New Jersey | Newark

Black Churches In NJ Inch Towards Tolerance

RevReginaldJacksonAn interesting survey of the state of New Jersey's black churches vis a vis LGBT rights appeared today in The Star/Ledger. Apparently, black churches want it known: LGBTs are welcome. Even in "leadership positions." Kind of.

From the lede:

“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 Star-Ledge reports a "generational divide" among black churchgoers around Newark, similar to that in religious communities around the country, which finds younger congregants more accepting of LGBT rights than their elders. Surprisingly, many members of the clergy seem to welcome the shift:

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.”

Jackson believes black churches are moving toward more tolerance. “I think anyone who is gay or lesbian or whatever should be welcome in all of our churches. That shouldn’t be a question.” He added that most major black denominations are probably opposed to gay marriage, but they wouldn’t eject church members who are in civil unions. “I don’t see the church’s stand on gay marriage changing in my lifetime,” he said.

Even those ministers who forthrightly condemn marriage equality want LGBTs in the pews, which makes good business sense:

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.”

Feed This post's comment feed


  1. At least Rev'rin Jethro acknowledges what we all know: churches of prominence are cash machines. "Yeah we'll take your tithes and voluntary labor to keep this organization running, just don't expect us to acknowledge the most important bonds in your life." Rank, foul, and good riddance.

    Posted by: Josh | Dec 11, 2011 4:35:34 PM

  2. That's strange, usually black churches say to gays 'tolerance for me but not for thee...'

    But lets just see what happens in Maryland, North Carolina, and in California over the gay education law that is being repealed through initiative where report after report suggested that almost ALL black churches in that state passed around and encouraged congregants to sign the repeal petition.

    So lets not claim victory yet folks, don't be like Bush when he claimed victory over a war he hadn't yet won.

    Posted by: Jose S. | Dec 11, 2011 4:37:42 PM

  3. I don't understand why there would even be a question of welcoming LGBT people into any church. The issue is always raised that gays are sinners. Are they telling us that there are no other sinners in these churches?

    Posted by: J. Leo | Dec 11, 2011 4:54:20 PM

  4. @J. Leo--Their response would be that "we are all sinners". But the real offense is that they consider you a sinner just for being gay. I don't think they consider themselves sinners for being straight. Or they will tolerate you if you are gay but don't have sex outside of marriage....but then absolutely prevent you from getting married at every turn. See how that works?

    Posted by: Disgusted | Dec 11, 2011 5:11:32 PM

  5. But there are racist gay white men, so white gay men can't criticize this situation. What we need is more outreach and to listen, not anger. The black community doesn't owe the gay community anything, so don't ask for it.

    Posted by: Yeek | Dec 11, 2011 5:44:26 PM

  6. What a rare opportunity to find a race-related post on the Internet. I am looking forward to a cordial, mature, and insightful discussion about racial politics with resident scholars Derrick From Philly and Chrisdabearcub.

    Posted by: Max | Dec 11, 2011 5:49:39 PM

  7. @Yeek--So... if there are SOME racist gay white men, then ALL gay white men forfeit the right to criticize the situation? Got it.

    And don't ask the black community for help...since they couldn't possibly understand what it is like to be considered a second class citizen due to the way you are born, know what it is like to have to fight for your rights (to marry the person you love, for instance), or feel the sting of bigotry and then translate those experiences into empathy and understanding. We couldn't possibly expect them to NOT PULL THE LADDER UP after them once they had been helped to climb up out of their situation.
    Got that too.

    Posted by: StillMarriedinCA | Dec 11, 2011 6:39:27 PM

  8. I'm Newark born and raised. I just want to thank you for watching my former hometown paper and reporting New Jersey news. A Happy Holiday to you all.

    Posted by: Robert Baker | Dec 11, 2011 7:34:12 PM

  9. For several decades, a number of churches have allowed gay people to sit in the pew and give money. They just don't want to actually minister to gay people as human beings.

    Asking us to give money, while flatly refusing to minister to us, is not an easy sell. We call it "hypocrisy".

