“What would happen if we saw taking seriously Black women’s singleness as a form of worship- our reasonable service? And I’m not talking about these Pinky Promise/Purity Circles/Wives-in-Training/Waiting Wives that take advantage of genuine desire and good intentions but are nothing more than spiritual pyramid schemes.”
The Rise of Heather Lindsey
Heather Lindsey, the magnanimous personality of the Purity Culture movement, has a story not unlike most. The Christian wife, mother, and minister is the 10th of 23 adopted children raised in Michigan by loving parents. A graduate of Michigan State University, she worked briefly in the entertainment industry with “the sole purpose of being a light of Christ in a dark place.”
With a profound passion for women, Lindsey founded Pinky Promise in January 2012. Pinky Promise, whose mission is to promote abstinence in singleness and submission in marriage, boasts a membership of over 22,000 women. Her authority in the matters of women’s ministry is not granted by seminary studies nor ordination. It has been assigned by proxy of her courtship and marriage to Cornelius Lindsey, founder and pastor of The Gathering Oasis in Atlanta, Georgia.
A Storybook Love Affair
The cornerstone of Lindsey’s movement is the storied tale of her courtship, marriage, and ministry with Cornelius. Their love story is one that she frequently shares as an example of the possibilities that await women when they choose abstinence and submission.
The most coherent account of Heather’s story appears in a February 2012 blog post. After rededicating her life to Christ in 2003, Lindsey began to sort through her complex relationship with creating and maintaining relationships with men. She describes the baggage of her dating life as years of stronghold. She animatedly describes the difficulties of being satisfied in solitude, admitting that she often searched for her value in people, money, her appearance, and material trappings.
After self-imposed reclusion with Jesus alone, Heather proudly proclaims about the “Godly timing” of meeting her now husband, Cornelius Lindsey, in January 2009. She waxes poetic about how courtship with Cornelius forced her into a state of emotional growth. She credits their courtship with the purging of behaviors that she’d amassed from previous relationships, including being spoiled, manipulation, and being highly emotional. After nearly two years of courtship, they wed and kissed for the first time on their wedding day.
The Chinks in the Armor
Lindsey is quick to retort that her courtship and marriage with Cornelius is no fairytale. It has, however, been a selling point in her numerous business ventures. Her first of five books, Pink Lips & Empty Hearts, is oft cited as a rite of passage into the abstinence movement. This book, introduced by her husband Cornelius, is an expanded form of their love story, littered with advice for how other women too can achieve this kind of love. It is also part of the syllabus for membership in the Pinky Promise Movement, Lindsey’s flagship organization.
The structure of Pinky Promise is curious at best. Its main presence on the web is a simple ning network, offering quick sign up for potential members. Heather’s latest products are more prominent on the site than details about the organization (which can eventually be found on the left sidebar). There is no information about the national structure of the organization, its leadership, or national membership roles. Most of the interactions seem to be on the local level with minimal national oversight. The site encourages its members to form or join local chapters and there appears to be a monthly bible study.
The most prominent event displayed on the site is its annual Pinky Promise Conference, a gathering that is in its 4th year. And one that has its beginnings mired in controversy.
Mumblings of a Problem
A former event planner working with the Lindseys on the planning of their Pinky Promise conference became the target of ire. The volunteer recalled a status call with Heather Lindsey where Lindsey demanded that the volunteer find a cheaper solution for their audio/visual rental needs. The volunteer claims that the Lindseys, having recognized her hard work, agreed to pay her two months into the assignment. Believing that she was sowing into their ministry, she declined the payment.
The volunteer mentions that despite having negotiated a commission of 10% of all room booking fees to be paid to the Lindseys, she learned they only intended to spend $5,000 for a three-day conference—despite having raked in $17,000 in registration fees so far. She also describes an occasion where she suggests to Heather that she hold an appreciation lunch for the volunteers. She claims that Heather retorted “No, they can order their own food.” She even details another fallen business deal with Cornelius Lindsey, claiming he failed to pay her for design work on his book’s website.
Feeling both used and grieved by their actions, she regretted her decision to decline payment. Having already committed 1,000 hours of work for their project, the volunteer decided to cease her services. The Lindseys began a public assault of her character on their social media channels. After she sought compensation, the Lindseys accused her of witchcraft and manipulation. Their followers inundated the volunteer with hate mail and harsh rebukes.
As is often the case with criticism of the Lindseys, the volunteer’s side of the story vanished from the internet. Her blog post, and entire blog, was deleted without explanation. The only evidence of its existence is found buried in the pages of a popular web forum.