Standing Up to the Black Church  
  Black gay Christians have stayed silent too long while ministers railed against ‘Adam and Steve’ and how homosexuality threatens us.
by Herndon L. Davis

SADLY, EVEN IN 2003, several high profile black ministers have jumped aboard the “Christian” gay-bashing train to heaven by joining their white clergy counterparts in stepping in front of the cable TV cameras waving their Bibles and screaming Scriptures from Romans and Leviticus.

These clergy affirm heterosexuality while proclaiming that black manhood and black people as a whole are facing a genocidal threat from the unconscionable, non-Afrocentric ill wind of homosexuality.

Many of us, myself included, have grimaced and endured fiery homophobic sermons, nervously breathing as our fellow congregants stood in overzealous applause, proudly beaming with joy, and reveling in their heterosexuality as the preacher rabidly screamed, “Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve!”

As we enter into 2004, our silent response will no longer pass muster. Today we live in an ever-changing and complex world, and we cannot afford to remain silent in the black church concerning our experiences and spiritual walk with God as black gay men, lesbians, bisexual and transgendered people.

Too much progress has been made in the arena of GLBT rights and mainstream inclusion to allow the black church to somehow slip through the cracks of social progress and change. Today we must finally begin to individually and collectively stand up against the black church!

The act of standing up to the black church on the issue of homosexuality is no easy feat. On top of being notoriously fundamentalist concerning Scripture, the black church hoists an extra heaping of cultural and ethnic shame upon gay people.

Black people still face energetic racism and a myriad of other social issues, making the mere thought of black men tiptoeing their way through the swishy waters of homosexuality enough to motivate some congregants to hurl their Bibles at the nearest suspected gay “threat.”

But black gay people must withstand and endure, much like we withstood and endured as a race during the civil rights struggle of the 1960s. We need a plan of action and very brave soldiers to march into battle.

FOR THOSE SERIOUSLY up to the task, there are six crucial steps we must take to stand up against the black church:

  • Remember that the GLBT inclusion strategy used at Mt. Liberal White Methodist Church across town probably will not fly at Greater Conservative Black Baptist Church in downtown. Get to know your congregation, pastor or bishop. It helps to know the political dynamics of your church before initiating a dialogue.
  • As a collective group of parishioners, black gay Christians must peacefully speak directly to your pastor or bishop or ministry staff about your concerns. Believe it or not, a calm, intelligent and articulate conversation about the issue is far more effective than a fire and brimstone debate over homosexuality and its inclusion in the church. Remember Proverbs 15:1, “A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.”
  • If you cannot find other gay church members to join you in your mission, then you must summon up the courage to go it alone. Be fully prepared to be outed and even preached against by name. No one ever likes being the pioneer on this journey of gay-inclusion in the black church, but it must be done. We must recognize that our efforts are not just about us, but about the many generations to follow. There comes a point in life where we must stand, walk and eventually run our faith.
  • During your dialogue with your church clergy, do not debate Scripture or the interpretation of Scripture. Provide them with literature from your local gay bookstore that speaks to this issue. Instead, you should speak to your own personal experience, path and growth with God as a black gay Christian. Speak to how you are no different in your beliefs, understanding and spiritual walk and that your personhood in part is a reflection of your sexual orientation.
  • Recruit heterosexuals in your church to broaden your base of support. It may seem like an impossible task, but think again. There are too many gays in the black church, along with their family members and friends, for there not to be some straight people to take a stand for what’s right. We cannot make the mistake of automatically assuming that absolutely no straight black Christians will join us in our quest.
  • Continue to pray and have lots of patience. Follow up with your pastor or bishop to continue the dialogue. God can do the impossible, and we must have faith that he will indeed move the mountain of homophobia within the black church.
  Herndon L. Davis is the author of "Black Gay and Christian: An Inspirational Guidebook to Daily Living"  



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