(Photo: Screen Grab via WBTV)
Update: Article was updated at 2:39 p.m. ET to include a statement by Freedom House Church.
A pastor at a multi-racial church in Charlotte, N.C., recently sparked a controversy among its congregation when she quietly issued a request to a group of volunteer greeters at the church that she wanted "only white people" greeting people at the front of the church as they come in for Sunday morning services.
According to a WBTV report, executive pastor of operations at Freedom House Church, Makeda Pennycooke, one of just two black faces among the 18-member executive team listed on the church's website, sent an email to the group of volunteer greeters for the church's 9 a.m. service requesting the whites only team.
Carmen Thomas, who attended and served at the church for about two years, said she was shocked by the request.
"I was floored," said Thomas who presented a copy of the email to WBTV. "Like it was a jaw dropper. You can put a white face all over the front door. But when you come through those doors, you're going to see African Americans, you're gonna see Asians. You're going to see people of color."
Pastor Pennycooke reportedly reminded volunteers in the email that fall is one of the busiest times of year for the church and they needed to put their "best" forward.
"We anticipate having an increase in the number of people visiting and attending Freedom House over the next few weeks," Pennycooke noted in the email while pointing out that "first impressions matter" and the church wants "the best of the best on the front doors."
While acknowledging that it was a sensitive issue, Pennycooke said, "we are continuing to work to bring our racial demographic pendulum back to mid-line….So we would like to ask that only white people be on the front doors."
"We would rather have less greeters on the front door if it means that the few that we have will represent us the best," Pastor Pennycooke wrote.
Thomas, who is also black, said she knew exactly what the pastor meant by the statement.
"Too black," she told WBTV. "It wasn't a conclusion that I drew. It was something I read."
Thomas no longer attends the church but she explained that the decision may have had to do with the church's bottom line as well.
"Perhaps you believe that with a certain congregation that eventually your finances are going to run out because maybe we aren't the moneymakers," she said.
The Christian Post reached out to Freedom House for comment on Tuesday but no one responded to several calls.
In a response to WBTV, however, a Freedom House spokeswoman confirmed that Pennycooke had sent the email.
"The email was sent by one of our longtime pastors in an attempt to emphasize that our greeting team reflect the racial diversity of our entire congregation," said a statement from the church to WBTV read. "However, she admitted it was a mistake to over-emphasize any specific group and sent an apology email within 24 hours of the original email going out."
"The pastors have been meeting with staff and church members to confirm their commitment to diversity and to ensure nothing like this happens again," church officials told WBTV.
"Freedom House believes in a diverse relationship within its membership, reflecting the larger community in which the church resides, doing life together as a church representative of everyone -- culturally, ethnically, economically, and generationally."
Statement From Freedom House Church:
One of our longtime pastors, in keeping with our church's desire to be inclusive and intentionally reach out to all races, noticed our front door greeting team was no longer reflecting the racial diversity of our entire congregation, and she wanted potential visitors to see people like themselves upon entering our church. However, she made an error in judgment in requesting all white greeters at the front door, going overboard in placing emphasis on any one race over another in trying to highlight diversity within the greeting team. She admits this was a grave lapse in judgment and is sincerely sorry for her actions. She immediately apologized and has asked our forgiveness. She and senior pastors have made themselves available to meet with any church members who want to discuss this situation with them, and have communicated their true heart in this matter -- to be a church welcoming and inclusive to all. Freedom House believes in a diverse relationship within its membership, reflecting the larger community in which the church resides, doing life together as a church representative of everyone -- culturally, ethnically, economically, and generationally.