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…

 

 

Sexual Orientation

I Used to Be…

No Comments 25 June 2011

Back in 1978, I was a young zealous Pentecostal Christian. A member of a small church that was part of the Church of God (Cleveland, TN) denomination. We were so young and so “on fire for God”! Barely in my twenties, I remember telling my gay brother he was going to hell for being proudly gay and that I loved him but hated his sin of homosexuality.

Did I say I was young?

Within a few years of being in this church – a place with people whom I loved and still love to this day though we have grown apart – I realized that the many questions I had about the Bible and about how to live a faithful life just were not being sufficiently answered and of the many answers I received most were quite illogical.

Did I say I was young and loved my pastor and church? Continue Reading

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

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