Telling the story from our point of view

Blog Archive

March 14, 2006

Commentary on black clergy, gays misleading

AuthorYalonda Young thinks that silence from America's black clergy is hurting gays. But is she telling the whole truth about her discontent? Appearing in USA Today, Young's commentary struggles with several contradictory inferences which must be corrected lest we muddy the discussion waters even more.

I found myself interested because of several life intersections embedded within the article. I am a pastor, I'm also a Republican leaning independent conservative, I'm a black man and I am formerly gay.

Since I do a fair deal of commentary myself on issues that involve elements of my life and former lifestyle, I felt a sense of agreement with Ms Young and at the same time experienced some unavoidable dissonance.

Let me start with my agreements.
I do believe that there is a great deal of influence in regards to understanding homosexuality in black communities that is being squandered by black clergy. That "silence" is hurting a lot of people, not only gays. So I agree, but with a broader application.

That's about it.
If it is true that black clergy are being "silent", then Ms Young's listings of the actions of Rev. Herbert Lusk, Rev. William Shaw, Rev. Bill Owens, Bishop Harry Jackson and other black clergy are clear evidence that black clergy are not being silent. What she perhaps is not saying is that the clergy aren't saying what she and other black liberals want them to say.

That brings up another rather strange inference the commentary draws. If the claim that black clergy silence is hurting gays is true, what exactly constitutes a black clergy? Is this another one of those just how black are you tests? Does opposition to homosexual rights put one's blackness in jeopardy? Unfortunately, Ms Young doesn't say how gays are being "hurt".

The men she chose to profile represent the vast majority of black ministers across America. Many of them are solidly Democrat, but not to the point that they would sell out their deeply held beliefs about homosexuality to the highest pop culture bidder. Memphis' Rev. William Owens, President of the Coalition of African American Pastors, has deep roots in the civil rights movement with Dr. King. He marched with Dr King in Memphis and was on the scene of the assassination within minutes of it happening. He has a solid history of progressive contribution to our community. Rev. Owens was the first African-American to own a used car dealership in Memphis and later the first Black in management at a major Chevrolet assembly plant in Van Nuys, California. While in Los Angeles, he pastored a church and worked in the real estate business buying and selling high-end real estate to investors. He was also a founding partner in the Robert Kennedy Hospital in L.A.

But despite all of this Ms Young chooses instead to brand Rev. Owens as somehow being little more than a pawn of the Republican Party. More negative inferences.

Ms Young singled out the National Baptist Convention, USA for not mentioning homosexuality (or gay rights) in its declarative manifesto. But she failed to inform readers that the Church of God in Christ, who as the largest black Pentecostal denomination with an estimated eight million members, did address the war in Irag and homosexual rights publicly.
Pastor DL Foster (left) addressing a crowd of reporters at the Lincoln Memorial with members of CURE

In 2004, I was a part of a gathering of some of the most influential black clergy in America. The group of nearly 160 men and women gathered for a summit on marriage and homosexuality. Among those in attendance were Dr. Fred KC Price, Bishop Harry Jackson, Rev. Glenn Plummer, Pastor Marvin Winans, Bishop Paul Martin, Bishop Samuel Green, Dr. Kimberly Daniels and others. They were not silent at all about homosexuality. As a matter of fact, we were treated with disdain and snobbish arrogance by the Black Congressional Caucus who refused to meet with us to discuss our legitimate concerns. Very few of these pastors could be identified as the Republican operatives Ms Young suggested they are. It seems that Ms Young's objections stem from the simple fact that these men and women are not towing the liberal mindset. That mindset demands uniformity, not unity. My best guess is that these black clergy do not want to be told when and when not to believe what the Bible says for them to believe.

"There is an oft-quoted scripture in Revelation 3:16: So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth." This might well be the fate of the silent religious majority and the Democratic Party, unless black clergy are willing to deliver a message of acceptance as impassioned as that of their conservative counterparts."
Though a peculiar mix of theology and politics, Ms Young finally makes it clear she thinks Jesus will disown you if you don't proclaim homosexuality as normal. Most students of the principle of letting scripture speak for itself would definitely refute that conclusion.

What we can hope for in the growing discussions among black clergy is something that heretofore they have not asserted with the passion and compassion needed. God is able to change the hearts, minds, souls and yes sexual mispassions of homosexual men and women. I am an eyewitness to that. There are thousands of men and women who have walked away from homosexual identities and desires by faith in Christ. Through dedicated groups like Orlando based Exodus International and Witness Ministries in Atlanta, countless people have discovered that it wasn't "rights" they needed, it was love and truth.

That's the real message. Acceptance without truth condemns people to unfulfilled lives. Jesus always spoke truth within the context of acceptance. When we learn to duplicate that in the many facets of our lives, we will truly be on our way to something beautiful.

No comments: