The failure of the Black Church
“Unwilling to separate our lifestyles as Lesbians and Gay men from our experiences as Blacks in America, we are left to bring about our own liberation without the support and expertise of the larger Black community, and without the strength and guidance of the church.”
By Rev. Renee McCoy
Long before Black Lesbians and Gay men came to the realization and acceptance of being "different" in sexuality, we knew that the Blackness of our skin set us apart from the majority of Americans.
We knew that our journey through this life would be weighted with struggles against racist attitudes and behavior.
This was sad; this was painful; but this was real. Through more than 400 years our people developed a wealth of mechanisms and structures for survival in spite of this society's commitment to our destruction.
The church was one such structure. It was through the Christian church that the "business" of the Black community was conducted and implemented.
The Black church provided a forum for dealing with the politics of our oppression (as well as the economic deficiencies brought on by racism) and a place for healing the despair and loneliness of a people denied respect for their human dignity.
The church was the center from which real life sprang, presenting the good news that all people have been liberated by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our love for, and loyalty to, the Triune God guaranteed this freedom.
Although external conditions changed very slowly, our relationship with God assured us that change was possible and that God's love and acceptance strengthened us and enabled us to be a part of the liberating force for all people.
Armed with this assurance, Blacks throughout this country set out to do battle with monster--White racism. We somehow felt that once racism was defeated, all else would fall into place. As advancements were made, we all gathered and celebrated and gave God thanks and praise for the victories.
The Black community is still faced, however, with yet another hurdle--homophobia. Although Lesbians and Gay men have been contributing members of the Black community since its beginning, we are starting to boldly proclaim our human rights as people whose different sexuality adds to our wholeness.
Yet our proclamations of wholeness have been met only with rejection, not only from this society at large, but also from our own Black communities.
Unwilling to separate our lifestyles as Lesbians and Gay men from our experiences as Blacks in America, we are left to bring about our own liberation without the support and expertise of the larger Black community, and without the strength and guidance of the church.
White America thinks we're the wrong color. The church thinks we have the wrong sexual lifestyle. And because we are viewed as "wrong" we are exiled to the wilderness as a people without a people, searching aimlessly for a people, among our own people.
We are reminded of the voice of Ezekiel, "And go, get you to the exiles, to your people, and say to them, 'Thus saith the Lord God,' whether they hear or refuse to hear." (Ezekiel 3:11)
In an attempt to illustrate our state of exile as Lesbians and Gay men, I want to briefly discuss a myth by which others avoid dealing with the realities of our lifestyles.
Myth: The Black church has always been open to Lesbians and Gays. It does not reject people because of their sexuality.
This myth is often heard from White Christians, both Gay and non-Gay. And it is frequently spoken, as well, by liberal Blacks. Such a statement is usually followed by a reference to "so and so" who is the church organist and who "everyone knows is that way, but no one minds."
But statements such as this are an attempt to gloss over the need for the church to actively respond to the need for that spiritual center (basic to the Black American experience) missing in Black Lesbian and Gay lives.
The truth is that the Black Christian church community is quite homophobic. It is agreed that Lesbians and Gay men have been visible in the Black church. However, we have mistaken tolerance for acceptance.
If Black Lesbians and Gays men are willing to check their sexuality at the door of the church, and come bearing gifts of talent, there are relatively few problems. Yet those who present their complete selves, including the realities of their sexuality, are soon rejected either in subtle ways or blatantly. They are given the option to change or leave.
No liberation. No salvation. No good news.
Since the Christian church has been the source of strength for the Black community, it is this myth which is most devastating. The failure of the Black community and the Black church to embrace their Lesbian and Gay daughters and sons has banished them to certain death in a spiritual desert where no one ministers to them.
It also challenges the credibility of the Black church. The church must seriously work to develop ways of ministering to Black Lesbians and Gays, or else it must stop preaching an all accepting, all liberating, gospel and calling itself a church.
The good news of the gospel is that God's love is for all people unconditionally. The time has come for all who wear the label "Christian" to heed the call of a God of pure love to reach out and heal and liberate all people. And the Black Christian community, centered upon the life of Christ is no exception.
God, through the prophet Ezekiel, sends us to the exiles--to our people. We Black Lesbians and Gay men are the exiles. We are the people of God listening for the good news. We are found in all walks of life, in every city and every state.
We are the sons and daughters, the nieces and nephews, the mothers and fathers. We are the teachers, the bankers, the doctors; the lawyers defending your court cases; even the pastor who comforts you in your hour of need.
We are everywhere; yet we are a voice crying in the wilderness. Our faith as Christians demands that everyone seek out and listen to that voice. Salvation depends on how well we actively, seriously, and lovingly answer it.