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'Preachers of Detroit' out to uplift the image of the city

Mekeisha Madden Toby
Special to The Detroit News

Bishop Corletta Vaughn is hopeful.

As one of the stars of the new Oxygen reality series "Preachers of Detroit," she believes the show will improve the way national viewers look at the city and its ministers. A spinoff of "Preachers of L.A.," the program debuts at 8 tonight.

"The city is rebounding and there is an opportunity to expose Detroit in a positive way," said Vaughn, senior pastor of the Holy Ghost Cathedral and chief apostle to Go Tell It Evangelistic Ministry Worldwide.

"Our show will let America know the city government may not have money, but we as Detroiters are not bankrupt in our spirit," the Detroit native said. "There is money in the city. It's a big town and we're doing real ministry in the midst of despair."

Vaughn is one of seven telegenic and charismatic ministers spotlighted on "Preachers of Detroit." There is also Bishop Charles H. Ellis III of Greater Grace Temple; Pastor David Bullock of St. Matthew Baptist Church; Pastor Tim Alden of City of Praise Christian Church; Bishop-Elect Clarence Langston of Word in Action Christian Center; Pastor Don William Shelby Jr. of Burning Bush International Ministries Church of God in Christ; and Evangelist Dorinda Clark-Cole of Greater Emmanuel Institutional Church of God in Christ.

But don't let the church angle or the breathtaking aerial views of the Motor City fool you. "Preachers of Detroit" is not without its drama and conflicts. After all, this is reality TV.

For instance, Vaughn bumps heads with Clark-Cole on whether or not women can be bishops and lead churches. Vaughn believes they can and Clark-Cole believes women should be subservient.

Clark-Cole is not alone in her sentiment. In the pilot episode, Ellis brings all of the show's ministers together to discuss the issues and challenges they face. When Vaughn brings up the fact that women make up the majority of church memberships, but aren't represented in the pulpit, she faces opposition from Shelby of Burning Bush, as well.

Things grow increasingly tense when Bullock asks Shelby if he could be married to a woman bishop, and Shelby says no.

Vaughn is used to such resistance. Changing and challenging the way women bishops are perceived has become one of her callings. It's also one of the reasons she wanted to be on "Preachers of Detroit."

"Women in the ministry don't always get a shot at these opportunities," Vaughn said of the show. "I want to cry every time I think of how supportive my church was when I told them about being a part of 'Preachers of Detroit.' I've been their pastor for 29 years and they know what I stand for and they trust me."

In addition to gender roles, other issues addressed on "Preachers of Detroit" include community outreach, social empowerment and poverty.

During the meeting, for example, Bullock ruffles the feathers of Ellis and Langston by pointing out the fact that neither live in Detroit and both have expensive homes and cars while a substantial number of Detroiters struggle to keep jobs and pay bills.

"I don't apologize for what I'm able to afford," Ellis says. "My record is clear in what I give back."

Bullock, who comes across as a Spike Lee-level agitator at times, later meets up with Langston and heatedly debates Langston's ability to relate to his parishioners and give back to people in need.

"You get in your Bentley and you drive out to the suburbs. You drive past the misery," Bullock tells a stunned Langston. "And you are from the streets, but you won't even help the streets. Because you come from the streets, you need to give back to the streets."

Will Bullock and Langston ever see eye to eye and why doesn't Clark-Cole think a woman could be president? Viewers will find out these answers and more in the coming weeks on this entertaining new offering.

'Preachers of Detroit'

Debuts tonight

8 p.m. Fridays