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'Greenleaf': Is the Television Series Making a Mockery of the Church?

Updated on September 7, 2019
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Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.

Greenleaf returned with its fourth season on OWN on September 3, 2019, with more drama. Many viewers, including religious leaders, are wondering if the series is making a mockery of the church, especially the traditional Black megachurch.

If the scripted series created by Craig Wright and executive produced by Oprah Winfrey is mocking the church, it is not keeping religious leaders and churchgoers from watching it. The series has maintained a faithful following since it debuted on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) on June 21, 2016. Millions of people have watched at least one episode if only to see what the series is about. Some have become die-hard fans and have welcomed its fourth season. The series is also broadcast worldwide on Netflix.

There are dozens of Facebook groups when millions of people comment on the show even when it is not on the air. Therefore, you can always find out what is happening on the popular series.

Mockery or No Mockery?

The series has received praises from most critics and the actors have received individual positive comments. However, there are some people who firmly believe that Greenleaf is making a mockery of the church and especially the Black megachurch. It is upsetting to some Christians, according to gospel music star Erica Campbell.

While some might consider the behavior demonstrated on the series to be scandalous and too much over the top, Campbell spoke about the reality of what goes on in the church and in the lives of Christian family members. She emphasized that churches do not feature perfect people.

Some gospel musicians have outwardly supported the show from the very beginning, like famed choral master Ricky Dillard. He stated that he is glued to his TV whenever Greenleaf is on.

Greenleaf Family

There are many scandalous secrets and lies in the Greenleaf family along with greed, adultery, infidelity, sibling rivalry, jealousy, and conflicting values. Calvary Fellowship World Ministries is the Memphis, Tennessee megachurch that was once led by the Greenleaf family.

Many of the roles in the church and the family dynamics have changed since Season 1. Bishop James Greenleaf, played by Keith David is still charismatic and manipulative, but he is not the leader he once was. He has lost control of the church. He is divorced from Lady Mae, played by Lynn Whitfield, who was once the first lady of the church and she wants that title again. The divorced couple still lives in the same house, but they sleep in separate rooms.

In fact, Bishop Greenleaf's entire family lives in a luxurious mansion where they are served by housekeepers and other staff members. All of them dress well, eat the finest food and drink a lot of wine. None of that keeps them from arguing among themselves a lot.

Jacob Greenleaf, played by Lamman Rucker, is the oldest son. He’s married to ambitious and controlling Kerissa, played by Kim Hawthorne. They are parents to rebellious daughter Zora, played by Lovie Simone. They also have a younger son who doesn't get much air time.

Grace “Gigi” Greenleaf, played by Merle Dandridge, is the daughter who returned home after 20 years following the mysterious death of her sister, Faith. Grace’s teenage daughter is Sophia Greenleaf, played by Desiree Ross. Dandridge has received praises for her performance on the series.

Charity Greenleaf-Satterlee, played by Deborah Joy Winans is the youngest daughter who feels left out of family matters. She was married to Kevin Satterlee, played by Tye White until she found out he is gay. They share a baby.

Oprah Winfrey has had recurring roles as Lady Mae’s sister and Grace’s close confidant. However, she hasn't had a part in the series since she moved away.

Noah Kendall, played by Benjamin Patterson, was the estate manager of the Greenleaf mansion. He moved away and got married after his involvement with Grace was exposed.

Noah returns in Season 4 with a big secret that will have a major impact on Grace, other members of the Greenleaf family and indirectly on the church. This will be one of the major highlights of the current season.

A Fictional Church

Even though the Greenleafs and the Calvary Fellowship World Ministries are fictional, they do have some realistic elements that could be similar to happenings in your own local church. Though Calvary Fellowship World Ministries isn't real, the word Calvary is found in many church titles. There are churches names Calvary around the world.

The word "megachurch" implies that religious institutions have a large following like the church on Greenleaf. A megachurch is defined as having more than 2,000 people at a regular Sunday service, according to USA Churches.

In Greenleaf, the churches finances and the family finances are under scrutiny. Bishop Greenleaf finances and Jacob's finance came under fire in a prior season. The bishop loves money. He started a group in the church known as the Bishop's Roundtable. It is an exclusive group for members who contribute $10,000 or more above their tithes.


"No Disrespect" According to Oprah Winfrey

Executive producer Oprah Winfrey is not concerned about receiving a negative response even though the series has more than its share of scandals, secrets, and lies. She admits that there is no shortage of church and family drama that might upset some people within the Christian community, but these things do happen in the church. Greenleaf merely brings these things together, and they magnified on the big screen.

Before the series first aired, The Christian Post reported that Winfrey called Bishop T.D.Jakes, senior pastor of The Potter's House in Dallas, Texas, to assure him that the series was not based on him, his church or any other megachurch in America.

Oprah said she spoke to Bishop Jakes and told him she was producing a series about a megachurch and the only resemblance to him was that the main character is called Bishop like he is a Bishop. The television producer added, "I just want you to know, from my lips to your ears, I have nothing but deep respect and regard for the church. I, Oprah Winfrey, am going to do nothing, ever, that disrespects the Church." Winfrey concluded by saying, "I grew up in the black church. I wouldn't be who I am without it. It's the nurse, doctor, lawyer, psychologist, our therapy, nurturer, support, it's our rock."

Oprah admits Greenleaf has scandals, but she told People it's not in the manner of looking down on religion. She said, "I am not gonna do anything that is derogatory toward the church because I am of the church. Do you not think people in the church are flawed? That's why they're going."

Best Comment I've Read

I have read many comments about this subject on social media and in my Facebook groups. There is one comment that stands out among the others. It was written by Damena N. McCoy MEd in the Greenleaf (OWN) Family Group.

These are Damena's exact words with permission:

"I’ve had people ask me this before, and this is how I’ve answered. I don’t think it’s a mockery of the church. One family in a church wouldn’t have all these problems, but it’s a show and needed a central family as the main focus. Church is like a hospital, so all these problems we see within one family could very well exist in several families in a church."

Well said, Damena! I don't think many people have thought about it from that angle.

Conclusion of the Matter

While the purpose of the church should be to focus on Jesus, many are wondering why the series doesn't ever show people getting saved, being baptized, receiving Holy Communion and other church-related activities. They conclude that bad things are highlighted but not too many of the good things.

The church is God’s church and it does not belong to one family. However, Calvary Fellowship World Ministries is being run like a family business. There are many examples of parents, children, spouses, and siblings all being engaged in ministry together, but the Greenleaf family is manipulative when it comes to keeping their family members in high positions.

Everyone can form their own opinion about Greenleaf, and they can also watch it for different reasons. Some people say they watch it strictly for entertainment. It might be rare that people are watching it in order to be like any member of the Greenleaf family. Many of their characteristics are not to be desired.


Different Day to Watch "Greenleaf"

Greenleaf aired on Wednesday nights during Seasons 1-3. Season 4 airs on Tuesday nights at 10 p.m.


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    • Cheryl E Preston profile image

      Cheryl E Preston 

      13 months ago from Roanoke

      Yes I said this on FB. I cried over it.


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