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Funeral for Whitney Houston

Aired February 20, 2012 - 15:00   ET


REV. MARVIN WINANS: Father it is the entrance of thy word that bringeth light and life, and we pray this afternoon that the glorious light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ would shine bright as always. May the people be blessed by thee and never impressed by me, calls to the glorious light of the revelation of thy word to cause these people to see you more clearly, to love you more dearly, and to follow you more nearly.

And now, Lord, let the words of my mouth and meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight. Oh, Lord, my strength in my redeemer and every glad heart say amen.

CROWD: Amen.

M. WINANS: The first thing I want to do, I want to give honor to the pastor of this church, Pastor Carter.


M. WINANS: And for his spirit of humility.


M. WINANS: I want to thank Mama Houston, Cissy, for your just willingness to forget about everything else and have this service here.


M. WINANS: That took a lot of courage. And because of that, you brought the world to church today.


M. WINANS: I want to give honor to all of the bishops and pastors and folk that have come. I want to assure you that I won't be that long, but I've been waiting on y'all all day. So I want to make a couple of disclaimers.

One, that most of this homily will be done in English, but old habits are hard to break, so if you hear language you don't understand, don't worry about it, because I wasn't talking to you no how.


M. WINANS: I was hoping that CeCe would have been singing before I preach. I'm going to do something, Mama Houston, if that's OK. You know, we hear a lot about BeBe and CeCe.


M. WINANS: You know, and you would actually believe that BeBe and CeCe knew Nippy (ph) first. That's not the case. Just like you think BeBe knew Whitney -- I mean, Oprah first. That wasn't the case. I'm going to ask my twin brother Carvin to come. I'm going to ask BeBe and CeCe to come. I'm going to ask my son, Marvin Winans II to come. Angie and Debbie can come. My nephew, Al, can come.

My mother, she's here, but she can stay right there. Where's Butch? Where's Carvin? Come on up here.

The truth is Carvin and I met Whitney first in Beverly Hills. We were...

CARVIN WINANS: Not true. Not true.

M. WINANS: It's very true.


M. WINANS: We were the Winans. We were -- I tell people I used to be famous. I'm now CeCe's brother. And I'm proud to be so. We, the Winans, the four brothers, we were signed to William Morris. And Whitney, this young, new star, who I thought sounded a lot like CeCe when I heard her, but she was also signed to William Morris Agency at the time. And we both had the same agent, a man by the name of Marshall Resnick.

And so he told us, he said, have you heard of Whitney Houston? I said, yes, I've heard of her. And he said, well, you know, this is her first album. And so, when she went on tour, he said, well, she's singing you guys' song. And I said, what song is that? He said, she sings your song "Tomorrow."

And he should have never told Carvin that, because he was going to stay awake day and night until he got in touch with Whitney Houston. And I remember going to the hotel in Beverly Hills and Carvin and I and, you know, we didn't know.

He told us where she was staying. Probably shouldn't have told us. And we went and Whitney came down. When I looked at her, I said, oh, lord, I'm in trouble. She said, why? I said, you're going to be my missionary. You're just going to sing a little while. You're going to be my missionary.

We were really thanking her for singing our song. And so I'm going to ask Carvin to come and we're just going to sing a little bit of "Tomorrow." And then I'm going to preach and we're going to go home. You know?


M. WINANS: We are happy to recognize Pastor Michael McQueen from Atlanta, Georgia, or Alpharetta, Georgia. And he was Whitney's pastor in Alpharetta and she loved him. And he was the last minister she heard before her passing. God bless you. We are also happy to have the governor of New Jersey here, Governor Christie, who had the flags at half-mast in honor of Whitney. Thank you.


M. WINANS: And stood by his decision.

Let's go to the word of the lord. I can assure you that this is not a speech. I'm getting ready to preach. Someone -- some lawyer called my office to see if I wanted property rights on what I must say, I don't know how I could do that because all I'm going to preach is the word today.


M. WINANS: The word of the lord from Matthew, the 6th chapter and the 25th verse. Jesus says these words. Therefore, I say unto you, take no thought for your life what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink, nor yet for your body what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat and the body more than raiment.

