A video featuring recording artist Jay-Z’s “Story of O.J.” sparked controversy on July 30 at Tree Of Life Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles when young praise dancers performed to the track while throwing money in the church’s sanctuary, leaving some members appalled.
“I didn’t agree with it. They want to mix that with the church. There’s a place for everything,” said Bathilda Ross, a member for 42 years.
Ross believes that many new ministers create churches on the basis of the outside world when they should be creating it for the world inside the church.
Sharing a similar perspective, James Moore recently left Tree of Life due to the sermon that Sunday after attending the church since 1967 when he was five-years-old.
“What got me was the ‘House Ni***’ and it was inappropriate for church,” Moore explained. “I looked over at him (Pastor Marcus Murchinson) and he was bouncing.”
Not only does Moore not agree with what happened, he questions Murchinson’s leadership for the Church.
“He constantly says the n-word and punishes members like children,” claimed Moore.
Moore even believes the pastor has deliberately fired old members from church positions and replaced them with members from his former congregation.
Another former member of 33 years, Gladys Bonner, opinion does not differ from Moore’s on Murchinson’s administration.
“To me, his leadership was one of dictatorship. I sometimes felt he would use intimidation to get his point across,” Bonner shared. Ultimately, due to the pastor’s governance, Bonner left the church two years prior.
Even in facing these claims, the pastor of three years believes his intentions were for the better of the church and community.
“I did expect it (the video) to be going against tradition…start a dialogue in my local church. Did I expect to go global? No, I did not. This wasn’t a planned publicity stunt, ” Murchinson said. “[And, The claims made] are not rooted in much truth.”
Tree of Life not only received outrage from people within the church, but faced similar reaction outside of the church. After its viral debut, some alleged that the pastor fired a musician that was playing that Sunday.
John Bernard, Tree of Life’s minister of music, responded to this recent claim. “The drummer posted the (praise dance) clip on his personal Facebook page. When Pastor Murchinson gave the invitation for people to go on Facebook, the directions were to invite people [to listen to] the message on the church’s page,” he said.
Bernard does not agree with the drummer’s actions and he firmly believes that the video would not be a media sensation that it has become had it not been posted to social media. He further suggested that the video was taken out of context.
“This presentation was no different than a play. When you have proper context, everything makes sense,” explained Bernard.
Murchinson could not agree more. “Any word used negatively or in the wrong connotation can be considered a ‘curse word.’ We cannot limit ‘curse words’ to the words we want them to be.”
Bernard considers the message, which was on transformation and the story of Jacob, to be inspirational and thinks that it has touched the lives of many individuals watching.
“I have been flooded with many people from places, like Florida and Canada,” Bernard said.
Regardless of the events that happened, whether they were negative or positive, one question still remains – will the legacy of Tree of Life Missionary Baptist Church be affected?
Even with the contrasting opinions, many people stated that the legacy of the church is still intact and will rise above any obstacles.