The Star/Ledger informally surveys a number of Newark pastors on LGBT rights and the Black church. The consensus: There are many gay members of Black churches .... they're just "not open" and don't push for any recognition. The well-known practice is often described as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
"You have gay people in leadership positions already, just not openly," said the Rev. Reginald T. Jackson, pastor of St. Matthew AME Church in Orange and executive director of the 600-member Black Ministers’ Council of New Jersey.
A random sampling of black ministers in the Newark area found many are aware of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered men and women in their congregations, singing in the choir or working in a church office. And they are willing to welcome them with open arms. The Rev. Ronald Slaughter of St. James AME in Newark estimates 60 to 70 percent of all churches have homosexuals in their congregations. "They (the congregations) may not know it, but they can’t be judge or jury at the door," he said.
The actual number is probably much higher than 70 percent, especially among the more conservative churches and denominations.
Several pastors claim the church is becoming more supportive and younger members accept supportive of gay rights and same-sex marriage.
But support gay marriage from the pulpit? Don’t even think of it. Some pastors object on the basis of scripture, others just don’t see it as the church’s mission to take a political stand on gay rights of any kind.
The Rev. M. William Howard of Bethany Baptist in Newark said he speaks against homophobia from the pulpit, but "my ministry is not defined by advocacy of gay people." He doesn’t believe the church should be called upon to overtly endorse or criticize topics such as gay marriage. "Church — not just the black church — is still wrestling with how it addresses sexuality."
The black church is still generally criticized for its slow reaction to the AIDS/HIV epidemic. Many pastors admit as much. "We had our heads in the sand," says Howard. Now, he points with pride to Bethany educational programs and the church website, which heralded World AIDS Day this month. ...
The Rev. Jethro James of Paradise Baptist in Newark is adamant in his disapproval of gay marriage. "Marriage is between a man and a woman, and that can’t be legislated," he said. James, who is also president of the Newark North Jersey Committee of Black Churchmen, said that for gay advocates to insist on changing the church is to persecute the church for its beliefs. James said there are several gay people and one transgendered person in his congregation. "They come to worship. And ask forgiveness. Sinners welcome. Come join us."
Sinners welcome ... just be quiet and keep dropping cash in the collection plate. Unfortunately this denial and hypocrisy remains the modus operandi in too many churches in our community.