Oprah will appear in scripted megachurch drama

Posted April 28

A new television series about a megachurch already has a high-profile fan: Oprah Winfrey.

"I believe that what we all love is a good story," Winfrey said last week at the Tribeca film festival, according to Reuters. "Greenleaf" was screened there, but it won't premiere on Winfrey's OWN network until this summer.

The scripted series focuses on the Greenleaf family, who run a Memphis-based megachurch. Winfrey is an executive producer and actor for the show. She'll play a blues club owner who loves stirring up trouble, Reuters reported.

"Greenleaf" will join a growing number of religion-related TV shows that strive to pull back the curtain on faith communities — sometimes literally. For example, "The Sisterhood," which premiered in 2014, allowed viewers to follow five young women as they discerned whether they were meant to be nuns.

"Greenleaf" doesn't claim to be based on reality, but its characters' struggles will likely sound familiar. U.S. megachurch pastors like Mark Driscoll and Tullian Tchividjian have been publicly called out for unethical conduct, such as plagiarism and adultery, and forced to leave their leadership roles.

There are more than 1,600 Christian megachurches in the U.S., according to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research. A congregation earns this label if it has "a sustained average weekly attendance of 2,000 persons or more in its worship services, counting all adults and children at all its worship locations," the organization notes.

Winfrey and other leaders behind "Greenleaf" said the show won't mock megachurch life. Instead, it will try to faithfully convey what's it's like to anchor your life in a bustling and complicated congregation.

"It is not a soap. It is not a sermon," said the show's creator, Craig Wright, to Reuters. "It is a story about a lost faith and an attempt to get it back by setting things right."

Winfrey previously ventured into religious programming with "Belief," a documentary series that aired this fall, as the Deseret News reported at the time.

"The series (explored) 33 different spiritual experiences, which (included) a Native American coming-of-age ceremony, the Islamic community's annual pilgrimage to the Hajj in Mecca and Burning Man, a one-of-a-kind gathering that takes place each year in Nevada's Black Rock Desert," the article noted.

Email: Twitter: @kelsey_dallas


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