The Right and Wrong Kind of Post Charleston Sermon

Derryck Green on June 24, 2015

This past weekend, Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina, held its first church service since the massacre that claimed the lives of nine members of its congregation.

Rev. Norvell Goff- preaching because the church’s regular pastor, Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, was one of last week’s casualties- delivered a Spirit-filled sermon that honored both the lives of those who were murdered and those people who came to- and responded in- Charleston with prayer and forgiveness. Goff’s fiery and inspirational sermon reflected the community of Charleston and the members of the congregation, encouraging both groups to persevere in the kind of Christ-like love that actively seeks to overcome the kind of race-based hatred that motivated Dylann Storm Roof to commit his terrorist acts of evil.

As a Christian, one would hope that sermons like Rev. Goff’s that encouraged love and forgiveness would have been commonplace in churches, especially black churches, this past Sunday. Again, as Rev. Goff acknowledged- and which has also been seen and wondered about by news media outlets across the country- the response of the Charleston community wasn’t to riot or loot, or to profess threats and intentions of vigilantism unless local residents were delivered a sufficient amount of what they defined as “justice.” There was a clear, noticeable and appreciative lack of social disruption and economic destruction in Charleston last week- as it should be. The proper- though difficult- Christian response to a situation such as this is love, prayer, forgiveness, and spiritual edification.

Which is why it was disappointing, disheartening, and somewhat confusing to watch a clip of Bishop Charles H. Ellis III, preaching this past Sunday. Charles H. Ellis III is Senior Pastor of Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, Michigan and is currently the presiding Bishop of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (P.A.W.).

Ellis’ sermon was the opposite of Rev. Norvell Goff’s. Where Goff sought to encourage his congregation to stay the course in courage, faith, unity, and love, Ellis sought to lay blame and in many ways, maintain racial and political division by slandering what he called “the right wing” and “Reagan Republicans.”

What does Ronald Reagan, the so-called ‘Reagan Republicans,’ or the “right wing” have to do with the reprehensible acts of Dylann Storm Roof?

Absolutely nothing.

In his sermon, Ellis confusingly castigates Ronald Reagan for rightly telling the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall- insinuating that Reagan’s international act of morality is somehow hypocritical because Nikki Haley, South Carolina’s governor, refused to take down the Confederate battle flag from the statehouse- which to Ellis, represents an wall of separation equal to the Berlin Wall (Nikki Haley has since endorsed removing the flag removed, but not because of Ellis’ sermon).

Ellis’ disingenuous attempt at (im)morally equating Reagan with Nikki Haley and the Confederate flag fails because they have nothing to do with one another, whatsoever.  Technically speaking, the Confederate battle flag has very little to do with Republicans but a lot to do with Democrats, but I doubt very much that this historical tidbit made it into Bishop Ellis’ sermon.

And Ellis’ sinks further.

Though the sermon clip is edited, Ellis appears to shame Nikki Haley for calling herself (and being) a Christian while, “stand[ing] up for segregation” and “for stand[ing] up for denying people their rights.”

When and where, specifically, has Nikki Haley ever defended segregation or actively fought against giving “rights” to any of the citizens of her state? Since Ellis made the claim, he should provide incontrovertible evidence to support such morally serious charges. Charles Ellis is slandering his sister in Christ with these harmful allegations.

Nikki Haley shouldn’t be shamed. Charles H. Ellis III should be shamed for engaging in a false, moral equivalence and for dissembling from the pulpit.

When Republicans and conservatives- and by extension, conservative talk radio and television (which are proxies for white people) are mentioned in combination with Dylan Storm Roof, whether it’s in Ellis’ sermon or anywhere else, it’s to intentionally identify and slander both groups as racists who’re guilty of having ideologically influenced Roof to murder the Charleston Nine- even though there is no evidence to support such vilification. I expect this level of dishonesty from politicians, television pundits, and Bill Maher- types who’re looking to score political points, but not from a pastor of Ellis’ stature and influence.  For Ellis or anyone else to politicize the deaths of those martyred in Emanuel A.M.E. Church is to do a disservice to the lives lost and the faith they shared prior to their deaths. Again, that a pastor would do this from the pulpit is disgraceful.