So for the scriptures, I want to focus on the B clause of this text. Is not the life more than meat and the body more than raiment. In order for us to expedite this process, I am looking for my amen corner. Sounds like it may be coming over here somewhere.

And I try to tell folk in the little church where I pastor that if you say, man, I'll get through this sooner, if you don't, I'll feel like you don't understand what I'm saying and I'll have to reiterate some things.

But if you want to leave here with a subject, everyone, repeat after me, prioritize.

CROWD: Prioritize.

M. WINANS: Now that's what we talk about today. Somebody lied on Jesus and I just want to set the record straight. There is this untrue, this misrepresentation, that living for the lord is somehow boring, dull, ho-hum, unfulfilling, second rate, unimpactful, dissatisfying, wait until you have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel sort of existence.

When nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus said, in John 10:10, the thief cometh not but for to steal, to kill, and to destroy. But he speaks of himself and said, I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly.

The Apostle Peter speaks out of his experience in Second Peter, 1 and 3, and says, according as his divine power hath given us all things that pertain unto life and Godliness.

Prioritize. Prioritize simply means to arrange in order of importance. In other words, setting up your life based on things that really matter. And in this discourse, that's exactly what Jesus was trying to teach. This is the Sermon on the Mount known as the Beatitudes and it starts, according to Mark's account, in the fifth chapter, and ends in the eighth.

So, I would suggest you read it and pay specific attention to the sixth chapter. But at the end of the eighth chapter, it says that the people were astonished at his doctrine because he spake with such authority. In other words, he talked as if he knew God.

And it amazes me -- see, I'm getting loud. I'm starting to get louder.


M. WINANS: It amazes me how ambiguous the believer is about God when, in fact, we ought to know him. I'm going to preach in a moment. Just stay with me. And the only way to know him is to have him included in what you do, not excluded. And Jesus says here, take no thought.

That word in the Greek, it's a verb, which simply means "don't be careful" or "don't be anxious." Don't get nervous about life, sukay (ph), which simply means "to breathe," or "to have the psyche or mind of an individual."

Don't get nervous about life, because the life, the breath is more important than what you eat. What you -- what you put on cannot equate to life itself. And so Jesus says take no thought for your life. In no way is he suggesting that one lives a life aimlessly without dreams or aspirations.

He is not saying let life happen and just accept -- accept what comes your way. He is actually saying the opposite. I want you to understand that our salvation was not given to Christ. He had to buy it. And Jesus came with purpose and fought to obtain our deliverance.

Salvation is free, but it ain't cheap. One of the qualities of faith is expectation. Now faith is the substance of things hopeful, and the evidence of things not seeming so. If you find someone without expectation or hope, that individual is void of faith, because faith always expects and faith always moves towards its goal.

So don't think that the church is for somebody that doesn't want anything. Don't think that the church is for somebody that can't get a gig anywhere else. Don't think that the church are for people that do not have hope or cannot make impact.

As a matter of fact, that is the opposite. It diametrically opposes what Jesus is about. John writes and says, but I would, above all things, that thou mightest prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers.

But what we're dealing with is the misappropriation of what's important. And the devil wants you -- and I said the devil. The devil wants to use your circumstance against you by making you become anxious when things don't happen on your timetable.

He wants you to assume responsibility in that you become the master of your own fate and trust in your abilities to make things happen and thereby abdicating your faith in Jesus.

But Jesus is saying, I don't want you to become anxious about life. I don't want you to feel as if life happens without purpose. For I want you to understand, according to -- emphasis the Ephesians, the first chapter, that God works all things after the counsel of his own will, to understand that you are not a mistake, that you are not a mishap.

But God had a purpose before he ever created a person. And that your existence on earth has significance. You all got to help me preach here. Look at somebody and say, I'm significant. So, when you recognize that you did not just show up, but that God had purpose for you.

I like to use this analogy that everyone buys a new car and when you buy that car, there is an owner's manual in the glove compartment. Now, most of us, because we have our license and have had it for some time, we do not even go through the owner's manual.

