Religion, Sexual Orientation, Theology

Congratulations and Many Prayers Bishop Abrams!

2 Comments 20 October 2013

This morning I read an article by freepress.com detailing the resignation of Detroit bishop, Allyson D. Nelson Abrams from Zion Progress Baptist Church. In March, Bishop Abrams married bishop emeritus Diana Williams of Imani Temple African-American Catholic Congregation in Washington, D.C. According to the article, Bishop Abrams decided to step down to avoid further division within the church whose membership had mixed responses to her stepping down and to her same-sex marriage. I find it admirable that she had what appears to be a good number of members who were quite supportive of both her coming out and remaining on as pastor. She has even garnered the support of Rev. Dr. Charles C. Adams, lovingly known by many as the “Harvard Whooper.”

Some may wonder why Bishop Abrams did not remain as pastor and use her coming out and subsequent marriage as opportunity for critical reflection and discussion about sexual identity and orientation within this very church that had witnessed and benefited from her dynamic ministry. Some even wonder why, after coming out and admitting her same-sex marriage to another woman, Bishop Abrams is so reluctant to “classify” her sexual orientation.

I think the answer to both these questions is in the bishop’s own words. In the article we are told that this is her first same-sex relationship and that her theology about “love and orientation changed ‘ a little over a year ago’.” My own experience with coming out was such a time of trying to understand who I was that “how I identify” was not even in the picture! Like Abrams I had been married to a man (in my case almost 16 years). I liked men. Found them sexy. But I was physically attracted to women. Coming out of one normative constraint only to be held to another at a time of trying to figure it all out was not something I wanted to do. Fortunately for me, I had my research to turn to and that research led me to queer theory. Queers are persons who persons who defy normative sexual categories, binary constructs of gender and support sexual fluidity. Many years since my coming out I can have genuinely productive discussions about human sexuality in the church. But those first few years, I was trying to overcome years of being taught horrible things in the church about “homosexuals.” Years of being told that anything short of being heterosexual would guarantee a ticket to hell. Years of squashing my attraction to women. Years of being ashamed and afraid.

So yes, she did hide her relationship. But too many churches- especially those with members who are predominately people of color – make the idea of coming out and being in a loving relationship with another consenting adult, just totally unacceptable “behavior.” Remember, she had given her life for the church. Her ministry is not only her vocation but also her identity. I believe she loved those members and it tore her heart to think of hurting them in any way. Better to simply walk away than to think you are damaging a ministry you helped build.

This type of event happens more often than is told. So I am especially thankful to hear Bishop Abrams’ story just as I am especially sensitive to those experiences from which her story is derived.

And there are others…

 

 

Religion, Sexual Orientation

United Methodist Clergy Willing To Defy Church Law

No Comments 16 June 2011

Across the country, clergy members in the United Methodist Church are now being faced with the stark reality that public policy is far more prophetic and just than our current church polity as they witness the increasing passing of laws that support marriage rights and civil unions of LGBTQ persons. What are loving clergy to say to those persons whom they have had the honor of watching grow as faithful members of our church when asked to officiate and bless them in a ceremony – whether it be marriage, civil union or commitment – that honors their desire to be in lifelong relationships with loving partners? Continue Reading

Ethics, Religion

I Say a Little Prayer – It’s Time

No Comments 11 October 2010

index1In one of the last novels published before his death, African American author E. Lynn Harris offered members of the LGBTQI Black Church community a glimpse at what could be. With joyful anticipation we turned page after page of I Say a Little Prayer waiting to see if in fact, the soloist Chauncey Greer’s plan of an organized boycott of the Black mega church where his closeted anti-homophobic preaching former lover is senior pastor, will be a success.

Over the past few weeks I have been in anguish. Today I thought of Harris’ novel as “what if that could be done.” I have spent the better part of my life in the Black Church. I have given the better part of my adult years supporting its ministries both as lay person and clergy. When it is committed to healthy ministry, the Black Church is a stunning symbol of justice and righteousness. All over the world oppressed people know one common song, a song birth from the bowels of the Black Church and raised in the midst of its protest against injustice, “We Shall Overcome.” An expert musician, my late brother, a beautiful gay man, directed that song for Black Church choirs wherever he worshiped. As a queer woman, I sang it though now with the bittersweet understanding that many who sang of “overcoming” during the 60s are now the purveyors of bigotry, physical and verbal abuse.

Today, I am thankful for the heterosexual young adult members of the Black Church who recommended I begin reading Harris’ works. When I think of them, I am hopeful that there is at least some openness within the rank and file of the Black Church to support the prayer for civil rights and the end of religious and political bigotry against nonheterosexual persons. I know not everyone in the Black Church agrees with the homophobic rhetoric projected, like vile vomit from the pulpits and choir stands of many Black Churches every week, across the country.

What is happening now is nonfiction. Blood is being spilled. Bodies are being beaten and torn. Instead of dogs and fire hoses, our assailants attack us with broom handles and metal cans. “Nigger” has become the vogue and words like “faggot” or “bulldagger” have ascended as the favored linguistic resource of the oppressor.

And when will we rise up? When will members of the Black LGBTQI community say “no more!” They believe we are but a few. Not significant enough in number to respect the voices of a few of  what they consider “their deviant and sinful lot.” Not powerful enough to respect our demands for justice.

Well, in the spirit of revolution, I am casting this blog out specifically to my African American LGBTQI members still attending or occasionally attending the Black Church.  It is also for our straight allies. For those of you who will, let’s try a little something:

Traditionally, first Sunday is THAT Sunday in the Black Church where attendance, and well let’s be frank, the giving/offering is at its highest. How about first Sunday, November 2010 we who are LGBTQI African American people and allies do one of three things or all. 1) Refrain from giving to any Church that preaches anti-homosexuality rhetoric. Yes, don’t give one brown penny to support bigotry! Instead, give your money to some agency that supports human rights for all people.  2) Print and cut out the image of the rainbow triangle within this blog and place that in the offering plate as a sign of support and to show that an LGBTQI person or persons are present in that local church. 3) If you do not attend a church that is homophobic and does not teach such nonsense as “love the sinner hate the sin”, “it just ain’t natural”, or “God made Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve” say a prayer for those who do, write a note to a pastor whom you know does such things, and send me an email to let me know to give God thanks for you!

It’s time. Who knows but that God has called us for such a time as this?


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