Furthermore, that Ellis politicized these deaths and blamed Roof’s malicious acts on the ‘right wing’ and ‘Reagan Republicans,’ rather than on sin that brings forth and nurtures evil undermines his moral and pastoral credibility, and goes directly to his character. As Jesus said, things that cause people to stumble are sure to come as day follows night, but woe unto them though whom these stumbling blocks come.

More to the point- how does Ellis’ sermon serve the purpose of racial reconciliation, particularly in the body of Christ?  After all, some of the very people Ellis pridefully ridicules and condemns- Republicans and conservatives, including Gov. Haley- are actually his (our) brothers and sisters in Christ and he perpetuates the unnecessary divisions that St. Paul warned against.

Where Rev. Goff preached a love and forgiveness- that transcended politics- worthy of the name of Christ, Bishop Ellis preached finger pointing and continued division.

Considering the racial acrimony and division the country has witnessed and suffered through the last several years, we would receive much more spiritual and civil edification if there were more sermons like the one Rev. Goff delivered this past Sunday at Emanuel A.M.E. Church, rather than the one shamelessly delivered by Bishop Charles Ellis III.

Derryck Green has earned an undergraduate degree in Religious Studies, an M.A. in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary and will receive his Doctorate in Theology and Ministry from Azusa Pacific Seminary this fall.

  1. Comment by csalafia on June 24, 2015 at 6:47 pm

    “Technically speaking, the Confederate battle flag has very little to do with Republicans but a lot to do with Democrats”

    You’re confusing Democrat/Republican with Liberal/Conservative. Back when the treasonous battle flag was hoisted across the south in the 1960’s, the Democrats were the conservatives and the Republicans were the liberals.

    Since then, the ideologies have switched. The CCC, which radicalized Roof, is a CONSERVATIVE organization, just as the White Citizen Councils of the south were CONSERVATIVE organizations.

    Perhaps you should learn some history before making a fool of yourself.

  2. Comment by Neil Bragg on June 24, 2015 at 8:29 pm

    You got the PC version of history, not the real thing.
    Some of us went to school when we were educated in history, not brainwashed into conservative-bashing. You need to find a book published before 1990, authors used to tell the truth.

  3. Comment by csalafia on June 25, 2015 at 8:00 am

    First, no, it’s not the “PC version”. The democrats of the old south were conservatives. That’s just fact. If they weren’t, then why did they leave the party en masse after LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act and following legislation?

    If what you said was true, and it’s demonstrably not, then it would be Republicans who…

    …are fighting to expand voting rights. (The GOP is restricting them).
    …would expand coverage of anti-discrimination laws under the Civil Rights Act. (The GOP is restricting them.)
    …would welcome the diversity of multiculturalism (Conservatives believe multiculturalism will destroy America).
    …would fight for unions instead of seeking to destroy them (Union support was part of the GOP platform in the 50’s)
    …would be in support of taking down the Confederate flag

    So, while on a very surface level yes, it was Southern Democrats that resurrected the flag of treason in response to both the centennial of the Civil War and the growing momentum of the Civil Rights movement (Yes, the flag didn’t fly on the SC Capitol until 1961), to say that the party labels are the same 50 years later is not only dishonest, it’s intellectually lazy.

    But, considering how conservatives and the IRD both read scripture, I’m not surprised at this.

  4. Comment by Asemodevs on June 25, 2015 at 10:19 am

    Yeah, right, only homosexuals can interpret the Bible correctly. At least that’s what the homosexual Bible scholars say, and they couldn’t possibly be biased.

