Monthly Archives: September 2018

An Open Letter to Bishop Charles “HELLIS THAT HE’S TOUCHING?!”

Dear Bishop Ellis,

I was both angered and disgusted by your reprehensible behavior towards Ariana Grande at Aretha Franklin’s funeral. You grabbed her – clearly against her will – and held her closer when she tried to withdraw from your grip. You verbally humiliated her not only by telling a joke that was both racist and sexist, but also by deliberately fondling her breast in full view of millions of people.

Comparing a woman to a menu item at Taco Bell is insulting on multiple levels.

  • It implies you assumed she was Mexican. She isn’t – not that there is anything wrong with that, but you should know during the current administration it isn’t a good time to be a Mexican American.
  • Taco bell is “cheap” food, which implies a lack of dignity.
  • “Fast” is another way of saying a woman is promiscuous.
  • “Food” is a commodity that men consume, which effectively treats her like an object, and also has disturbing sexual connotations
  • by saying you didn’t recognize her name, you indicate that she has no professional reputation that you are aware of, implying that she’s essentially a nobody.

Your words were insulting and you physically restrained her while you delivered them. You then added to her humiliation; putting her on the spot by calling her an ‘icon’ at an event meant to honor the iconic Aretha Franklin, thus you also managed to insult the deceased. You claimed to give her “respect” while mauling her and digging your fingers so deep into her breast she may have bruises. The irony is absolutely appalling.

Your actions were extremely disrespectful and harmful not just to Ms. Grande, but also to:

  • The late Aretha Franklin, the icon from whom you should have learned (and to whom you should have shown) RESPECT.
  • Aretha Franklin’s family and other mourners, by acting inappropriately at a funeral in a way that will tarnish memories of the day.
  • The congregation of your church, upon whom you have brought dishonor, scandal and conflict. Imagine feeling stunned and embarrassed by what happened yet thinking loyalty is required despite this abominable behavior.
  • Your community, for failing to be a decent role model and for making them wonder how many other women have suffered the same kind of treatment from you, and how you behave when nobody is watching.
  • Your wife, for your straying eyes and wandering hands.
  • Every misguided man who tries to pull the same stunt on an unsuspecting woman because he saw how easily you got away with it.
  • Every woman who was reminded of the painful shame and humiliation she endured when subjected to the exact same kind of abuse, which is to say almost every one of the millions of women who watch that video.
  • Every good man who has grown weary of being treated as a potential threat by many of the women who have been victimized by sexual predators.

Your physical and sexual aggression was totally inappropriate in any context and was not just immoral, but also illegal. In the state of Michigan, “criminal sexual conduct in the 4th degree” is punishable by imprisonment for not more than 2 years or a fine of not more than $500.00, or both. You can and perhaps should be arrested and charged by the Detroit Police. You claim that what you did was unintentional, but men all over the world know what it means to “cop a feel” and every adult woman knows how it feels to be touched inappropriately by someone who, if confronted, pretends it was an ‘accident.’

When you were confronted about your behavior, this is what you said:

‘It would never be my intention to touch any woman’s breast. I was, I don’t know I guess I put my arm around her. Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar but again, I apologize.’

No, you did not apologize. You tried to make excuses for inexcusable behavior.  “I don’t know,” “I guess,” and “Maybe” are weasel words that try to deflect blame. It does not matter whether you were fully cognizant of the harm you were inflicting in the moment. It does not matter if your apparent lust was subconscious or not. Yours were not actions that any true servant of the Lord would inflict on a woman. A sincere apology would have admitted that you touched her breast and that it caused harm and humiliation.

‘If somebody took it the wrong way, or if they were offended by it, the easiest thing and the right thing for me to do, as a Christian, as a man of God is to apologize, and I sincerely apologize to Ariana again if I offended her in any kind of way.’

When you qualify your remarks with “IF” you are denying the offense instead of taking responsibility for your actions. You used that qualifying “IF” three times in one sentence. That is not an apology.

‘I certainly want to apologize to Ariana and to her fans and to her family and to her entire community if what I said was taken the wrong way. Listen, maybe it’s just a joke that went bad…Listen, it’s not about whether I meant it or didn’t mean it, or whether somebody took it the wrong way, I’m the one that said it and if it was taken to be an offensive statement, I apologize. That’s the easiest thing for me to do, the right thing for me to do and I certainly hope that she will forgive me.’

There’s that “IF” again, with a “MAYBE” thrown in for good measure. Deflecting blame away from yourself by qualifying your words in this way is certainly the easiest thing to do, but it is clearly not the right thing to do. In the Catholic sacrament of reconciliation, absolution doesn’t happen until after confession. If you hope to be forgiven, you must first offer genuine contrition. An honest apology would acknowledge all the harms you caused and take full responsibility for them instead of trying to preserve your own reputation by minimizing your transgression. Your reputation  has now been stained by your own words and actions. You cannot atone for this kind of sin without taking up the cross you constructed and bearing it.

I want to be very clear about why I don’t think your congregation should allow you to brush this incident under the rug. Your apology to Ariana Grande was unacceptable because:

  • It failed to acknowledge the harms caused: specifically the verbal humiliation, physical aggression and sexual violation you subjected Ms. Grande to, but instead tried to minimize and excuse your behavior.
  • It failed to acknowledge the true nature of your transgression which was both immoral and illegal and failed to take full responsibility for your actions.
  • It failed to reassure anyone that you would refrain from engaging in such reprehensible behavior in the future.

I will go further to add that if you are in agreement with the sanctimonious folks who judged Ms. Grande’s costume to be inappropriate for a funeral, and tried to make the story about her attire instead of your actions, here are some thoughts to consider:

  • Decisions about what performers wear are often made in conjunction with professional stylists and we don’t know who made the decision about what Ms. Grande wore.
  • The service was not just for your own congregation, as people of all faiths were invited. Not all churches have the same dress code. That dress would be a non-issue in my church.
  • If the church has a specific dress code they should have informed Ms. Grande and/or her manager before she came to perform. If they failed to do so, they have no business complaining after the fact.

I encourage you to do the right thing by making a proper apology, even though it will be difficult and painful for you. I encourage you to accept any legal consequences that arise from your actions. You may need to consider resigning your position as Bishop, whether your congregation demands it or not. I’m sure you find the prospect of public humiliation daunting, but as we sow, so must we reap. I pray that the Lord grants you the strength, courage, humility and wisdom to create something good out of this crisis.


Just another of the millions of women who have walked a mile in Ariana Grande’s shoes. #MeToo


PS:  In closing, here is a selection of wise words from the good book that you may contemplate at your leisure.

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.” 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-28

“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:40

“Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” Proverbs 28:13

“Woe to those who scheme iniquity, Who work out evil on their beds! When morning comes, they do it, For it is in the power of their hands. They covet fields and then seize them, And houses, and take them away They rob a man and his house, A man and his inheritance. Therefore thus says the LORD, “Behold, I am planning against this family a calamity From which you cannot remove your necks; And you will not walk haughtily, For it will be an evil time.” Michah 2:1-3