Because it tells us how often we should take it in for a tune-up and the oil we should use and the gas we should use. I had a car that I used to put just Mobil Premium in. But these gas prices have ran me to regular right quick fast and another. Everything gets regular now.


M. WINANS: But the owner's manual for the car doesn't tell you where to drive. It doesn't tell you who to let in your car. But it tells you how to get the best performance. And when people look at the Bible, they look at it from the wrong perspective.

Because this is the owner's manual. And the things that God has set up is so that you can get the best performance -- I don't hear nobody talking to me -- so that you can get the best performance out of your life!

So, let's take another look at what Jesus said. And I'm finished. If we read this text in its entirety, Jesus says some wonderful things. He says no man can serve two masters.

In other words, somebody has to be in control. Someone has to be subservient to the other. Either you love God or you'll serve money. But you can't serve money and God. Somebody holler back at me, prioritize.

CROWD: Prioritize.

M. WINANS: I don't want anybody to leave here thinking that God wants anybody here broke. And I just need to say this, since I have your attention. We have a lot of folk that say, well, you know, I don't agree with the prosperity gospel. I don't know what other gospel there is.

And if God wants somebody to be broke, would you tell me who that is? Who's volunteering? I can't get no hands here. Let me -- please, I just believe the Bible. I just believe the Bible. You have to understand that this manual gave us examples and testimonies of how we should live.

And when God brought Israel out of Egypt, everybody came out with something. I don't hear nobody talking to me. For you to believe that somebody has to be broke is to say that God doesn't have enough sufficiency to supply it for everybody. I'll talk about that on another day.

You know, folk been coming to the church and wanting to hear me. What are you going to say? What are you going to -- I'll be there Sunday. Come Sunday, all the people that was trying to hear me preach today, could Sunday, I'll be there.

All the news agencies. You know, when are you going to -- just come Sunday. I do this every Sunday. So I want you to understand that what God desires for everyone is that everyone would be healthy and prosperous.

And so he says you don't have to worry about it, because I want to say it in the vernacular of today. He says, I got you. I know that may not be proper English, but certainly the text seems to emphasize the fact that if I'm not going to worry, Bishop Jakes, about what's going to become of me, then God says, I got you.

So he says, here's the priority for the believer. Because sometimes the world is afraid of church folk, as one -- as one Muslim said, he wished he had met Christ before he met the Christian.

Because sometimes we are believers behaving badly. But Jesus, Jesus says that I'm going to give you the order of how this should go. And in that same text, he says, seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Now you've got to put that in there before we go to the all.

Seek ye first the kingdom. In other words, the first thing that comes to our mind when we begin to do things would be, is this consistent with kingdom living? We want to get the proverbial cart before the horse.

And we start seeking things before we seek the kingdom. But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. In other words, with everything I do, I want to remain in right standing with God.

I'm getting ready to preach now. I want to remain in right standing with God. In other words, I want my life to please him. The gifts that we have are God's gift to us. But the life that we live is our gift to God. And God says, I got you.

So, if you seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, then all these things shall be added. See, that's -- that's the part that allows you to work the foundation of your faith, to allow God to take you through a wilderness area, knowing that he's going to make you the better for it.

And that when I get in the middle of the valley, that is not a time for me to leave my faith, but to trust that God is still with me. And that if he has me in the middle of a sunny afternoon, then he has to have me in the middle of a dark night.

Look at somebody and say, he got you. He got you. I want us -- I want us to recognize that our faith in God must not be something that we attach to the end of our lives, but that we must prioritize. That you make your decision based on your faith. That you walk according to what you believe, knowing that you can never say yes to God and god make you ashamed.

That you can never put God first and God forget and leave you. I'm finished. Thank you.


M. WINANS: C sharp. Every head bowed.

Father, we thank you for this life of Whitney Elizabeth "Nippy" Houston. We thank you that she was a dear friend and we echo the sentiments of all that have come to show their love. But, Father, I pray, by the power of the Holy Spirit that you would give all that all are under the sound of my voice the thought to prioritize, to make you first, for us not to talk about you but for us to live for you.

