Everyone is cutting ties with Kanye West. For church leaders, it’s not that simple.
The pastor of Washington’s Calvary Baptist church is a big-time celebrity. He travels the world delivering motivational speeches to audiences of thousands. He’s even made an appearance on the long-running TV show “Duck Dynasty.” With all that going for him, it’s no surprise that he’s attracted the attention of one of the biggest names in American entertainment, Kanye West.
On Oct. 16, 2017, West invited the pastor, in his capacity as the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Culpeper, Va., to his annual concert in Chicago. At the time, West was serving as the creative force behind his new record, Ye, as well as the leader of his label, Yeezy Season.
West has said publicly that he was blown away by the church’s decision to invite him to perform. He also told The Washington Post in October that he knew this would be a “huge opportunity for my career.”
So why would the church give West an opportunity he didn’t originally ask for?
This story was originally published Sept. 8. It has been updated.
In 2017, when West was at the highest point of his career, he chose a church in central Virginia to be the one to receive him. It was Calvary Baptist Church in Culpeper, where West was still serving as the pastor.
West, who has been a preacher and pastor his entire life, has played a pivotal role shaping the image of Calvary Baptist Church for the last two decades, as both a concert and concert venue. From his youth ministry to leadership positions such as the youth group president and co-founder of the church’s school in Culpeper, the church has featured West in events across the country.
“He came up as the pastor, but he’s really been a huge influence in our church,” says Calvary Baptist Church’s former president, Rev. William Taylor. “He’s the star pastor in the church these days. He’s the one who comes to church. He’s the one who is out there at our events.”
Calvary Baptist Church’s story — a story of the music and the message in the black gospel tradition — first aired in 2015 on a weekly television news program for black ministries called “The Journey with Charles Johnson.” That story was picked up later by media outlets such as the BBC, Rolling