By Olu Alemoru, Staff Writer
Dissected, discussed and even derided ever since its announcement, viewers will finally get a chance to see what all the fuss might be about when “Preachers of L.A.” debuts on the Oxygen channel next Wednesday at 10 p.m.
The reality show chronicles the lives of six so-called mega-pastors, Bishop Noel Jones, the Rev. Deitrick Haddon, Bishop Clarence McClendon, Pastor Jay Haizlip, Pastor Wayne Chaney and Bishop Ron Gibson. It is produced by Lemuel Plummer (“The Monique Show,” “The Family Crews”) and Holly Carter (“The Sheards,” “L.A. Hair”).
The advance furor about prosperity preaching and how the show might impact on congregations and faith have all been grist to the mill, especially thanks to the oxygen of social media.
In terms of a quick character synopsis, Jones might be the most charismatic. The Jamaican-born brother of singer Grace Jones is almost as much as a celebrity as his famous Malibu flock and certainly raised eyebrows with his foreshadowed relationship with actress and former first lady of the Turks and Caicos Islands, Lisa Raye.
The youngest, gospel music star-film actor-producer Haddon, represents the rebellion within. He seems to be advocating for a back-to-basics approach and less ecclesiastical razzamatazz. McClendon, whose weekly international broadcast is available in 250 million homes worldwide, is Mr. Entourage and without a doubt sports some pretty fine clothes.
Chaney is a one-two punch with his gospel artist wife, Myesha, whose Antioch church is on the mega cusp and Haizlip found his faith after becoming a champion skateboarder and succumbing to drug demons. Meanwhile, by the age of 16, Gibson was a Crips general, but later turned his nine-people Life Church of God in Christ into a congregation of 4,500.
In an interview with The Wave last month, Carter sought to allay fears that the show was going to be all flash and no substance, but he did admit that the early trailers, or sizzle reels, might have given that impression.
“I have a doctorate in ministry and I come from a faith background,” she said. “We wanted to show the real lives of these men, the unseen work they do in their communities and how they minister to their congregations. There’s a lot more to it than the promos.”
After seeing the advance media preview and attending the accompanying press briefing, she has a point. For one, the show also focuses on the preacher’s wives and how they play a vital role in the ministries. Haizlip encounters an emaciated congregant in a park and finds some soulful words and Gibson rolls back to Compton to try and get some of his old friends to attend his service.
However, there’s friction on view with Haddon questioning whether McClendon needs a six-person entourage to deliver the word of God. There’s a standoff, which feels a bit contrived, before the latter jumps into his motor convoy to go to another engagement.
“I wanted to represent myself as the viewer,” Haddon said. “They have a lot of questions to ask and I was bold enough to ask the questions. [But] it was a healthy debate amongst brothers; you have strong, opinionated people like us on a subject and it got heated. I love Bishop McClendon, but I think it’s necessary for us to challenge and re-connect. Do we need an entourage? Can we make adjustments to accommodate the needs of the people? Did Jesus charge a fee to heal the sick and raise the dead? We have to get back to basics, back to Jesus’ ministry, love and compassion for the people.”
McClendon also sought to diffuse the clip.
“[Haddon] was voicing a perspective of people who were not in the room and the point is that there is diversity in the pulpit,” he said. “A podiatrist and cardiologist are both doctors, but they do very different things. If you’re going to check out my feet I don’t mind you being in a room alone, but if you’re going to open my chest I want you to have some people with you.
“As it relates to the assignment God has given me, it’s different. I don’t know the full aspect of Deitrick’s [mission]. I do travel with a team of people, but one of the aspects you don’t see is that I paid for my team to come. The ministry enables me to do that.”
Addressing the theme of mega churches, Haizlip, flipped the question.
“Is there anything wrong with wanting a bigger church? Aren’t we here for people? My vision isn’t to minister to 90 people in a building; my mission is to minister to my whole community. So, I won’t be satisfied until the whole community is in my church and the same goes for these guys.”
Jones seemed to speak for the entire panel when he said he hoped one of the main takeaways from the series is how people will view the gospel.
“I hope you’ll see that there isn’t any real difference between people in terms of the body of Christ,” he said. ‘Men and women of God are just like anyone else. People act as if preachers are God, but they are men and I don’t think they should be slaughtered if they make mistakes. I hope the series puts God back in the minds of the people.”
Marty Cotwright/Special to The Wave
From left, Deitrick Haddon, Ron Gibson, Wayne Chaney, Rod Aissa (Senior VP, Original Programming and Development, Oxygen), Jay Haizlip, Holly Carter, Clarence McClendon and Noel Jones.