Female pastors in Clarendon County receive letters threatening their safety

Published: Jun. 30, 2015 at 9:50 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 10, 2015 at 9:50 PM EDT
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Harry Fleming's letter.
Harry Fleming's letter.

CLARENDON COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Two Clarendon County pastors say they have been targeted with threats of violence just because they are women.

The two pastors received letters where the writer used Bible verses to threaten the women, leaving them concerned about their safety. One letter was left on the front door of Society Hill AME Church on June 10th for Pastor Mary Rhodes.

"Whoever wrote this letter has taken the rime to find out who I am which means you may know my children, my grandchildren, and I have no clue who you are" Pastor Rhodes said.

Four days later, Pastor Valarie Bartley received the same letter at Reevesville AME Church.

The writer, who identifies as Apostle Prophet Harry Leon Fleming, says in the letter that "the woman cannot be head of the man in church, home and the world."

"A lot of people do not respect female pastors," Pastor Rhodes said. "Sexism in the church has been around for the longest time and it always gets, to my opinion, sort of hidden under the other issues that are there."

Investigators from the Clarendon County Sheriff's Office say that one other church led by a female pastor also received the letter.

Pastor Bartley says she worried about their safety because all three churches are located in rural areas.

"We have great concern about who is doing this and we pray they will stop," Pastor Bartley said.

Clarendon County Sheriff Randy Garrett says he is taking the letters seriously.

"The Clarendon County Sheriff's Office is continuing their quest in attempt to locate the person or persons responsible for distributing the letters and will have deputies posted at every church that received the letter," Garrett said in a statement. "The citizens of Clarendon County will be able to worship in peace…"

The letters may have struck fear in the hearts of the pastors, but they will not allow it to keep them from worshiping on Sundays.

"Nothing is going to stop me from doing what God has called me to do," Rhodes said.

Investigators ask anyone info regarding to case to call Crime Stoppers at 1-888-CRIMESC.

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