Let us leave here recognizing that Whitney left too soon. Let us leave here impacted by her life, saying that I want to finish what God has started. Let us make you first. I pray that you would lift up Mike and Gary and Pat and Bobbi Kristina, lift up Cissy. Lift up Aunt Bay. Lift up Dionne. All of those that are touched. All of us that are hurting, that you would lift us up.

And, Father, we will not leave here bitter or upset. But let the church say amen, let the church say amen. God has spoken so let the church say amen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to ask if everyone, except for the family, the first three rows here, if everyone could please have a seat. Please, except for the first three rows. Please have a seat. Thank you.

This is how we need to exit. I'm going to ask -- as you all know, you can see we have more stars here than the Grammys. That says something. Hallelujah. I'm sorry, Tyler.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love you. That's all -- that's the only way I know now. So, what we're going to do is please ask everyone to be patient. I'm going to ask all of you who are right here, right now, with the exception of the governor and the mayor, I'm going to ask everyone to please clear this area for right now.

We're going to ask the family will be -- this is the way we're going to exit. The family will go first, the three rows. I'm going to now ask if I can have -- and all of your security that goes along with it. We're going to ask if the first seven rows would please stand on my right. Yes. Yes. Don't go anywhere. Don't go anywhere. The casket has to go first. Clear the aisle. Keep the aisles clear, please. Everyone else, please stay seated. Carolyn, it's on you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to ask everyone to please have a seat except for the first seven rows on this side. Please have a seat. We will get you out quickly, I promise. Thank you.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: And that's the scene inside the New Hope Baptist Church, where they have just wrapped the service remembrance. And that's the scene -- that is the scene inside the New Hope Baptist Church, where Pastor Winans has just completed his remarks and they played a song, Whitney Houston, of course made famous.

PIERS MORGAN, HOST, "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": That was one of the most incredible four hours I've ever watched of any kind of service anywhere.

O'BRIEN: Amazing.

MORGAN: It was uplifting. It was rousing. It was emotional. It was sad. It was hilarious in parts. And the exit at the end with Whitney Houston's casket being led out with all of these people that you recognized and some you didn't, to "I Will Always Love You," just spine-tingling, remarkable thing to watch, wasn't it?

O'BRIEN: Oh, it was absolutely beautiful. It was interesting earlier, we were talking to Pastor Soaries, he said, you know, this is not going to be a funeral, this is not a funeral Mass. This is church. And people have to remember that this is worship, this is bringing God's message to people who are hurting very much.

The family wanted to keep this very private. They made sure that the fans were kept at a little bit of a distance. And they really were able to pull together a beautiful, beautiful service of song and remembrance and really funny stories as well.

MORGAN: I just thought the mix was so good. I mean, people that I didn't expect to be that memorable. Kevin Costner, I didn't know what to expect from him. I thought he made a remarkable address. It was moving. It was funny.

O'BRIEN: He told the behind the scenes stories of...

MORGAN: Of "The Bodyguard." And I didn't know any of that. And I thought...

O'BRIEN: And how he fought for Whitney Houston...


MORGAN: Yes, I mean, who knew that she was that lucky, really, to land that role and he stuck his neck out, clearly, for her. But the fact that he had come from a Baptist Church himself and he -- I've never watched a Baptist service like this before. And so I'm sure that it's quite common, this kind of thing in many Baptist ceremonies. But really extraordinary.

The coffin is now being led away. Whitney Houston's coffin at that end of that service, lead out by many -- I saw Oprah Winfrey there and Mariah Carey and others all walking behind the coffin.

Really simple now out here. I mean, there are no hordes of fans. There is a very sort of eerie quiet now. And you're just seeing Whitney Houston being taken away now in the coffin in the streets where she grew up. And it's very poignant, isn't it?

It feels very real. That's what the whole thing felt to me was -- I think they call it a home-going?

O'BRIEN: They did. And what Pastor Soaries was telling us earlier, that this is the idea that your life is like a hotel. You come in and there is going to be a time when you leave. And this is a celebration because everyone knew at some point you were leaving, and now you're going home and...


