Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Black staff member request "white only" greeters at Charlotte, NC church

Makeda Pennycooke

When you get to the pearly gates you want to be met by the best.   According to Makeda Pennycooke, executive pastor of operations at  Charlotte’s Freedom House Church, the best are white people.

Pennycooke, who is black, sent an email to church volunteers stating "first impressions matter" and that the congregation wanted "the best of the best on the front doors."

The staff member at the North Carolina church requested that “only white people” serve as greeters. 

"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."

WBTV reported the story after Carmen Thomas, a member at the church, approached the station out of outrage. Thomas told WBTV Pennycooke wants to attract white people to the church.

"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,” officials at the church told WBTV.

The church website reveals only two blacks on staff – Pennycooke and Tracie Frank, the communications director.  The desire for diversity is not reflected in the church staff.  The recommendation for “white only” greeters speaks volumes related to the goal in limiting black attendance.

Most troubling is how Pennycooke was used to communicate the “white only” policy.  Her comments reflect a level of self-hatred common among black people who serve in positions of power on a predominately white staff.  Pennycooke seemingly has issues with her own race.

Central in the discussion regarding Freedom House are the underlying messages that promote an agenda antithetical to authentic diversity.  The church is led by Troy and Penny Maxwell.  The Maxwell’s left Richmond, Virginia to start the Charlotte church in 2002. There’s nothing on the church website to support the church interest in diversity.  The lack of black staff and local efforts to promote unity give the impression that this church isn’t interested in black membership.

The sad part is how Pennycooke is used as the scapegoat.  She is not the pastor of the church.  Her role is an administrative function.  Troy and Penny Maxwell haven’t spoken in defense of Pennycooke.  They have apologized, but one is left believing Pennycooke was used to promote an agenda that markets the church as one for “white people”.

The problem is with her being on staff.  How can she stay given an email she was probably forced to send?  Do you really believe she did so without orders from above?

This story gained traction because Pennycooke is black.  The message from most accounts has been about a black pastor informing membership that “only white” people can serve as greeters.  The assumption is that Pennycooke holds a significant leadership position in the church.  You’re left thinking this is a black congregation hoping to land more white members.

Not true.  This is an overwhelming white congregation using a black woman on staff to keep other blacks away.  This church isn’t willing to share leadership with blacks.  The truth is they have no obligation to do so.  I have no problem with their desire to keep black people away.

My problem is with people who pretend they desire diversity when they don’t.  Yes, it would be more like Jesus to open the doors to all people, but are they ready for what happens when blacks show up in large numbers.

This is another example of a black person being used to promote a white agenda.

Lesson learned? Stay away from churches that pretend to affirm you.


  1. Need a clarification. You said that "this is an overwhelming white congregation," but Carmen Thomas (the complaining church member) said in her TV interview that the congregation was more black than white.

    Plus, you wrote that "this church isn't willing to share leadership with blacks," but Ms. Pennycooke IS in a position of leadership as executive pastor of operations.

    Either way, this was more than a pubic relations faux pas. The white main pastor has courted an interracial congregation from the church's inception. Why this current email requesting white greeters? It makes no sense if the congregation was mainly white (as you say), but more so if the congregation was tilting to a black majority (as Ms. Thomas says), and the pastor felt economically threatened in some way.

    Nothing like the organized church to give Christianity a bad name!

  2. I lay the blame squarely upon the shoulders of Makeda Pennycooke. If a person has sufficient racial pride there is no way that anyone else can persuade him or her to speak ill against his or her own race such as this statement infers. There is no way that the Christian religion can be interpreted as believing that Caucasians are the "best of the best" -- on WHAT RATIONALE????? This image of Pennycooke shows her to appear to be an intelligent individual who could not be duped into backing such a stupid statement without full complicity, So the blame -- which should be on the white congregation and leaders -- still remains firmly on her shoulders. The lesson, young people, do not allow being around the majority population overshadow your common sense and your racial pride. It is tantament to allowing someone to "talk about your Momma!" Unbelieveable! Unconscionable! Someone hide this person from our sight!