JOHANNESBURG -- The Rivers Church in Sandton, Johannesburg, is caught in the middle of a racism storm after its pastor, Andre Olivier, said black people have abandonment issues.
Olivier allegedly made these comments during the 11.15am sermon on Sunday.
Black people must stop going to places where they are not celebrated simple. Black people stop going to RIVERS CHURCH. QHA KE— Anele Mdoda (@Anele) June 27, 2016
“The sermon was essentially around abandonment or people with abandonment issues – that is what it was centred around,” said Bume Mapukata, who attended the service.
“About three-quarters into the sermon he went off on a tangent. He was speaking about how you need to be open to the way in which God might come and resolve your problems and that He might bring people who are different from you to try and help you in your situation.
"And so if you are a white person you might find a black person coming to be the person who allows you to find a way through your troubles and vice versa. And then all of a sudden he says he gets quite upset when people in this country say that white people are the problem with this country or white people are what is wrong with this country.”
Pastor Andre has been using @RiversChurch to display his ignorance about the history of white privilege in this country.— Muzi Mthembu (@Muzi_Mthembu) June 26, 2016
Speaking to eNCA.com, Mapukata said the pastor had referred to his own life experiences, including being abandoned by his father, and that he has worked really hard in his life.
“I am not disputing that he has worked hard to be where he is. He is completely oblivious to the fact that he has enjoyed privilege along the way. To insinuate that you are where you are simply because of hard work – are you saying that black people don’t work hard?” said Mapukata.
“To say that we have stolen nothing from no one so you are going to completely disregard history, and the history of blacks being exploited and manipulated in this country.
I stopped attending Rivers Church ages ago. So did my pops and my brother. We heard enough to know Pastor Andre was a flaming racist.— Khanya Mtshali (@UncleKhanya) June 27, 2016
“After he said what he said – he said that I know that black people are not going to applaud, or I have lost a few people right now, but I will probably get you guys back at the end of the service,” said Mapukata.
Another congregant, Thato Mokwena, also said she was offended by the pastor’s comments.
“He continued to speak about how ‘you wanna know why white people have money it is because we work’ and then he continued on that point by insinuating that he was not going to split the wealth because he had worked for it. And that if you want to acquire that wealth you work for it,” she said.
“I was devastated because I really think he is a good pastor in the sense that he is charismatic, he is likeable. He has some good sermons – but for him to display such ignorance – it was really just racism.”
Thank goodness I stopped going to rivers church a loooong time ago. I felt in my gut that there was everything wrong about going there.— Khanya Nkosi (@KhanyaNkosi) June 27, 2016
Others who attended the church service said they were not offended.
“He said when white people sometimes say something some black people might get offended or some people might get offended but it is not because of their whiteness because they work hard, so let us all just work hard,” said a congregant who did not want to be named.
She added: “He then went on to say he is proud of the black business people in the church because they are doing things the right way and making their stand in the economy and just making everything work better together.”
She described the pastor as a frank person and “quite refreshing”.
“He is not about being politically correct, he is about serving according to the scripture and he is not afraid to offend when it is based on the scripture and fine he used colour and colour is a very sensitive issue in South Africa but for me I was unfazed until the person next to me said why is he talking about race.”
I've always found @RiversChurch in Sandton to have been problematic, but the racism espoused on the pulpit today is sickening.— Muzi Mthembu (@Muzi_Mthembu) June 26, 2016
In an email response to eNCA.com the church said “due to the time constraints of the request, we’re unable at this time to make comment on your request. We will revert to you in due course.”