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.”

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  1. STILLMARRIEDINCA, that hasn't addressed anything I said, but it did address quite a few things I didn't say. What you've written suggests that the only barrier between gay people and full legal and civil equality are recalcitrant black people with good lives and short memories. In my earlier statement, I said that, of course, we all need to pull together. But you a. have attribute too much social and political clout to black people (we're 13% of the population and underrepresented in Congress) and b. assume we're less diverse in our opinions and beliefs than whites. White people did not uniformly support the Civil Rights Movement as what you said would lead to believe, and I don't think we'll ever see a day when heterosexual black people will uniformly support full civil rights for gays. That's not a black or white thing -- that's a people are hateful thing.

    Posted by: Robert | Dec 12, 2011 5:32:56 PM

  2. And! STILLMARRIEDINCA, speaking of hateful, your last comment was the stingiest, meanest interpretation of my words that I can imagine. What kind of person do you take me for? I'm here on a gay blog, which would suggest I'm gay, and when talking about black people, I've said "we," which would indicate I'm black. How then could you accuse me of giving black people a pass on supporting gay rights just because there isn't full racial equality in America? I am both black and gay, and not in the habit of cutting off my nose to spite my face! All I'm saying is, black people can and should help -- and despite your clumping us together into a homophobic bloc, we do help! -- but our contributions and our lack of contributions should be put into proper perspective.

    Posted by: Robert | Dec 12, 2011 6:04:22 PM

  3. @Robert--stop putting words in my mouth. WHEN did I say that the ONLY barrier stopping us from full equality was black people??
    What I said was that it is particularly galling when any member of a minority group who has experienced the exact same kind of bigotry as we face, who has won his or her equal right under the law, refuses to support us and actually votes to take away our civil rights--as happened with Prop 8.
    That is the very definition of "pulling the ladder up after them". You found that to be offensive for some reason, but it's true.

    Posted by: StillMarriedinCA | Dec 12, 2011 6:15:38 PM

  4. I also never said or "led people to believe" that whites uniformly supported the Civil Rights Act. What a ridiculous thing to say. There Where did I say that? But many white people did support it, we know that as fact. It couldn't have passed without support of whites since they had all the power. My white parents marched in support of Dr King. Many didn't support it, which is a great stain on our history. Luckily, justice won out.

    Posted by: StillMarriedinCA | Dec 12, 2011 6:23:57 PM

  5. STILLMARRIEDINCA, how do you reach something beyond your grasp without a ladder? You can't. If you accuse black people of pulling up the ladder behind us, then, yes, you suggest our lack support stands in the way of full and equal rights for gays.

    Black voters who voted came out in favor of Prop 8 at a disappointing 70%. It's sad. But the black vote represented a small percentage of total numbers, and their votes alone were not enough to pass it without the help of Asians, Latinos, and whites. Let's be fair and keep it in perspective.

    No, STILLMARRIEDINCA, you did not say that white people uniformly supported the Civil Rights Movement. You said many did, which is true! You did now, however, acknowledge until now that many did not. Meanwhile, there's been no such kind handling when it comes to the characterization of black people's support of gay rights.

    Posted by: Robert | Dec 12, 2011 6:53:18 PM

  6. @Robert- you seem incapable of understanding what I've written. 1 last time: I never said all blacks were against gay rights. I never said 100 percent of whites supported the civil rights act. what I did say is that it is shameful 4 so many black americans who have been through the same struggle to turn around and slap us in the face when we need their help. it does not make me a racist to point out that bitter irony.

    Posted by: StillmarriedinCA | Dec 12, 2011 7:46:44 PM

  7. STILLMARRIEDINCA, I never accused you of saying those things. I accused you of giving too much credit to the social justice initiatives of whites during the Civil Rights Movement and not enough to blacks during the gay civil rights movement. Prop 8 voters and church goers are an unfair proxy for blacks nationwide. And please don't tell me I seem incapable of understanding. It's really insulting. Incredibly insulting.

    You have yet to acknowledge the validity of anything I've said. And I know I'm not crazy, so I can only think you don't want to give a little, take a little. Furthermore, each of your responses levels new and unfair accusations against me. Lastly, I never called you a racist. And I'm through.

    Posted by: Robert | Dec 12, 2011 8:03:51 PM

  8. @Robert--My original statement was in reference to the fact that
    blacks have more rights under the law than we do as LGBT citizens. And that to have known the sting of institutionalized discrimination and then to turn around and do the same thing to someone else is reprehensible.
    You and some others attacked me for saying that. You asserted that I said or implied things that I did not say or imply and then took me to task for those ideas... which you had invented. After several attempts to get through to you and address the false accusations that you (and others) hurled my way, I got nowhere. So forgive me if I came to the conclusion that you were incapable of understanding what I was saying. No matter how I tried to explain, you never heard what I said.
    Let's see of we can agree on this:
    Any LGBTs who do or say racist things are horrible, shameful people and should be called out on it. I condemn them and their actions. They ought to know better and there is no excuse for it.
    Any blacks who say or do homophobic things are horrible, shameful people and should be called out on it. They ought to know better and there is no excuse for it.
    I do not wish to be attacked when I point out the awful injustice of black churches or individuals who go out of their way to discriminate against us. I am not attacking all black people or implying that all black people are guilty of this. I am not saying that homophobic black people are the only thing that stands in the way of achieving equal rights. I am just calling out our enemies and expressing my anger and frustration. I do the same when white people say or do hurtful things. OK?

    Posted by: StillMarriedinCA | Dec 12, 2011 11:03:12 PM

  9. StillMarriedinCA It's true that African-American's do have more legal equality than gay people, but it doesn't change the fact that, despite the social stigma facing gays in this country, gay people have more economic mobility than blacks as a whole in this country. A gay person can hide their sexuality which helps them gain acess to the privilidges of straight society. It makes it easier for them to blend in while they gain access to better neighborhoods, career advancement, and social connections and, once they are established economically, make the choice to come out. You can't hide skin color. It's the first thing someone sees when they meet you, so you have no choice but to deal with people perceptions of your color right then and there. I think that's part of the reason why black people get so sensitive when gay people start comparing the two struggles. But gays, we get get the luxury to pick and choose when to reveal ourselves, and we get the choice to do it when it's safe for us and when it suits us. If all gay people were coming out to everyone around us, then I think we'd have more of a right to be critical of the black community.

    Posted by: Frank | Dec 14, 2011 11:48:26 AM

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