by Kilian Melloy
Monday Dec 28, 2009
The city council members of Washington, D.C. may have approved marriage equality in the District, and Congress may be unlikely to overturn the ordinance, but overcoming cultural and faith-based homophobia in black churches presents a new set of challenges, write a married heterosexual couple, both pastors with //www.cbcwdc.org/” target=”new”>Covenant Baptist Church.
“Our church is the first and only traditional black church in the District of Columbia to perform same-sex unions,” wrote Rev. Dennis W. Wiley and his wife, Rev. Christine Y. Wiley, in a Dec. 20 op-ed that appeared in //www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/18/AR2009121802049.html” target=”new”>The Washington Post. “We conducted our first two union ceremonies, one gay and one lesbian, in the summer of 2007. The rapid political developments that followed in our nation and our city have made us optimistic that by the summer of 2010, same-sex nuptials will not only be blessed by churches but also sanctioned by law in the District.
The Wileys, who also serve as co-chairs for the pro-family equality group D.C. Clergy United for Marriage Equality, recounted that the overwhelming approval of same-sex marriage equality in Washington, D.C. was opposed by only two council members, both from wards with predominantly black constituents.
The pastors recounted how before the first same-sex ceremony took place at Covenant Baptist Church, they sought “consensus” on the matter from their congregation. Although there seemed to be an initial wave of approval and acceptance, as time went on tensions mounted.
“The anger and dissension that had been bubbling erupted when a longtime church member confronted us at the end of the ceremony,” the Wileys wrote. “She and scores of others who left the congregation afterward reminded us that the roots of homophobia run deep in the black community. The factors that have nurtured these beliefs over the years are complex.
When issues of gay rights and gay marriage come up, the first question many black people ask is, ’What does the Bible have to say about it?,’” noted the op-ed’s authors. “This seemingly innocent question doesn’t acknowledge that when we approach the Bible, our perspective has been shaped by where we were born, by whom we were raised, what Grandma taught us, where we went to school and what our pastor preached in church–usually conservative ideas on matters such as homosexuality.”
Added the Wileys, “The conservative strand of black religion is evident in what Harvard professor Peter Gomes calls ’bibliolatry’–the practice of worshiping the Bible rather than worshiping God.
“It is also found in a ’literal’ interpretation of the Bible that focuses more on the letter of the text than on its spirit, and concentrates on passages about domination, oppression, hierarchy, elitism and exclusion rather than on the major themes of love, justice, freedom, equality and inclusion that run through the Bible.”
The authors note that the cultural legacy of slavery and of religious faith have also left a deep imprint with regard to the acceptance of gay individuals and gay families among African-Americans. “While the church was a refuge from the horrors of racism and played an empowering role in African-American history, it also taught blacks to repress behaviors–especially sexual behaviors–that might attract unwanted attention, appear uncouth or seem threatening to white people,” the Wileys write.
“There is also the preoccupation with racism in the black community. This obsession, although justifiable, has led to a failure to appreciate how racism is inextricably connected to all other forms of oppression. Those who fail to see this connection may resent the comparison of gay rights with civil rights. But as Martin Luther King Jr. once said, ’Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’”
Though two black council members voted against marriage equality, the Wileys pointed out, “five black council members voted for it. Our black mayor signed it, and our black congressional representative has promised to defend it on Capitol Hill. Although the bill faces the possibility of intervention by Congress, something revolutionary is happening in this city to debunk the notion that the black community’s homophobia is entrenched.”
Text at the Covenant Baptist Church Web site reads, “Although we are an African American congregation, our inclusive fellowship means that no one is excluded. We welcome and embrace all of God’s children. We are committed to winning souls for Christ and becoming the people of God that the Lord intends us to be.”
The mayor of Washington, D.C., Adrian Fenty, //www.edgeboston.com/index.php?ch=news&sc=&sc2=news&sc3=&id=100240″>signed the family equality ordinance into law at //www.all-souls.org/” target=”new”>All Souls Church, a Unitarian house of worship, on Dec. 18. All Souls has a racially diverse congregation and celebrated Kwanzaa with a Dec. 27 mass.
All Souls was a fitting choice, said Jim Graham, the openly gay D.C. Councilmember in whose ward–Ward 1–the church is located. “It’s great that he’s chosen one of the key churches in this struggle, rather, in this victory, in the most diverse ward in the city,” Graham told the //www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/17/AR2009121704330.html” target=”new”>Washington Post.
“The signing of this bill marks a watershed moment for human rights in the District of Columbia,” said the senior pastor of All Souls, the Rev. Robert Hardies, who addressed supporters who gathered to witness the historic occasion. “No longer will gay and lesbian couples be denied the fundamental right to marriage in our nation’s capital.”
- Genetic Markers for Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis
- Many Christians don't mind gay marriage
- Gay eMarriage? The Next Big Trend?
- NY gay marriage showdown could be Wednesday
- Atlantic City lip-syncs for its life with annual Miss’d America Pageant
- Man Admits to Killing his Lover on TV Show (vid)
- Power Moves: 5 Ways You Can Help Fix Our Schools
- How the Administration on Aging Embraced Social Media through Facebook
- 1 in 6 Americans Infected w/Herpes; Highest Prevalence among Women and African-Americans