Column as it first appeared August 2007 in TSV News Mag
Marilyn Joyce/Augusta, GA: Life happens to us all. It matters not how powerful a person of faith you may be or how much you love God. It matters not how much you give, how often you go to church or how long and hard you pray. It matters not if you have little or much. If you are alive – life happens. Who hasn’t heard about the very public, brutal assault on Dr. Juanita Bynum Weeks by her husband, Thomas Weeks in a parking lot in Atlanta, very early Wednesday morning on August 22, 2007? As shocking as it is, Dr. Juanita is not the first (or the last) woman (or pastor’s wife) to be a victim of domestic violence. This deplorable situation has started long overdue conversations about abuse in the pulpit and abuse of all kinds.
Amazingly enough, women in the church have been abused emotionally, physically, financially and psychologically for years. In fact, a study conducted by a group headed by Kameri Christy-McMullin indicates that it’s more likely for educated African American women to be abused than any other group of women. Ironic isn’t it that the more we strive to improve ourselves by doing things like obtaining a college degree – the greater the risks?
Then, as if to add insult to injury, the very next day Paula White and her husband Randy announced their plans to divorce. Their 23,000 member church is still reeling from the news. Both ministries’ (Weeks and White) focus was relationships; meanwhile, none of us were aware that both couples have been separated for months.
Their congregations had no idea because in the 21st century, pastors don’t stay home. They travel constantly and live on TV and on the radio. Didn’t that used be called evangelism? I speak with pastors on the road all the time that don’t know their members names, don’t have time for their own flock, their own kids, and their own spouse – but they’re famous on the road. Everybody knows their name. Can you say ’spiritual abuse’?
We love, support and pray for our leaders. But in light of these recent events, it is not surprising to hear young believers asking: ‘if their marriages can’t work; is there any hope for the rest of us’? In the case of Paula and Randy White, they say they just grew apart in the midst of all of the work involved in the ministry. Paula has her own condo in Trump Towers in New York in addition to the homes she and her husband own in several states. Juanita and Thomas Weeks, III own homes and businesses all over the country.
Now there’s a fly in the ointment. While they were preaching to us about our messed up relationships, these couples were living apart in separate mansions. The truth constantly changes the facts about what we really believe. Is ’we’ve grown apart’ grounds for divorce in any version of the Bible you’ve read lately?
One thing is clear; it’s very common for marriages (even Christian marriages) to have problems when the wife is more successful than her husband, as both Juanita and Paula are. Both couples (each partner) had been married before – second marriages for all involved – and they’re sure to marry again. But, did you know that one fifth of African American women between the ages of 40-44 have never been married? Never. Just thought I’d mention that as food for thought.
Divorced or not, we are going to see Juanita, Thomas, Paula, and Randy turn their dilemmas into greater ministries with all of the books, tapes and videos we’re willing to pay for and all of the conferences we’re willing to attend. I recall more than one sermon about giving your way out of crisis. Mark my words; coming soon to a pulpit near you will be a sermon that will give you that opportunity. I believe in giving, but I also recognize manipulation. If you haven’t learned how to discern the difference, the months ahead may cost you.
It is time to have conversations about some unpleasant facts of life. The conversation is not about Juanita and Paula, but it does include them for we have longed for relationships like the ones we thought they had. We have given to ministries that were flawed. We have forgotten that preachers are people too. They face the same problems we do. They go to school, raise children, pay taxes. They put their pants on one leg at a time just like you and I….and apparently they beat their wives. I don’t think we can afford to ever forget that.
Survive, Get a Life, Do Your Destiny! Marilyn Joyce