Thursday, March 26, 2009

Gay Pastors and Parishioners: The Allegations - The Issues

Well, a new book by Reuben Armstrong entitled "Crooks and Homos in the Pulpit" has once again brought the issue of homosexuals in the church to the forefront. The book focuses on mega pastors such as Bishop T.D. Jakes, Eddie Long, Joel Osteen and Bishop Eddie Long, and reported homosexual pastor, Ted Haggard, and the mega churches. In his book, Armstrong alleges that "the rampant spread of homosexual and thievery...has taken over the lives of many pastors and ministers."

How much of this is true? I’m not sure, but this we do know, there are homosexual parishioners—even at your church, maybe even your pastor. According to Reverend Irene Monroe’s article in the LA Progressive…”black ministers living on the “down low” (DL) is not a new phenomenon in the African American community. Naming it publicly, however, is. Author J.L. King, exposed the behavior in his best-seller, On The Down Low: A Journey into the Lives of “Straight” Black Men Who Sleep with Men. In his book, king emphatically stated that many of his partners were churchmen…”

So homosexuals attend church—duh; what’s the big deal?

Child Abuse

According to Godly Response To Abuse In The Christian Environment or GRACE, “Child sexual abuse is one of the fastest growing forms of child abuse. In 2003, there were over 90,000 known reported cases of child sexual abuse in the United States. Sadly, the Christian community is far from immune. In the last 10 years, there have been an average of 70 child abuse allegations against American churches every week. And those who survive child abuse face a lifetime of spiritual, emotional, and physical challenges.’ By now, I’m sure many of you have heard the horror stories of the abuse done by Catholic Priests. While GRACE did not directly associate the problem with homosexual church members, many people believe it is indeed a large cause of the problem of child abuse—anywhere. But in all fairness, isn’t this also a problem in the heterosexual community as well? And to be sure, not all child abusers are homosexual.

Another closely related issue is the age old question of whether homosexuals can, by introducing otherwise heterosexual children to the “gay” lifestyle, make a child homosexual.


African Americans account for 48% of new HIV infections. AIDS is the leading cause of death for African American women aged 25 to 34 and HIV rates among Hispanic women are increasing. According to All About Black Health, “One of the most plausible explanations is segregation. African-Americans make up 12% of the US population, 42% of all people living with Aids and more than half of all new infections. They are also least likely to have partners of different races. "A high prevalence of infection in the pool of potential partners can spread sexually transmitted infections rapidly within the ethnic group and keep it there," said Adaora Adimora, an infectious disease physician at the University of North Carolina. The principal theory as to why this affects women so acutely is because of the high rates of HIV infection among gay and bisexual men, which is six times that of whites and four times that of Hispanics, according to a 2001 CDC report. However, homophobia in the black community causes many men to live on "the down-low" - meaning they have public relationships with women and secret sex with men.”

Church Doctrine - Exacerbating The Problem

Another area that has received considerable attention in recent years is the phenomenon of being ‘on the down low’. Homosexuality is highly stigmatized in many black communities, and in a community that is already discriminated against by the general population, few black men want to acquire the extra stigma of being gay. It is also decried by the majority of black churches (and the Christian religion in general), who see homosexuality as a sin. A combination of these factors causes many black men to keep their sexuality a secret.

Most religions view homosexuality as a sin and don’t want to attend church with “open” homosexuals. In Atlanta, when the Rev. Dennis Meredith of Tabernacle Baptist Church here began preaching acceptance of gay men and lesbians a few years ago, he attracted some gay people who were on the brink of suicide and some who had left the Baptist faith of their childhoods but wanted badly to return. At the same time, Tabernacle Baptist, an African-American congregation, lost many of its most loyal, generous parishioners, who could not accept a message that contradicted what they saw as the Bible’s condemnation of same-sex relations. Over the last three years, Tabernacle’s Sunday attendance shrank to 800, from 1,100.

Many African-Americans also oppose gay marriage. Did you know that 70 percent of African-American voters backed Proposition 8 (Prop. 8)? Prop. 8 was a California ballot proposition passed in the November 4, 2008, general election. It changed the state Constitution to restrict the definition of marriage to opposite-sex couples and eliminated same-sex couples right to marry.

Despite all this, many in the black church simply overlook their gay members, something Keith Boykin has described as the “don’t ask don’t tell policy” of the black church.

A Lesson In Wasted Talent?

Recently, several prominent pastors have come under fire for actually or supposedly being homosexual. One is the Reverend Benjamin Richards who resigned after revealing his sexual orientation to members of the Emmanuel Missionary Baptist Church. Reynolds, 45, grew up in Emmanuel Baptist Church and started preaching there when he was 14. He has been the senior pastor at the church for nearly 16 years, he was also the president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) until he stepped down.

Is this type of scrutiny fair? Was Benjamin Richards less talented after admitting his homosexuality? Here’s an old question I like to pose to friends at “I Think I Love My Wife” type dinner parties. If you were dying on the sidewalk, would you care if your doctor was gay? Hey, I'm not advocating, I'm just asking.

A Host Of Issues

  • How is this behavior (i.e. down low brothers in church) contributing to the current HIV/AIDS epidemic?
  • Are these persons “turning” young impressionable or troubled youth to the “gay” lifestyle?
  • Given the anti-homosexual stance taken by many churches, what are the moral implications of homosexual parishioners and pastors?
  • Should homosexuals be allowed to marry?
  • Can, or even should, the church come to terms with homosexual parishioners so that they are accepted without ridicule, persecution, or condemnation?
  • Should homosexuals be allowed to hold leadership positions in the church?
  • Is it truly a sin to be homosexual?

As you can see, there are a host of issues surrounding this. However, we must get a handle on homosexuality in the church or these much broader issues will never be resolved—to our detriment.

Perhaps you can help me find some of the answers. What’s your point of view?