When I read the story of Charity Grace, I could immediately relate to her experience. Marvin Winans, pastor of Perfecting Church, refused to bless her two-year-old son, Joshua, because he was born out of wedlock. “I’ve never felt so degraded and disrespected in my life,” said Grace told MyFoxDetroit.
I could relate to Grace’s story because I had endured the same humiliation. Actually, my pastor agreed to bless my son, Cameron, if I apologized to the church for my sin. Let’s just say Kia made no apologies and Cameron never got blessed in church. And because I never made public amends, I also never received communion from that church again. In the moment, I was disgusted and angry, but in hindsight, I’m grateful for that experience.
Many church procedures never made sense to me, and it was this incident that gave me the strength to ask the hard, yet obvious, questions. Why did I need to apologize to a church full of sinners for my sin? Was my dirt not between me and God? And what exactly was I apologizing for? Having premarital sex? Or getting pregnant? If apologizing for the premarital sex, why weren’t all the unpregnant fornicators forced to do the same? Why didn’t unwed dad’s ever make this apology? And if I were apologizing for getting pregnant, where was that listed as a sin? After pondering these and many other questions, I concluded that I wasn’t the confused one. The church folks who were playing these games, however, were confused.
Grace says a woman at the church told her Pastor Winans’ policy is that he will not bless children of unwed mothers in front of his congregation. “What they could do for me is let my son get dedicated, during a week day with one of the elders of my choice,” said Grace.
To refuse to bless Joshua in public but bless him in private is a veneer of the Gospel. It’s the pastor’s attempt to cover up the unattractive parts of believers’ lives with perfectly constructed covers. And if you’ve ever seen someone with veneers, one thing is clear: no believes they’re real.
Presenting the Gospel as a veneer is an injustice to everyone involved. It encourages people to lie and hide their issues instead of dealing with them, and it idolizes those who can maintain the facade. It’s not what Jesus would do. It’s not what Jesus did.
Jesus never meant for the church to be a place where people are endlessly punished for past, present or future sins. In contrast, the church should be a place where all people (notice I said all people, not all believers) feel loved, welcomed and accepted.
The church should be a place of unconditional love, not constant condemnation. The church should be a place of truth and honesty, not the home of facades. The church should be a place where transparency is welcomed, not where veneers are commonplace.
When we continue to hold people’s sin over their heads, we tell them that the Blood of Jesus isn’t enough for them and their sins, we’re denying them God’s unconditional love, and we are feeding the spirit of self-righteousness that’s running rampant in our churches.
At some point, we have to stop talking about Jesus and start living like him. And when we stop being so petty, maybe our churches will once again have some power.
I pray Charity Grace and her son, Joshua, find strength and healing from this bad church experience. My advice to anyone who’s had a bad church experience is the same: You don’t let jacked up people keep you from anything else, so please don’t let them keep you from your God.
Have you had a bad church experience? Check out the sermon series, My Bad Church Experience.