Imagine walking into an Episcopal church for the first time, and the “priest” is a black woman telling you about her “sanctified imagination” fantasizing about how amazing it must have been to be a rich, bisexual, Canaanite prostitute who rubs elbows (and other parts) with royalty while wearing fine silks when not in a state of undress. “Reverend” Gafney has given that exact sermon, entitled, “Who are you calling a whore?”
In Joshua 2, we see that Rahab, a Canaanite prostitute, does help Israelite spies in Jericho, and she asks that her parents and siblings be spared. The spies agree that anyone within her home—the one place they encountered her—would be spared. When Jericho fell to the Israelite army, we are told that her family was indeed spared (Joshua 6:23-25). That is the entirety of the description of Rahab.
Now, let’s compare the Bible to the “sanctified imagination” of this “womanist & feminist Hebrew Biblical scholar, professor, priest.” There’s no mention of Rahab being wealthy, or that she had sex with kings and queens. There’s nothing about her mother and sisters being prostitutes with her, or that she was the head of the household over her father. Nothing “Reverend” Gafney imagines appears in the story. Indeed, Gafney made a point in the sermon of saying that Rahab never mentions her father having his own house, which Gafney says implies Rahab was the head of household. By extension, the Israelite spies are also cast as patriarchal sexists for mentioning Rahab’s father’s house rather than acknowledging the empowered prostitute being in control of herself. But Joshua 2:12 shows Rahab mentioning her father’s household.
We can thus see that the entire premise of “Reverend” Gafney’s sermon is false. Rahab was not some sort of wealthy brothel owner engaged in spying for the King of Jericho in addition to servicing him and his queen. She was not adorned in fine silks, and she was not the head of her family over her father. Absolutely nothing Gafney said can be found in the text itself, and the moral of the story is that Rahab was spared for protecting her guests despite Gafney saying that Christians should instead think of Rahab as an “ethnic minority,” a victim of patriarchy because she was described as a prostitute while her customers were not. The point of the sermon does not appear to be about encouraging good behavior in Christians but rather to defend black harlots and prostitutes today. Indeed, she says to “not count a sister out who fears God no matter how the deck is stacked against her.” There is no penitence here. No turning from sin to righteousness. Just embracing sin as acceptable behavior that is mislabeled by the evil patriarchy abusing minorities.
How does one arrive at such a perspective? Apparently, “Reverend” Gafney received a Master of Divinity in Homiletics and Hebrew Bible from Howard University and a Doctor of Philosophy in Hebrew Bible and a Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies from Duke University.
We can immediately see why she is preaching about the Old Testament to push feminist, black racialist ideology, but we must still wonder about her background since her academic credentials suggest she should know better, albeit a degree does not necessarily make one a cleric. Indeed, when the Apostles ordained clergy, they laid hands upon them, not ask for their curriculum vitae (Acts 6:1-7), so how did this person come to be a “female priest”? Interestingly enough, “Reverend” Gafney got her start with the non-apostolic, connexionalist African Methodist Episcopal Church and teaches at the non-apostolic, congregationalist Brite Divinity School. She is supposedly tied to the Episcopal Diocese of Philadelphia, worships in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, and is not listed as clergy in either, albeit is apparently licensed to conduct services.
This is all interesting because one does not usually find a person who jumped from one denomination to another after being ordained and who then teaches at a seminary for a third denomination. Does she truly consider herself to be Episcopalian? One wonders as she often dresses in a style seen among black Protestants, not Anglican clergy. Does she still consider herself to be Methodist? Why is an Episcopalian cleric teaching at a school associated with the Disciples of Christ and the United Methodist churches?
Does “Reverend” Gafney benefit from the fact that she is a black racialist/feminist at a time when it is unacceptable to question either of those things? Her theology certainly is not biblical, and it does not appear to fit with the normal teachings of the Anglicans or Methodists. Yet she is somehow able to give sermons to Anglicans and teach Methodists? The fact that this occurs is yet another example of why the Episcopal Church and those on a similar path are withering away. The truly faithful can see that this is not holy.
But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” – 1 Timothy 2:12