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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -
Controversy has sparked at a north Charlotte church after a pastor sent an email asking that "only white people" stand at the front door to greet the congregation.
A viewer contacted WBTV after getting an email from Pastor Makeda Pennycooke, an African-American woman, at Freedom House Church along Salome Church Road.
The email was sent to a group of church volunteers who act as greeters for the church's 9 a.m. service.
Carmen Thomas, who has attended and served at the church for the past two years, sent us the email. She was appalled.
"I was floored," she recalled. "Like it was a jaw dropper. You can put a white face all over the front door. But when you come through those doors, you're going to see African Americans, you're gonna see Asians. You're going to see people of color."
In the email, Pastor Pennycooke reminds volunteers that fall is one of the busiest times of year for the church.
"We anticipate having an increase in the number of people visiting and attending Freedom House over the next few weeks," Pastor Pennycooke says in the email.
She then says that "first impressions matter" and says the church wants "the best of the best on the front doors."
"We are continuing to work to bring our racial demographic pendulum back to mid-line," she continued in the email. "So we would like to ask that only white people be on the front doors."
Thomas told WBTV she knew exactly what Pastor Pennycooke meant by that statement.
"Too black," she said. "It wasn't a conclusion that I drew. It was something I read."
Pennycooke then acknowledges the request is a "sensitive situation" and said quality trumps quantity.
"We would rather have less greeters on the front door if it means that the few that we have will represent us the best," Pastor Pennycooke wrote.
Thomas also told us that she's been an active and engaged member of the church for more than two years. She feels race isn't the only issue but also the church's bottom line.
"Perhaps you believe that with a certain congregation that eventually your finances are going to run out because maybe we aren't the moneymakers," she said.
WBTV contacted the Freedom House Church about the email and a spokeswoman for the church confirms the email was sent out by Pastor Pennycooke.
"The email was sent by one of our longtime pastors in an attempt to emphasize that our greeting team reflect the racial diversity of our entire congregation," a statement sent to WBTV read. "However, she admitted it was a mistake to over-emphasize any specific group and sent an apology email within 24 hours of the original email going out."
The viewer told WBTV a letter of apology was issued to some people from Pastor Pennycooke and Senior Pastors Troy and Penny Maxwell.
"The pastors have been meeting with staff and church members to confirm their commitment to diversity and to ensure nothing like this happens again," church officials told WBTV. "Freedom House believes in a diverse relationship within its membership, reflecting the larger community in which the church resides, doing life together as a church representative of everyone -- culturally, ethnically, economically, and generationally."