By Michal Ortner
At least three female pastors are left without answers after receiving threatening letters from an unknown source. The sender included Bible verses that stated “women cannot be head of the man in church, home, and in the world.” More chilling statements threatened the lives of the women and their children if they refuse to step down from their pastoral position.
The women are leaders in the African Methodist Episcopal Church of Clarendon County in South Carolina. They are all located in a rural area, which gives the women more concern for their safety.
Mary Rhodes, pastor of Society Hill AME Church, found her letter on the door of the church on June 10.
“Whoever wrote this letter has taken the time to find out who I am, which means you may know my children, my grandchildren, and I have no clue who you are,” Pastor Rhodes said.
Valarie Bartley of Reevesville AME Church was sent the same letter only four days later.
“A lot of people do not respect female pastors,” Rhodes said. “S*xism in the church has been around for the longest time and it always gets, to my opinion, sort of hidden under the other issues that are there.”
Another letter was sent out to Greater Union Cypress AME Church, which also has a female leader.
“We have great concern about who is doing this and we pray they will stop,” Pastor Bartley said, mentioning that the rural aspect of their churches could open them up to danger.
“The blood of the people will be on your hand and the women must repent and turn away from what you are doing in the church,” read another alarming phrase typed into the letter.
The author, who signed his name as the Prophet Harry Leon Flemming, also went on to say that “The devil always uses a woman to bring down a good man” and that “he is doing the same thing in churches today.”
“Nothing is going to stop me from doing what God has called me to do,” Rhodes said, despite the forbidding nature of the letter.
Randy Garrett, sheriff of Clarendon County, is taking the threatening letters seriously and is on the hunt for the sender.
“The Clarendon County Sheriff’s Office is continuing their quest in attempt to locate the person or persons responsible for distributing the letters and will have deputies posted at every church that received the letter,” Garrett said. “The citizens of Clarendon County will be able to worship in peace.”