    Posted by: Steve | Dec 11, 2011 8:21:09 PM

  10. StillmarriedinCA, I was being sarcastic. I figured I might as well get a jump on the inevitable "some white guy was mean to me in a gay bar once so STFU" recriminations that usually come along with these morose articles about the state of homophobia in African-American churches. There's always an excuse, I guess.

    Posted by: Yeek | Dec 11, 2011 8:46:46 PM

  11. This is NOT a racist issue. The institution of Black Churches is statistically opposed to LGBT people and their behaviors. Even Bishop Tutu states this much!
    My question, however, is who the hell cares what these churches think? Why does our society give a podium to the Catholic Bishops of America, to the Vatican, to evangelical ministers, and on and on? Why are we not beyond all that? Clearly we are not -- and that is frightening. Both political parties cater to and kiss the collectives asses of the religious clergy, without whose gays they would have no organists, no choir members, indeed, at least in the RC church, no clergy! Go figure!

    Posted by: Seamus | Dec 11, 2011 9:23:33 PM

  12. WHITE CHURCHES ARE MORE HOMOPHOBIC WORLDWIDE! And by the way. They have the power to STOP ANY AND EVERYTHING in Politics and they still are trying to defeat us!

    Ya'll and the person who posted this need to stop with the bull. You can't expect anything if you don't reach out to a specific group, or community. And you don't.

    You just wait for the posts that says The Black Church is???? And here comes white gay hate speech.

    First of all how many you queens have Black friends in close proximity...ZERO!...
    Please STFU!!!

    Posted by: CHRIS DACHOCOLATEBEARCUB | Dec 12, 2011 1:32:51 AM


    "First of all how many you queens have Black friends in close proximity...ZERO!...
    Please STFU!!!"

    No, YOU need to STFU with your ignorant assumptions about people you don't even know!
    Get the chip off of your shoulder already, it's pathetic.

    Posted by: John | Dec 12, 2011 2:54:10 AM

  14. I knew Chris Dachocolatebearcub would have something scholarly and insightful to contribute. Blaming whitey? Such knowledge! I was particularly illuminated by the "STFU" at the end.

    Posted by: Max | Dec 12, 2011 6:27:53 AM


    This is a positive article. Beyond that, it's necessary for everyone to get this news because it may affect the outcome of the marriage equality fight in Maryland, which is coming up very soon.

    Posted by: Artie | Dec 12, 2011 7:18:34 AM

  16. SCREW YOu! Wonder what it was like to have people tell you "being black is a sin!"

    It happened in our history. This man and others like him need to be sent back for another lesson. There is no man in the clouds! But, there are gays and lesbians here in the flesh..and we will not take this anymore!

    Posted by: GRivera | Dec 12, 2011 9:16:16 AM

  17. Let us also not forget that churches are TAX EXEMPT! How? When they damn a group of people with their manual(bible)???


    Who cares are the black churches who judge? They have turned against their own past that they have freedom.

    Posted by: GRivera | Dec 12, 2011 9:19:20 AM

  18. What are the Christian denominations of most Black churches? They are Baptist, Methodist, Pentacostal, and something called Holiness. Now, compare them to White Christian churches of the same Christian denominations. Do you think that White Protestant Christian Fundamentalists are any more accepting of Gay people or homosexual relations?

    White Gays who single out Black homophobia don't like Black folks anyway. That's obvious from the ways in which most of you criticize and insult Blacks. You counter Black homophobia with racial stereotypes and racial slurs that go back way before Black homophobia ever became a noticeable issue. You AINT new.


    Black people see you as a priviledged White man. And that's what you are compared to Black Americans today. And unless you are a drag queen or Transgender that's what your kind is and was in this country in 1985, 1965, 1865 and 1765. It hasn't changed as much as some of you want to believe.

    Max, StillMarried, Yeek and others,

    Your dislike of Black people means you also dislike Black Gays. Believe me, we don't mind returning the sentiment.

    @"There's always an excuse, I guess."

    Yeah, Yeek, if there are excuses for Black homophobia then there are excuses for White Gay racism too. You're an expert on those, aint'cha'?

