Gospel Singer Kim Burrell Apologizes After Referring to 'Broke' and 'Ugly' Churchgoers During Sermon

The Mariah Carey and JAY-Z collaborator went viral for speaking about churchgoers' appearances and financial statuses, COVID-19 vaccines and PPP loans during a speech at Kingdom City Church

Kim Burrell attends the 36th Annual Stellar Gospel Music Awards at Schermerhorn Symphony Center on July 10, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Kim Burrell. Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty

Gospel singer Kim Burrell is facing backlash after a recent church guest appearance.

The 49-year-old Houston-based musician, who's worked with Mariah Carey, Frank Ocean and JAY-Z, was filmed giving a speech at one of Brian Carn's Kingdom City Church locations over the weekend, during which she commented on churchgoers' appearances and financial statuses.

Since delivering the sermon, which also saw Burrell praise attendees for "walking in faith" by not wearing a face mask or getting vaccinated against COVID-19, a clip has gone viral on social media and garnered criticism from individuals offended by her comments. She shared an apology online Tuesday but later deleted it and released a video explaining the initial post was written by an "attorney."

In the viral video of Burrell's speech at Kingdom City Church, the singer can be heard joking about crowd members being "broke" and asking personal questions about their utility bills and living conditions.

"Sometimes before we get friends we have to do an interview: How long you been broke? How many times have you changed your name on your light bill? How many of your bills are in your little cousin's name? Do you live in a trailer home or a house?" said Burrell while laughing in the clip. "You understand. It's not about status or material things. It's just about choices."

She then referenced the COVID-19 pandemic and Paycheck Protection Program loans. "We're at church… those of us that are walking by faith without a mask and no vaccine," said Burrell, later claiming that other churches should invite her for guest appearances. "Hopefully we'll get a chance to meet each other when y'all invite me to come to your church. I'm not as expensive as I seem! I don't know, maybe you got a little left from your PPP loan. Prayer, Praise and Power, you understand. Amen."

Elsewhere in the clip, Burrell nodded to Carn, 32, praising him for telling "the type of truth that makes most people uncomfortable" before discussing congregation members' appearances.

"Who likes to be told you're just ugly? No one likes to be told that," said Burrell. "Most don't get offended until they know the bad thing about themselves… I haven't chosen anyone to be ugly yet. God is good. God is great. You all look great. Most of you have on hats covering most of that anyway. Here's to you."

"I have a great personality," she declared before breaking into song.

After the video of Burrell spread on social media, many viewers shared their thoughts. "Kim Burrell has always been a bad look for Christians. She doesn't use her platform well or in an uplifting matter," one Twitter user said of the gospel singer, whose 2017 appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show was canceled after she made anti-gay comments during a sermon.

Pharrell Performs On NBC's "Today"
Kim Burrell. Slaven Vlasic/Getty

"[Burrell] is not God… your relationship with him is personal. It's not about the church people…Don't allow people to rob you of that experience," continued the tweet.

"I don't understand how you consider saying this as preaching, like you knew you were gonna say this and thought yeah the Lord is definitely gonna agree with this," posted another user.

Following the backlash, a written apology was posted to Burrell's Instagram and later deleted. "As a kingdom citizen, and a woman of integrity, I acknowledge that some of my words, even if said in jest, can be offensive," wrote the singer, per Distractify. "My intention is never to hurt anyone, but to spread love, laughter, and more importantly, the gift which God has given me in song. If anyone was offended, I can sincerely say I apologize."

She continued, "With that being said, the irony in this is that those who are criticizing my statement are displaying the very thing they have accused me of however, it's not been humorous, or in jest."

Andrew Lipovsky/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty
Andrew Lipovsky/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty

"My image has been used in multiple places and false statements and narratives have been created. The punitive damages for some are quite lofty," added Burrell in the since-deleted post. "Please be mindful of what is both written and said (via video) about me especially if it contains untruths. Slander and defamation are not taken lightly especially if it affects my name, image or brand."

Burrell concluded, "Those pages wherein vile comments and false narratives have been created have been noted, reported, and hopefully silenced. Again, I will apologize if anyone thought that my humor was malicious, but I will not under any circumstance tolerate harassment, slander, or for my character to be defamed. Best to all."

The apology post was criticized as defensive and threatening, with one user offering Burrell a "PR edit" to help re-craft the note. "An apology that starts with "if" and includes threats to sue for slander that came from thine own lips...is an empty apology," one Twitter user said in response.

On Wednesday, Burrell posted an Instagram video apologizing for her actions and claiming her first apology was written by an "attorney."

"Hello everybody. This is Kim Burrell. I'm sorry. I mean it. I mean that. Not from the letter, from my heart," she said in the clip. "I released a letter two days ago. It did not convey right at all, and I must tell you this — it was from an attorney that asked me to do it."

Burrell continued, "The latter part, y'all know I know, it was offensive... It was not my intent for it to be but it was her wording to say, 'They need to be aware.' I said, 'Nah.' My friends called me and said, 'No, there are still people who are hurt from the part of them they love about you.'"

Elsewhere in the clip, the musician said she wasn't going to issue another statement but decided to make the video out of love for her fans. "I'm really truly sorry. I didn't want to hurt you. I don't want to hurt you. I don't plan on hurting you, and I pray that you will heal from this," she concluded.

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