While channel surfing recently during the wee hours of the morning, I happened upon the weekly telecast of Melissa Scott, pastor of a Glendale, California church.
My instinct was to keep on surfing (I still struggle with the idea of female “pastors,” for in spiritual matters, the Word of God declares, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man”).
Nevertheless, I wanted to hear what Sister Melissa (my honorific for her) had to say. So I watched her telecast and found her rather conversant on the Bible. Scholarly even.
I DVRed a couple more of her televised messages – I’m not going to use the term “sermons,” for the previously stated reason – and came away with the same, generally favorable, impression.
So I did little research on Sister Melissa.
I learned that she was born in Rome; eventually moved to the United States; joined Los Angeles University Cathedral (headed by Dr. Gene “Doc” Scott, the “shock jock of televangelism”); married Scott in 2000 (he was 70, she was 32); and took over his ministry when he died in 2005.
And, oh yes, she used to be a porn star known as Barbie Bridges.
At least that’s the allegation made by Marie Claire, in an expose the magazine published in 2009. It recounted that, after assuming the pulpit formerly held by her late husband, after delivering her very first message, Easter cards featuring lurid snapshots of Bridges were anonymously mailed to members of the University Cathedral congregation.
Sister Melissa denied she and Bridges, the porn star, were one in the same. She attributed the similarity of their likenesses to an expert Photoshop job.
In an interview with Marie Claire – one of the rare occasions she’s actually spoken with journalists – she told the magazine, “I’ve seen a good portion of the stuff on the Internet, and honestly, I almost have to laugh at it.” She also stated, unequivocally, “I was never an actress in a pornographic movie.”
Marie Claire didn’t buy it. It maintained that Sister Melissa’s past in adult entertainment was confirmed by several acquaintances of hers.
What convinced me that the magazine printed the truth is the fact – which Sister Melissa does not dispute – that she was previously married to Paul Pastore, whom she divorced before marrying Doc Scott.
Pastore worked for an exotic dancing agency, according to the magazine, before launching a porn distribution outfit called Barbie Bridges Enterprises. Marie Claire reached him at his West Hollywood office where he was still working in adult entertainment. If Sister Melissa doesn’t want to acknowledge her past, he told the magazine, “that’s fine with me.”
Well, Sister Melissa has come full circle since she followed her late husband, Doc Scott, into the pulpit at University Cathedral; since the damning Easter cards exposing her former life were anonymously mailed to her congregation.
Instead of running away from her past as an adult entertainer, Sister Melissa should embrace it this Easter holiday. She should stand before her congregation this Sunday and tell them, truthfully, she once was lost, and now she’s found.
She should tell them the blood shed on Calvary was a ransom for poor sinners like her, like them, like all of us. And she should tell them that, because Christ rose on Easter Sunday, having conquered the grave, our sin debt has been paid to the Father.
Sister Melissa has a powerful story of redemption to share. Like her, all of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But the Good News is that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus – be it on a holiday card, on the Internet, in a magazine or anywhere else.
For whom the Son sets free is free indeed.