Church shows support for embattled pastor Mitzi Bickers

Last Thursday, the Rev. Mitzi Bickers stood in handcuffs and leg irons in a federal courtroom in Atlanta, one of the key figures in a city bribery probe.

On Sunday, though, she was in her element in the pulpit of a music-filled, packed Emmanuel Baptist Church in southeast Atlanta. Dressed in a bright red pantsuit, Bickers was surrounded by supportive family and church members.

“Despite some obvious circumstances,” she said, smiling, “I’ve had an amazing week. I want you know this, I want to say this to you and I ain’t gonna say nothing else. ‘Turn your worry into worship.’ Did you hear what I said? Touch two or three people and tell them … ‘Stop moaning, stop complaining. Dry your eyes. God is good.’ ”

Bickers, a political consultant and businesswoman, is accused of taking $2 million in bribes to steer city of Atlanta contracts to at least two contractors from 2010 to 2015.

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Bickers pleaded not guilty to the 11-count indictment and was released on a $50,000 appearance bond.

She thanked her congregation for the many texts and phone calls she has received in the last few days. She also thanked several people who had called to make sure she had the necessary money to be released.

During the church service, she made few references to her troubles, but several times encouraged people to rely on God in times of trouble.

She asked the congregation to turn to Isaiah 60:1: “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.”

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She told the congregation that in God’s time they will rise above obstacles, not matter the situation and to trust God in season and out of season.

“When you understand that no matter what you go through, it’s all good,” said Bickers, a Spelman College graduate whose father, Benjamin Weldon Bickers, founded the church, which is located on a street that bears his name.

She became pastor of the church in 1998.

“If we are born of God, we are victorious,” said a defiant Bickers. “If we are born of God, if when times get hard, we fight.”

The Rev. Mitzi Bickers at the Richard B. Russell Federal Building after her first appearance in federal court on Thursday, April 5, 2018. Bickers faces charges that she took $2 million in bribes to steer city of Atlanta contracts to at least two contractors from 2010 to 2015. She was released on a $50,000 appearance bond. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM


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On Saturday, said Bickers, she heard from a friend from Spelman.

The woman told Bickers, “Arise. Mitzi Bickers. … Arise, because you will not carry the victory sign. God is going to carry the victory sign because the battle is not yours. … Once you can understand that, that’s when you can smile when other folks think you should be crying. That’s when you stand firm when others have counted you out.”

She said, “This week was a good week to be under attack because I had already celebrated the resurrection and once you celebrate the resurrection, you just don’t live in the resurrection but … you have also learned to live in the fellowship of his suffering. Oh my God.”

Gertrude Mackey has been a member of Emmanuel Baptist for about eight years. “I’m just praying,” she said. “I feel that she will make it through.”

Tiffany King, Bickers’ cousin, is a member of another church but sometimes attends Emmanuel.

“She’s always done a lot for them (members),” said King. “She’s very generous and very caring.”

Another cousin, Kwana King, said she supports Bickers.

She’s been a member of the church since she was 10. “I just don’t understand it,” she said. “She’s a good person and wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize her family and church.”

Several members of the church declined to comment. Bickers declined to speak with a reporter as well.