Women of Mt Zion Baptist Church made the news yesterday when they held a press conference to draw attention to episodes of bullying and an atmosphere of “toxic masculinity” and discrimination against women ministers at the church who dared to raise questions about church finances, specifically what happened to $4 million the church raised by selling off property. One minister even said she felt physically threatened by the interim pastor, James Stallings.
Patrinell Wright started the Total Experience Gospel Choir at Mt Zion in 1973 when she invited kids from the Franklin and Roosevelt High School gospel choirs to join the junior choir. The accusations of patriarchy and discrimination against women in the ministry probably come as no surprise to anyone familiar with this history: Pastor Pat herself was kicked out of the church by the deacons of Mt Zion in 1980. She still keeps the document that the Mt Zion ministers sent her, officially asking her to leave because she had “outgrown” the church. Those close to Pastor Pat claim that the enormous success she realized taking the Total Experience Choir on tours around the United States inspired a great deal of envy among the ministerial staff. Did being a strong-willed, vocal woman also have something to do with it?
It’s tragic to see Mt Zion, the “Mother of Black Churches” in Seattle, struggle with dwindling membership, finances, and political infighting, but its decline is predictable given the gentrification of the Central District and the exodus of the black community from the area.