The Church failed Le’Andria Johnson, an alcoholic, by using her gift despite her issues

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Article By Artricia Williams // EEW Magazine

Back in the old days, professing Christians serving in ministry, that publicly sinned, were “sat down,” meaning they were relieved of duties for a period of time to get themselves together. Gospel singer Le’Andria Johnson might have benefited from such a practice.

The contemporary Church at large, however, is now of a more predatory nature. It is often consumed with talent and mass appeal to the degree that it devours the broken, dysfunctional and wounded, and overlooks sin in favor of talent.

The GRAMMY® Award-winning gospel recording artist, who has spiraled out of control due to alcohol addiction, is the latest example of how the gifted can fall prey to the church’s culture of mass consumption.

No one cared that the “Jesus” songstress was having a Mimosa at eleven in the morning, another Mimosa and three Long Islands at three in the afternoon, and lots more liquor before the day was done as documented by Iyanla Vanzant of OWN’s dramatic series, “Iyanla: Fix My Life.”  

Branded “The Bad Girl of Gospel,” the wife, mother, and former pastor, freely acted out until alcohol spilled out of her glass and into the social sphere. No longer contained, it took on the form of bad behavior, slurred slander against the church and its leaders, and cussing tirades. Then, once the bad girl image had a negative impact on public perception, some ministries, though not all, began canceling engagements.

But the ones that didn’t, should have—an undeniable fact in light of the 36-year-old’s DUI arrest, jail sentence for probation violation, and ankle monitor she currently wears that broadcasts her downward spiral.

Le'Andria Johnson accepts an award for Best Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music Performance onstage at the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards held at Staples Center on February 12, 2012 in Los Angeles, California (Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty)

Le'Andria Johnson accepts an award for Best Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music Performance onstage at the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards held at Staples Center on February 12, 2012 in Los Angeles, California (Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty)

In July 2018, Essence yanked the songstress from its festival lineup after her now infamously viral drunken live stream blasting Bishop Marvin Winans and lambasting the Church.  Even then, some ministries still booked and paid Johnson, seemingly rewarding the worst behavior of the “Sunday Best” talent competition winner.

But why? Why weren’t there more leaders focusing on her soul prospering instead of their event prospering?

Though Vanzant had no pastors present to grill on her riveting episode featuring Johnson, she certainly did not spare Phil Thornton, senior VP and general manager for RCA Inspiration—Johnson’s label—who views himself as a friend of the singer.

“There’s a way that you benefit as a professional, that may lead you to silence as a friend,” she said to Thornton, refusing to mince words.

A well put together Thornton, donning a crisp white shirt and slick blue sports jacket with a handkerchief in its pocket, didn’t reject the scathing assessment. In fact, he admitted it, saying, “Candidly, I’ve been guilty of that as a professional. In the last two years of working with her, I have been silent. ”

Thornton broke that cycle of silence on “Fix My Life,” giving Johnson 90 days to get her act together or risk being dropped from her label.

Le’Andria Johnson contemplates leaving the set of ‘Fix My Life’ (Credit: OWN)

Le’Andria Johnson contemplates leaving the set of ‘Fix My Life’ (Credit: OWN)

Johnson’s booking agent, Brandon, who also calls himself her “big brother,” did not escape Vanzant’s brutal honesty either. While holding his hand, the tell-it-like-it-is advisor said, “I think her singing gospel has a financial benefit to some people that don’t have a moral benefit to her.”

Though Brandon vehemently denied using the popular vocalist for monetary gain, Vanzant still stressed that “the boundaries are enmeshed,” because he would “cover up for her” so she would not “lose possibilities, and jobs, and opportunities.”

Johnson, according to Vanzant, is in need of a true “friend” to say “Girl, you need to get yourself together.”

While Johnson’s own culpability is not to be excused or diminished, those around the artist are culpable as well. Accountability is needed all around.

And who knows? Being “sat down” may be precisely the way to force some accountability on the part of Johnson and give the Church, as well as those that love Johnson, another chance to prove they are more concerned about her soul than her soulful singing.

Artricia Williams is a Gospel Industry staff writer for EEW Magazine Online.