  5. Comment by Spirit of 1791 on June 26, 2015 at 10:33 pm

    Learn that Lyndon Johnson fought Civil Rights legislation while Eisenhower was the President in the 50’s. Tape exists from the Whitehouse archives when Lyndon Johnson was president, trying to push poll taxes in Texas, primarily because blacks were voting in greater numbers, percentage wise, than whites. He also said to two governors while aboard Airforce One that when he signed the civil rights legislation, democrats would have the N—— vote for the next 200 years. Facts again do not lie. Some of us know history before it was erased from our text books.

  6. Comment by Spirit of 1791 on June 26, 2015 at 10:29 pm

    Perhaps you should learn some history yourself. I lived through this in the south, and progressive is the term for these democrats, not conservative. Before they stole the liberal mantle, they were progressives under Woodrow Wilson (Birth of a Nation based on his writings). and prior to renaming themselves progressives, they were the Reds or Communists. I think you need a history lesson. Facts do not lie.

  7. Comment by Neil Bragg on June 24, 2015 at 8:28 pm

    Scapegoating has been going on since Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the snake. Whatever happens, it’s someone’s fault. Months ago, we started hearing the phrase repeated “black lives matter” – could anyone disagree? Of course not. But, as some of us observed, the number of young black men killed by cops is small compared to the number of young black men killed by young black men. This evil Dylann Roof did a horrible thing, but to in any way connect him with conservatives in general is absurd. The country is presently in a PC spasm – black people died, so let’s ban the Confederate flag – as if that will save lives!

    Follow the Jesus rule – look in your own heart and your own community before you start blaming outsiders for your sorrows. Dylann Roof was one evil demented white kid – he’s not a representative white or representative conservative or representative Southerner.

  8. Comment by Rajinder Nijjhar on June 26, 2015 at 4:53 am


    These robed hireling Dog-Collared Priests have no place in the ministry of jesus but Satan that create divisions and sectarian riots.

    Royal Priests are the sons of Most High Supernatural Father God in which we are concerned with souls that have no gender, colour or race. Fake Priests in Churches being men of letters devoid of holy spirit, “common sense” talk of races and genders. No wonder people are killed in the worship of Satan.

    We have approached the End Times and the Tares are getting bundled up in Israel; see Matt. 13v24-30. Wholesome destructions of Tares, unfaithful to tribal fathers will take place all over the world.

    Jesus came to get rid of these Rabbis in Dog-Collars and you have got them in one form or the other to fulfil Matt. 12v43-45, what do you expect? They are greater hypocrites than before the arrival of Jesus. Jesus threw Judas Iscariot out at the Last Supper for he was a Thief stealing money from the Purse. People donate money at Churches; this Dog-Collared Priest dips his hand into the donations as his salary. No wonder a retired Vicar when addressed as a Vicar by the BBC presenter Nicky Campbell objected strongly and told him that he is no more a Vicar like a Policeman in uniform. All the life he was serving Mammon with a Dog-Collar making fools of the people that he is a man of God. In God, we have Royal Priests and they enjoy Fellowships.

    If you study the present organisations of the Churches, they are based upon the Synagogues; some are Pharisees and the others more than Sadducees. At, the times of Jesus, these Blind Rabbis had two or three divisions and today in Jesus, more than 300 Cults when Jesus proclaimed One Fold, Church of God, headed by One Shepherd Christ Jesus, our Bridegroom.

    These Churches are like blind men defining an elephant and their Dog-Collared hireling Priests are the most happy job satisfaction people fleecing the devotees of Jesus called turning stones, simple-minded people, into Bread and Butter.


    Luke 16v16: Law and Prophets were till John, the Baptist whilst lowest in the Royal Kingdom of God, a Saint, is greater than John, the Baptist, also known as the Angel of Israel.

    We are no more under the yoke of sins and these Dog-Collared Rabbis but Free Royal Priests that enjoy the Fellowships.

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