?
Dr. Taketa: Over the years, I have heard people say that and what I gather out of that statement is that I am very courageous. I wear platinum blonde hair. I shake my hair a lot. I shake my head. It's just this body language. Body language speaks in volumes. People really associate that with Beyoncé because when Beyoncé hits that stage she just lets loose. She lets go and you can tell she is caught up in the feel and passion and the fervency of what it is she is doing, [what] she is called to do. I enjoy what I do so I experience what it is I want other people to experience and it just comes out in a very courageous way so I think that is the parallel that is involved here.
EBONY: There was a recent study from Pew and there are less millennials identifying as Christians at the same rate as they used to. I was curious to know why do you think that is and is there anything about Preach that you think will resonate with young people?
Dr. Belinda: We have to learn how to broaden our horizons in the church and minister and talk to people where they are and be more sensitive to people instead of just throwing rocks and hide. We can't do that. That's not effective ministry. We have to face it head on, deal with it as we believe and touch people as they are. We got to love people. We got to reach people. I believe Preach is going to show you the lives of four women and their protégés, each of us have different challenges with our protégés but we mentored them as we have been mentored but I believe with greater compassion.
Dr. Taketa: Considering that I have young people as my children, in our conversation actually they tell it all. I found out that this generation presently, they are no longer inspired in church and my children are even telling me because most of the time my friends say church is boring to them. They feel like when they go to church they're being lectured and they are not having a true experience. I think what is so different about the show it not only educates people about what we do and about the God that we serve but it also welcome them into an experience. People want an experience. They want to know if I can connect to what your saying. Can I relate to what your saying.
Linda: The church needs fresh fire. I believe the show will resonate with young people; there are powerful moments in the show where young people are using their gifts and talents. Many have come from a broken past, which I believe that the young will be able to relate to.
EBONY: I am a gay man and I walk in your church with my friend who is an unwed mom. Are we welcome?
Dr. Belinda: I personally knew that that was a question that was eventually going to come. I personally based on my Bible beliefs do not believe in gay marriage. But that doesn't mean I disrespect you as a person. That doesn't mean that. That doesn't mean that and are they welcome in the church? I have gay people in the church so what do you want me to say? We don't bash them, we don't ostracize them, we preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Linda: Absolutely welcome. When anyone comes to church no matter what your background is they should feel a genuine love and compassion.