(Photo: Facebook/Official Bishop Noel Jones)
The past year has seen a bevy of faith-based reality programming from major networks like TLC, Lifetime and BET. Now, Oxygen Media is joining the pack with its own reality show looking at the lives of Southern California pastors, tentatively titled "Pastors of L.A."
The "authentic new docu-series" starring Bishop Noel Jones, Deitrick Haddon and four other high-profile Christian ministers is scheduled to debut in the fall of this year, and appears to follow in the vein of BET's "The Sheards" and WE tv's "Mary Mary" – promising viewers an inside look at the lives of popular and otherwise inaccessible men of faith.
"'Pastors of L.A.' will give viewers a candid and revealing look at six boldly different and world renowned mega-pastors in Southern California, who are willing to share diverse aspects of their lives, from their work in the community and with their parishioners to the very large and sometimes provocative lives they lead away from the pulpit," according to a press release from Oxygen.
In addition to Jones and Haddon, "Pastors of L.A." will feature Bishop Clarence McClendon, senior pastor of Full Harvest International Church, Pastor Wayne Chaney of Antioch Church of Long Beach, Bishop Ron M. Gibson of Life Church of God In Christ and The Sanctuary Church's Lead Pastor Jay Haizlip, who is also a skateboarding pioneer.
Oxygen has tapped Lemuel Plummer and Holly Carter, producer and executive producer, respectively, of BET's reality show "The Sheards," which features the family of gospel-singing chart-toppers Karen Clark Sheard and Kierra Kiki Sheard.
"This show documents a journey of transparency from one man to the next as they endeavor to lead others to their own truth and self-discovery," said Carter.
"We intend to portray the human side of these pastors and the real world in which they live and work," added Plummer.
Jones has been leading City of Refuge Church in Gardena, Calif., since 1994 and travels extensively to preach and lecture. The bishop, who is unmarried, suggested last year that rumors claiming he had fathered actress and singer Stacy Francis' second child, were exactly that – "rumors and innuendo." Among the many celebrities said to attend City of Refuge Church is controversial rapper The Game, who was reportedly baptized at the Los Angeles-area church in 2011.
Haddon, meanwhile, whom Oxygen Media describes as "a dynamic personality, singer, songwriter, and preacher," went through a divorce in 2011 that surprised many of his gospel music fans and led to him being shunned by members of his church. The award-laden recording artist also surprised fans when it was revealed in April that he had fathered a child out of wedlock and was engaged to be married. Currently, Haddon is working on a live production for his upcoming album League of Xtraordinary Worshippers, with the first recording scheduled to take place on May 17 at Bishop Noel's City of Refuge Church.
While faith-based reality programming like "The Sheards" has proven successful with viewers, Lifetime was not as lucky with "The Sisterhood." The program about preachers' wives was canceled after the first season following strong backlash from Christians who felt the reality show was offensive.
Some readers learning about "Pastors of L.A." this week have expressed excitement about the program, saying it might help and inspire viewers in their faith. Others, however, appeared pessimistic about the premise of the reality show in light of other faith-based programming.
"I really take issue with this...first its 'Mary Mary,' then its the 'Sisterhood,' then its 'Preachers' Daughters' now its pastors on a reality show...This madness needs to end," wrote one commenter on Essence.com.