Eboni Marshall Turman: Woman Sues Historic Black Baptist Church For Not Hiring Her As A Senior Pastor

by Gee NY

Eboni Marshall Turman, an associate professor of theology and African American religion at Yale Divinity School, has filed a lawsuit against Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City.

Turman is alleging gender discrimination in the hiring process for the position of senior pastor at the historic Black church.

Turman, a former assistant minister at Abyssinian, claims that she was not selected for the role due to discriminatory practices, as all five finalists chosen were male.

The complaint, filed in US District Court in the Southern District of New York on December 29, asserts that the decision not to hire Turman was motivated by gender bias.

The lawsuit contends that Valerie S. Grant, the former chair of the search committee, informed Turman that she was not among the finalists without the entire committee’s authorization, violating the proper process.

In response, Abyssinian Baptist Church issued a statement denying the allegations of discrimination. The church emphasized its commitment to faith, fairness, integrity, and inclusivity, stating that the search for a new pastor adhered to these principles.

According to the church, more than 40 candidates from diverse backgrounds, including age, gender, and sexual orientations, were considered during a documented vetting process.

The church maintained that the criteria and requirements for the senior pastor position were published as part of the job posting, and Turman, like others, fell short of some key requirements.

An exterior view of Abyssinian Baptist Church in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan.

The statement acknowledged that some committee members objected to excluding Turman from the finalist pool, citing gender discrimination, but affirmed that the decision was based on qualifications.

The lawsuit alleges that gender discrimination discussions were openly held during committee meetings, with Grant and another member expressing a reluctance to hire a woman as the Senior Pastor.

Turman also claimed that before the passing of Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, the longtime senior pastor, he praised her as the best and smartest minister but conveyed that Abyssinian would never hire a woman for the senior pastor role.

 Reverend Eboni Marshall Turman, Ph.D. is the associate professor of theology and African American religion at Yale University Divinity School in New Haven, CT.

The lawsuit seeks monetary damages for lost wages, benefits, and other economic damages, as well as compensation for emotional distress.

Additionally, an injunction is sought to prevent future gender discrimination in hiring at Abyssinian Baptist Church.

The case underscores the broader issues of gender discrimination within religious institutions and the challenges faced by women seeking leadership roles in traditionally male-dominated spaces.

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