    I appreciate what Andy Towle does in presenting news stories which are of interest to Gay people of all races and nationalities. But this is a predominately White Gay blog. Black Gays who still visit and comment on this blog understand that, and we get used to the White racism, and sometimes we respond to it...until we get bored.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Dec 12, 2011 10:06:47 AM

  19. @ Derrick from Philly,

    I remember a wave of racist comments on Towleroad back in April, and I'm glad you're on these pages to call it out. I would have to put myself in your place to understand the frustration of people of color who visit Towleroad. The Maryland fight for marriage equality offers a rare opportunity for black churchgoers and LGBT people of all races to find common ground and reject bigotry. I hope we don't pass up the opportunity. Obama took a very positive step three months ago and said that he would oppose anti-gay ballot initiatives:

    Posted by: Artie | Dec 12, 2011 11:43:48 AM

  20. @Derrick--Please point out just what in my post shows that I dislike black people? I condemn homophobia from anyone, doesn't matter what color. It's YOU who sees me only as a white man of privilege and therefore dismisses me and what I have to say. Not every black person is so racist. Ask my husband.
    Yes, there is horrible homophobia in white churches, too. Who says there isn't? What is galling is that blacks have gone through these same struggles and yet so many have no empathy and don't support LGBT rights. Coretta Scott King gets it. Al Sharpton gets it. Hundreds of thousands of others get it. But the ones who don't are shameful.

    Posted by: StillMarriedinCA | Dec 12, 2011 12:55:38 PM

  21. Please read "Coretta Scott King GOT it" in my post above. May she R.I.P.

    Posted by: StillMarriedinCA | Dec 12, 2011 1:00:03 PM


    "We couldn't possibly expect them to NOT PULL THE LADDER UP after them once they had been helped to climb up out of their situation.
    Got that too."

    That's the part of your comment that made me clutch my pearls. Black people may have the right to sit at the front of the bus, but that doesn't mean we own the bus company. I agree that we all need help each other in this latest civil rights movement but to suggest that black people by and large are better off than gay whites is just breathtaking. We have not pulled up a ladder that we are still climbing.

    Posted by: Robert | Dec 12, 2011 3:55:31 PM

  23. @Robert---I am talking about civil rights under the law in our county. Black people are indeed better off than gays (why do you divide us into black and white? Winning equal rights for LGBTs helps everyone, not just whites) when it comes to the law. There are laws in this country that protect you from discrimination based on skin color or ethnic origin. Blacks have the right to marry the person they love. Gay and lesbian citizens have none of these protections at the federal level. Blacks fought for federal recognition as a protected class, with the help of many whites--including white gays and lesbians-- and won. Public attitudes changed for the better because of this. Bias against blacks has not been totally eradicated but it is far far better than before the civil rights act was passed.
    Unfortunately, far too many blacks-- when it comes to changing the law to include gays and lesbians under the same protections that they themselves enjoy--say "I've got mine....and the rest of you can go to hell." That is, indeed, pulling the ladder up after them.

    Posted by: StillMarriedinCA | Dec 12, 2011 4:25:19 PM

  24. Oh brother. It always makes me chuckle how white gays want to blame Black people for your problems. Also the meme that Blacks are more homophobic. Than whom? White fundamentalists, the Catholic church, Mormons, Red Necks in Georgia, Islamists, Orthodox Jews, Oakland A Raiders fans...this could go on forever.

    Posted by: Derek Washington | Dec 12, 2011 4:27:58 PM

  25. @Robert--And you know what I find breathtaking? The idea that blacks won't be supportive --and shouldn't be expected to be supportive --of LGBT rights until every last shred of racism in this country is eradicated. That "if you can sit in the front of the bus but still don't own the bus company" then we won't get your help so that we can sit in the front, too. That is truly breathtaking.
    By that logic, women, who still suffer from inequality, can't be expected to be supportive of the struggle that blacks endure. White LGBTs can't be expected to be sympathetic to the plight of blacks in this country since we don't yet have full equality.
    Is that how you see it? That blacks are justified to say "Why should I help anybody else when I still get a raw deal?"

    Posted by: StillMarriedinCA | Dec 12, 2011 4:51:42 PM

  26. 1 2 »

Post a comment


« «Jon Huntsman Takes Up Romney's Wager« «