MORGAN: I loved Pastor Marvin Winans's address. You call it a eulogy, a sermon, or what you call it. But whatever it was, it was just pulsating and it was vibrant and positive. And you just -- you felt enthralled by this.

And, you know, I think Whitney Houston, you know, the whole effort this week has been to try and separate, if we can, the stuff that happened in her private life from the artist and the woman.


O'BRIEN: We're taking a look now at the...

MORGAN: And this, I think, really did that so successfully.

O'BRIEN: They are putting the casket in the hearse as the next part of this funeral, this service moves on.


MORGAN: They say she is being buried tomorrow.

O'BRIEN: That is correct.

MORGAN: But it was -- what did you think, Joe? I mean, you've seen many musical events in your time. It was not a musical event...


JOE LEVY, EDITOR, "ROLLING STONE" MAGAZINE: No, they call this a home-going. And it's so important to remember the home part of that. That this is the church that she grew up in. That she sang in the choir in this church. The choir we heard today, they are probably people she sang with and grew up singing with. It's an amazing moment. It's a family moment. And one that we were privileged to be part of.

The while Winans family humanized her so much. You were saying...

O'BRIEN: And I thought all those stories did. Everyone had a story that was not about Whitney Houston the star, it was about the generosity of Whitney Houston the person, the ability to reach out and help younger artists who needed some guidance.

MORGAN: Well, some of the singing was just off the charts. I thought with Donnie McClurkin at the start, he raised, not the roof, I mean, out here we can hear it, it was unbelievable. I thought that Kim Burrell...


LEVY: Kim Burrell actually did a version of a Sam Cooke song, "A Change Is Going to Come." But she changed it for this, it was quite beautiful. It was very moving.

O'BRIEN: And Stevie Wonder also changed the lyrics of "Ribbon in the Sky" really to make it very personal -- to personalize it for Whitney Houston. It was both, you know, a service that's full of stars could have been impersonal. And yet they were stars that she had grown up with, worked with, loved her clearly so closely that it ended up being a service that was very personal.

MORGAN: The one jarring note, and we can't ignore it, is that Bobby Brown arrived, he apparently walked down to see Whitney's casket, and then some kind of altercation happened with either members of the family or somebody.

But whatever happened, it appears to be about Bobby Brown bringing an entourage of nine people.

O'BRIEN: When they had seating for three.

MORGAN: They couldn't all be seated. And they only had seating for a few. And he then left. That is a jarring note, because there has been a lot of attention on him in the last week. And I think for his daughter, in particular, you know, really, to me, I thought that's pretty disrespectful. We don't know really what happened, but to walk out, I didn't like that.

O'BRIEN: Let's check with Don Lemon. I think he might have more on what happened from where his vantage point is a little further down to the ground.

Hey, Don.

Hey, Don?

Oh, I think we are having some audio difficulties with him, but what we had heard was that in fact Bobby Brown had -- we saw videotape of him, our cameras caught him as he was outside of the church. But apparently he went in, went up to the casket, was crying, was very upset. And because he had nine people with him when there was seating for three.

LEVY: Well, and apparently this is a church that usually holds 300. There were some 1,500 there today, I believe. So not surprising that you can't bring nine people in, if that is in fact the case.

MORGAN: And Reverend Al Sharpton tweeted at once today, he said he was trying to calm Bobby Brown down and remind him this is about Whitney today, not about him. Clearly unsuccessful.

And, you know, you don't want to labor on this because it has been such a special occasion. But at the same time, you can't ignore the fact that Whitney Houston's ex-husband has walked out.

O'BRIEN: I think we have Don Lemon now, who can give us sort of the vantage point where he is.

Hey, Don.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Soledad. How are you? We are standing here right where people are coming out. We are the only ones who have this vantage point.

How are you guys doing?



LEMON: Good. The service was very moving.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Very moving. It was very enjoyable.

LEMON: Tell us about inside, and what it was like.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) for Whitney Houston, 10 years.

LEMON: Ten years?


LEMON: How are you doing, sir? How was the service?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Phenomenal. Phenomenal service.

