One of Detroit's leading Baptist pastors has resigned after announcing that she married a woman earlier this year.
Bishop Allyson D. Nelson Abrams made the announcement on October 6 and resigned on Friday October 18 as from her position at the Zion Progress Baptist Church. Abrams had served for five years as its first female pastor. The announcement caused a "backlash" in the congregation and followed months of "rumors", said Abrams, who first told the Michigan Chronicle about her marriage and resignation.
The 43-year-old Abrams told her congregation that she fell in love with and married Diana Williams, a bishop emeritus with the Imani Temple African-American Catholic Congregation in Washington, D.C. That congregation broke away from the Roman Catholic Church. The couple married last March in Iowa, where same-sex marriage has been legal since April 2009. Abrams previously had been married to a man and said this was her first relationship with a woman.
"There are so many people who are wounded, so many people who are hurt, so many people have been cast out; people have been pushed to the point where they actually have tried to hurt themselves and have even killed themselves because of what the religious community says about who they are.”
She continued, “One of the things that really hurts me is that for so many years, African-American churches, and maybe White churches as well, are saying that these people (gay) are going to hell. Some ministers (male) are being hypocrites because behind the scenes they are right there doing stuff. Many people, especially young people and the unchurched, when they come to church, want to be welcomed and affirmed.
"There is a difference. If I’m affirming you, that means that I am accepting you as you are and that you are free to serve in any capacity in the church as a member. If a same-gender loving person can clean the church, play the organ, sing in the choir, they should be able to lead the church…teach, preach and do all of that.”
Abrams said many supported her decision to publicly come out while others opposed her marriage. Abrams said she chose to resign because she did not want to divide the congregation.
Abrams’ resignation comes only days after a federal judge accepted a challenge to the Michigan law that bans same-sex marriage. The trial will begin in February.
Abrams also removed her church from the Baptist Missionary and Education State Convention, as well as the Progressive National Baptist Convention. The pastor resigned as secretary of the Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit and Vicinity, and as co-editor of the magazine of the Progressive National Baptist Convention.
News One has more on Abrams' impressive credentials:
Born and raised in Birmingham, Ala., Abrams was 38-years-old when she took over as pastor of Zion Progressive, making her one of the youngest pastors in the city at the time. She was elected to the Oak Park, Mich., school board in 2005 and is well-respected in the city’s faith community. She holds Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from United Theological Seminary as well as a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Howard University.
Irony much? The "Progressive Baptist" denomination and congregation is more liberal and "progressive" than the much larger National Baptist Convention ... but are still too conservative to embrace Abrams and her wife. Brava to the new couple. When one door closes, another opens.