NJ AME Church rejects appointed pastor because of gender
Ratona Stokes-Robinson, pastor of the African Methodist Episcopal Church who was appointed head of St. James AME Church in Thorofare, New Jersey, in June, is still waiting to preach her first pulpit sermon as the faithful kept her locked out. church building because of her gender, denominational pastors say.
Orsella Hughes, pastor of Allen Chapel AME – Hartford Church and executive director of the Prosperity Foundation in New Haven, Connecticut, highlighted the deadlock in a Facebook post on Sunday after visiting St. James AME Church.
“Today, when we stopped at church, we expected to see our Reverend Sister, Ratona Stokes-Robinson in her pulpit. Instead, she was always excluded from her church, ”Hughes wrote.
“Once again, the officers have not given her the keys to the church since the start of her appointment on June 20, 2021. Since that Sunday, she showed up every week and preached on the steps, without receiving any salary or other benefits, ”added Hughes.
“She asked for email addresses so she could at least keep the service on zoom; and yet she received nothing. Imagine preaching in the heat of summer, the cold of fall and sometimes even in the rain and without even having access to the toilet to cool off after preaching.
Hughes said she had personally seen church members who live in the rectory across from the church refuse to give Robinson access to the building because of her gender.
“Imagine all of this happening to you because you are a WOMAN! Yes, the members said they didn’t want a woman as pastor and that’s why she was locked out! I didn’t have to imagine, I saw it happening today and my heart hurts, ”said Hughes, adding that“ no one deserves ”to be treated this way.
St. James Church AME and Robinson were not immediately available for comment when contacted by The Christian Post on Tuesday.
However, the Connectional AME Women in Ministry, the official professional organization for women pursuing excellence in ministry in the AME church, acknowledged the situation in a statement on Monday.
The group said: “Connectional AME Women in Ministry has been informed that a woman in the ministry, due to her gender, has been excluded from her church and banned from speaking the word of God from the pulpit since June 20, 2021. As we celebrate a woman as president of the Council of Bishops, a woman as president of the Council of General Officers, a woman as president of the Council of Past Presidents and an all-female executive council of the National Council of Churches (United States), we are deeply distressed to learn that women in the ministry are simultaneously oppressed by systematic strongholds and discriminatory behavior. ”
The AME Church, which was formed in 1816 by Richard Allen and others who fought against segregation within their churches, has developed a reputation over the years for its activism on social issues, including rights women.
In 2000, the denomination, which has some 3.5 million members, elected Vashti Murphy McKenzie as the first woman to serve as bishop – the highest rank for a church leader.
Earlier this year, Elaine Flake became the female pastor of the largest congregation in the United States after being appointed senior pastor of New York’s Greater Allen Cathedral, which has more than 23,000 members, an AME church of 72 years.
Flake has returned to the post previously held by her husband, Reverend Floyd Flake, 76, who also spent 11 years in Congress fighting to improve the lives of voters in his religious community in Jamaica, Queens.
In light of this story, Deborah Blanks, pastor of Mount Pisgah AME Church in Princeton, New Jersey, condemned the actions of the officers of St. James AME Church, stressing that “it is not us”.
“There is a lot to be said about the unreasonable act of being excluded from the church, but what bothers my soul is the reprehensible attack on the dignity and personality of this preacher which is inextricably linked to this. locking. No one should ever be treated this way. Period! Complete shutdown! ”Blanks wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday.
Blanks noted that she served as Robinson’s dean at the New Jersey Ministerial Institute’s annual conference.
“I watched with pride via Facebook Live in June his first formal appointment to serve as a pastor in African Methodism. Just for the record, she is a devoutly loyal woman, extremely gifted, passionately prophetic, and an extremely industrious woman. She is a social worker in her secular work and does the important work of serving people, ”noted Blanks before speaking out against the actions of St. James AME Church.
“This is not African Methodism, which knows deep in its own history the indignity of being forced to kneel before an altar by those who have not honored our humanity,” Blanks said.
“… It is not us – a denomination that has elected five women to serve in the bishopric, female general officers, a considerable number serving as past presidents, a host as pastors, and a growing number of appointments. pastoral care of women in the ‘early churches.’ The AME Church is known to preach a liberating gospel; thus, it is up to us to be a liberated church: to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God.