LEMON: What did you think about Marvin's eulogy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole proceeding was fantastic. I think it was very generous of the family to have brought her home so all the people that have taken pride in her life can now have a chance to try and say good-bye. But it was a phenomenal proceeding.

LEMON: Can I ask you about Bobby came in and had to -- he left? Do you know anything about that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know anything about that.

LEMON: Thank you. Thank you.

So listen, Soledad and Piers, it's interesting, I was telling you guys during the service that this was what you see and hear in every black Baptist church every weekend. And for every single going home service.

What I know about Bobby Brown is that earlier we were standing here. As we were going live we saw Bobby outside of this church about 10 minutes after the services had started.

And according to our police sources who we spoke to, they said that Bobby came in, he came in with an entourage of people, they believe it was about nine people or so. And he could not be accommodated. And so when he couldn't be accommodated, he chose to leave.

I don't know if there was a confrontation. But he did walk in and he was seen upset leaving. And he left with his entourage. He does have to get to a performance tonight, which is about four hours away by car.

But I just want to show you guys here. There is the church right here. You see the Reverend Jesse Jackson on his way up, Reverend Jesse Jackson, of course, sitting there right there on the stage.

Reverend, Reverend, Reverend Jackson, we are live on CNN. Can you come over? So, Reverend, you were there on the stage. You got to witness the entire thing, what did you think?

REV. JESSE JACKSON, CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: Well, it was emotionally gratifying. It was uplifting. The songs sang by Stevie Wonder and the Winans family, and the words of Bishop Jakes and Pastor Winans, it was uplifting.

It was trying to smile through our tears.

LEMON: You know what I thought was interesting, I was watching on social media. We were on Twitter and on Facebook and people said, Cissy -- and Marvin even said it, Cissy Houston took the world to church today by having this service in her church, in her daughter's church.

JACKSON: And by having it this way with the media properly positioned, it was served with dignity. It was not what they would call a kind of media circus. Well covered, but with a level of respect.

And of course it just now dawns upon us that Whitney left us about this time a week ago, but her music will last a long time. And she has had an impact I think far beyond her appreciation of it while she was alive. She will only grow now, frankly.

LEMON: I have to ask you, because everyone also on social media and there was some controversy. They said Bobby came in but then left. Do you know anything about it? Was he asked to leave? Or do we have -- he had an entourage or something?


JACKSON: ... four or five of them sitting in the front row. They wanted him to move. I think they didn't make proper accommodation for him to move. So he was asked to leave. That was a very difficult moment for all of us. I tried to get him to stay.

But they asked him to get up to go and they wouldn't make room for him, that was a painful mar on today's otherwise tremendous, inspiring service.

LEMON: What was his reaction to having to move?

JACKSON: I thought he has been real positive. He came and he sat on the front row, but they said that was reserved for the family. And which he is the father in the real sense, Bobbi Kristina his daughter and she was his wife. And it seemed to me that they could have accommodated him better than they did.

LEMON: How were Bobby...


JACKSON: ... Whitney -- I mean, Cissy and Bobbi Kristina, they were in the car, they didn't see any of this going on. Right, so they were not a part of it.

LEMON: How were Bobbi Kristina -- there you see the dignitaries are leaving and members of the family. So listen, Bobbi Kristina and Cissy, how were they during the services? How were they holding up?

JACKSON: Great. I mean, I thought except the times that the singing became so very exciting, they broke down once or twice. I thought that the words given again by the Winans were great, and Tyler Perry.


LEMON: Hang on, Reverend, if you can get -- Ms. Flack, can you come over? Ms. Flack, hi, we are live on CNN, Roberta Flack is here as well.

How are you doing, Roberta?

ROBERTA FLACK, SINGER: Hi, I'm holding up, as well as I can. Whitney was not a personal friend of mine, but someone that I knew from the time she was like a little girl singing her heart out. And her mom and I have a very close relationship.

So I'm in pain, but I'm like everybody else, trying to get through it.

LEMON: I understand you're going to go talk to our Piers Morgan now. Piers is on the stage. Thank you. Is this is a copy of the program? Can we see? This is a copy of the program. The hearse, we're being told, is moving now. But there you go, a copy of the program from Whitney Houston.