LYNCHBURG, Va. — A reality star hipster “pastor” who is known for marrying Playboy cover model Kim Kardashian to blasphemous “I Am a God” rapper Kanye West, and for collaborating with West on the script for his “Yeezus” tour and other projects, was welcomed Wednesday by Liberty University, which heralds itself as being the world’s largest Christian university, to address students during convocation.
As previously reported, Rich Wilkerson Jr.’s reality show “Rich in Faith” began airing last month on the Oxygen channel and follows Wilkerson as he launches a new congregation called “Vous Church.”
“I come from a different perspective. I don’t think people are interested in a bunch of religion, like tell me what I can and can’t do,” Wilkerson says in the promotional video for the show. “But I think people are interested in having a relationship with a higher power.”
The preview shows Wilkerson getting a tattoo, lying on the beach with his bikini-clad wife, and telling his parents that he plans to hold his first service at a bar.
“In recent months, the themes of Wilkerson’s sermons have been based on songs from the Top 40: Drake’s ‘Worst Behavior,’ DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s club thumper ‘Turn Down for What,’ Beyoncé’s ‘Drunk in Love,'” the Miami New Times reports.
“His messages take surprising detours on their way to the gospel. He might roll out a story about pissing his pants as a kid, talk about marital sex, or even point out the church’s proximity to Miami’s strip joints,” it outlines.
Wilkerson, who previously led a 1,500-member young adult group called “The Rendezvous” at his father’s Trinity Church, was put into the spotlight in 2014 after he officiated the wedding of profanity-laden rapper Kanye West, known for songs such as “I Am a God,” “Drunk and Hot Girls,” “Hold My Liquor” and “Jesus Walks,” to Playboy cover model Kim Kardashian, the step-daughter of Bruce Jenner.
He had met the couple two years prior after they visited his father’s congregation.
“I just talked to Jesus/He said, ‘What up Yeezus?’/ I said, “[Expletive], I’m chilling/Trying to stack these millions,” West raps in his song “I Am a God.” “I know He the Most High/But I am a close high/… I am a god.”
“It began a relationship; we (Wilkerson and West) started emailing and calling each other. We collaborated on a few things: art, fashion, music, Jesus,” Wilkerson told People Magazine last year. “He invited me to write a few things for his tour, and I’ve been able to counsel him on a few things.”
Wilkerson is stated to have helped with the script for West’s “Yeezus” tour, where West brought a man dressed as Jesus on stage during a show in Seattle.
“White Jesus, is that you?” he asked on stage. “Oh [expletive]!”
West provided the artwork for Wilkerson’s new book “Sandcastle Kings,” which was released in November.
“Kanye is a really good friend,” Wilkerson told reporters. “We chat every week about different things … He’s an amazing artist and designer, and with my first book coming out, I thought it would be fun for him to design the cover.”
Pop star Justin Bieber also visited the congregation, and Wilkerson recently praised him in an interview with Cosmopolitan.
“I think he is doing great,” he said. “I just saw him three days ago in L.A. He’s doing awesome. We are proud of him.”
As previously reported, in an interview with Complex Magazine in October, Bieber spoke much about his views on Christianity, criticizing churches that warn about Hell and Christians who are “overly churchy.” He stated, however, the he personally desires to be more outspoken about the Christian faith and just wants to “live like Jesus.” Days after the interview was released, Bieber made headlines for smoking marijuana and drinking Hennessy on stage.
But some have expressed concern about Wilkerson, including Joe Schimmel, pastor of Blessed Hope Chapel in Simi Valley, California, and host of the documentary “They Sold Their Souls for Rock and Roll.”
“When Wilkerson’s church was new, one gimmick he employed was to offer to eat a live gold fish if 300 people attended. Some time later, he offered to be zapped with a stun gun when they hit 2,000 attendees,” he explained in a blog post last month.
While Wilkerson says that he believes in Hell and acknowledges that a person goes through a process of sanctification after coming to Christ, he says that specific sins are not discussed much from the pulpit.
“At our church, homosexuality is not a topic I like to chat about very much, but I don’t talk about a whole lot of issues,” Wilkerson told the Miami New Times last year. “I talk about what Jesus is for, not what he’s supposedly against.”
“I don’t know who’s going to Hell. I just know that followers of Jesus are going to Heaven—that’s what the Bible says,” he said. “My message isn’t ever who’s going where.”
“As a pastor, my heart breaks for those who are teaching such serious false doctrines and condoning the wickedness of the world system that so plagues the Church,” Schimmel said. “My heart breaks because I fear and tremble, knowing that the Scriptures declare that we will have a stricter judgment (James 3:1-2), give an account for souls (Hebrews 13:17), and that the blood of those who perish, will be on our heads if we fail to preach repentance and the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:21, 26-27).”
Wilkerson, whose father is the cousin of the late David Wilkerson, was scheduled to speak at Liberty University this morning during the mandatory convocation service. Liberty University’s motto is “Training Champions for Christ.”
As previously reported, on Monday, Liberty University rolled out what was called a “hero’s welcome” for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, and university president Jerry Falwell Jr. took to Fox News to defend Trump’s profession of Christianity.
“Those are just things that I think the world needed to know about Donald Trump because the Bible says that by your fruits you shall know them,” Falwell said. “He may not be a theological expert …, but when you look at the fruits of his life and all the people he’s provided jobs, I think that’s the true test of somebody’s Christianity not whether or not they use the right theological terms.”
Erwin McManus, an emergent leader with Mosaic Church in California, is scheduled to speak at the school on Feb. 3.