Update (9/24/18 12:10 PM): Audrey Stevenson has filed suit in Texas. The suit names Rhonda Lewis, Brandon Amie and Deonte Greham, claiming they falsely imprisoned Stephenson and caused her emotional distress. The Potter’s House of Dallas and Fort Worth and T.D. Jakes Ministries, Inc. are also named in the accusations and additionally accused of negligence and negligent hiring. In the suit, security guard Brandon Amie is accused of assault. According to Tarrant County records, Amie was previously charged with assault in 2004.
Audrey Stevenson was assaulted at The Potter’s House Fort Worth Campus What happened to her, even before she was ASSAULTED BY A MAN THREE TIMES HER SIZE is not okay. Her screams and pleas for help echo in my mind.
A Church Elder (an older woman) confronted Audrey for giving the Visitor’s Welcome during service. For contrived reasons unclear to senior leadership, this elder made a unilateral administrative decision to sit Audrey down. (Sitting someone down usually happens when someone’s committed an affront to the church and needs a season of repentance).
Apparently, this elder was the only one aware of her decision. After Audrey completed the welcome, she was asked to come to a private room to discuss the issue. The elder then initiated a spirited confrontation, accusing Audrey of lying about not knowing about her sit down. After a minute of back and forth, the church security guard (male) stepped between the two and began to address Audrey. Unwilling to continue the conversation where she was being attacked, Audrey attempted to leave.
As Audrey attempted to leave the room, the security officer grabs her and prevents her from leaving. After repeated requests to be let go and to leave, the security officer body slams Audrey to the floor. She can be heard screaming, pleading, and nearly losing her breath while insisting she’d done nothing to be assaulted (she hadn’t). The elder who initiated the attack stood silently as this woman was nearly crushed under the weight of the security officer (who appears to be over 300 pounds).
WELCOME INTO THIS PLACE
The irony of Audrey being assaulted for giving a welcome to fellowship for church visitors doesn’t escape me. Our churches are supposed to be a place of refuge, transformation, and most importantly, safety. It is not a place for your ego in leadership. It is not a place for your unresolved issues of jealousy, envy, or anger to be projected onto the people you’re called to lead. Surely, we aren’t meaning to welcome people with unresolved toxicity into positions of leadership where they may poison others. Yet, the attempted silencing of Audrey’s story seems to do just that.
No, it’s certainly not all churches and this is not an opportunity to lament the Black Church. Just as Black Lives Matter when we are harmed by police, they matter when our church staff is reckless with both our physical and spiritual well-being. This has impacted Audrey and her mother, Heather Stevenson, more than we’ve begun to understand. Her mother, decades into her Christian walk, was reduced to tears when recounting what happened. Sadly, Mrs. Stevenson was also a member of the church and prayed her daughter would find a home there. Instead, a short year after Audrey began her membership, Heather found herself on the receiving end of a parent’s worst nightmare: hearing that her child had been harmed. Bullying has no place in our pulpits or our pews.
YOUR PASTOR IS NOT ABOVE CORRECTION
Yet instead of our full outcry being directed towards those who caused harm, Audrey is being vilified for speaking truth to power. As usual, when discussing people’s toxic pastors and ministries, people’s mouths are swollen with misinterpreted meanings of Psalm 105:11-15.
Let’s be clear: we are ALL God’s anointed. 2 Corinthians 1:20-22 is unambiguous in its declaration that the anointed are ALL of God’s people, not just those doing duty in the pulpit. To do no harm means, quite literally, to do no physical harm or cause death to God’s people. That scripture is NOT a pass to place your pastor in an idolatrous state of being above reproach. There are numerous instances in the bible where God’s prophets and teachers are rebuked and corrected (I Samuel and II Samuel with Saul, Amalek, and David are great places to start).
As a woman, especially a Black woman, I cannot sit silently and watch a bright light be extinguished and unjustly silenced. There is no rational explanation for what happened to Audrey. There is no exceptional reason to silence her story. We don’t need to tell her that there’s a better way to handle it and really mean that she should be quiet. We should not jump to defend our churches and pastors before protecting the least among us. Your pastor is not (or should not be) your God but more importantly, your pastor knows their accountabilities as a shepherd to God’s people.
Audrey Stevenson was assaulted at The Potter’s House of Fort Worth. Her screams and pleas for help echo in my mind.