‘Preachers of Atlanta’ brings edge to religion for Oxygen February 3

Religion is a subject ripe for drama and controversy. Oxygen has already had success with reality shows “Preachers of LA” and “Preachers of Detroit.” Now the network is coming down south with “Preachers of Atlanta” debuting Wednesday at 9 p.m. for an eight-episode first season.

The preachers featured include a cop who also ministers, a son of a preacher who announced he was gay, a well-known rap artist and a gospel singer. Nobody considers themselves a “traditionalist.”

Here’s a quick overview of each preacher:

Pastor Judah Swilley

Who he is: A 24 year old fifth-generation preacher from Conyers, by far the youngest on the cast. He ministers at different churches, trying to inspire youth. His father, also a preacher, in 2010 came out as gay.

Why he’s on the show: “I like the ensemble set up. It’s a way to introduce myself to television without the magnifying glass of being on a solo show. I bring my own ideas of who and how I see Christ to be. I think I am the most out of the box in terms of theology.”

Pastor Corey Hambrick

Who he is: He’s a police officer with the Conyers Police Department and a preacher at the Life Church Christian Center, also in Conyers. “I saw a vision while driving my police car,” he said. “‘ You’re serving this community as a peacemaker. I want you to serve as a pastor.’ So it kind of came to me that way.”

Why he’s on the show: “A friend of mine knows a show producer. He thought my life story was interesting. I started this church four years ago with my own money while keeping a nine-to-five job. People have this idea that preachers have megachurches with Bentleys and aircraft. That’s not me.”

The tensions he faces: In the first episode, a man who just got out of prison confronts him about how he reconciles being a cop and a preacher. “We’re not robocops” as cops, he said. “We’re human. You put up that defensive mechanism [when confronted.]. But he had a legitimate perspective.”

Pastor Le’Andria Johnson

Who she is: A popular Grammy-winning gospel singer, she won BET’s “Sunday Best” season three. She now runs I.P.C. (Imperfect People Changing) Ministries.

Unorthodox ways: She takes extreme measures to reach those in need. She’s willing to hand out cigarettes and condoms to people on the street, efforts that other preachers on the cast don’t agree with.

Pastor Kimberly Jones-Pothier

Who she is: She is part of a family that has many preachers. But she rebelled as a teenager from her conservative parents, leaving the family at age 18. She did interior design, got married, then divorced. “I was from a family where divorce would be like going to hell on a slip and slide,” she said. Then she said she found God herself. “I got so close to Him,” she said. “I got better, not bitter.” As a preacher, she wears tutus and high heels and is very active on social media.

Her church: Church of the Harvest, Fayetteville

Why she has such a big following among African Americans: “They like my honesty, my authenticity. What you see is what you get. I’m very direct but caring.”

Pastor Canton Jones

Who he is: A Grammy-nominated Christian hip-hop artist, he started a new church in the fall called the Free Life Church in Jonesboro. “I rap about God because that’s the only way the youth will listen,” he said on the show. In an interview, he added, “We represent the working pastors. We use money to fund the church. We represent 90 percent of pastors in America.”

Unusual service style: “It’s very much the hip-hop culture. People can get up and praise and dance. We have rappers with tattoos. We pray over instrumentals. Everything is inspiring. There’s a DJ playing popular worship songs. It’s a club feel. It’s dark. People will read the Bible from their iPhone or iPad.”

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