After her church of 37 years performed a same-sex commitment ceremony in 2007, Yvonne Moore, a lifelong Baptist, sued for a portion of the estimated $250,000 in tithes and offerings she had made over the years. “You cannot take that in the church,” Moore recently told CNN.
She attended the ceremony, not out of support but out of spectacle. “I wanted to see it for myself,” she said. “I went and I was like, this is totally disgusting.” Spoken like a true Christian.
The same Christian whose values preach to love thy neighbor as thyself and judge not lest ye be judged advocated her church adopt a closed-door policy. It’s ironic that someone possessing so much contempt for a group of people and a union between two consenting adults can associate herself with Christianity in the same breath.
Moore was “pissed off” that the church didn’t respect the members enough to listen to them when they opposed the gay union. There was clearly something in Moore’s “heterosexual tithes” that made her more of a church member than the gay church-goers that also paid tithes. Her pastors must have been unaware of the return policy on Moore’s offerings to God.
“You cannot just read a Bible and think that somehow you’ve now mastered the word of God,” Pastor Dennis Wiley of Washington, D.C.’s Covenant Baptist said in defense. He, like many other Christians, believes there is only one master of the word of God and that is God. Jesus did walk among prostitutes, lepers and thieves, didn’t he? Although the gay community shouldn’t be synonymous with prostitution, disease or crime, they are a group that is also marginalized by society.
“The Black church has the original ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy,” says Reverend Eronica King, a 27-year-old clergy/hospital chaplain in South Carolina who identifies as lesbian. King grew up in a small family church where the musician and choir director were gay men. “[Gay church members] hide in the open. Everybody knows they are gay, but nobody talks about it,” she says.
Moore eventually dropped the lawsuit saying that her actions were not of God but decided to permanently split from the church. I wonder if she sued when the pastors wedded the couple who had been fornicating. Maybe she also left when they performed the holy union of two alcoholics. Or perhaps she’s up in arms about the church not practicing slavery, as the Bible condones.
How is it that individuals pick apart the Bible, apply some hierarchical order to what is deemed as sin, then completely shun one particular group? Why aren’t alcoholics or fornicators ostracized from the church at the same capacity as homosexuals?
“It is because I am gay that I stay active in church,” Reverend King explains. “It is because I am gay that I make sure I’m a visible face in the congregation.”
Perhaps if people, Christians and non-Christians alike, took the time to know and understand gay men and women judgment-free, they would see that they’re just like anyone else. That they’re capable of having loving relationships. Relationships that extend beyond the bedroom. Relationships that are about companionship and commitment. Some argue that marriage is the terms for two people to procreate. Does that then mean that an infertile heterosexual couple should not be permitted to marry?
Questions similar to these probed Stephanie Russell, 25, who was brought up in a religious household but now rarely attends church. “My education has attributed mostly to my decision to diminish my church involvement,” explains the Austin resident who identifies as queer. “The more I began to question, the less I was fed, and then I realized that no human being truly had the answer.”
Many overlook the fact that the Bible was written within a historical context. There are simply things in the Bible that were once acceptable that no longer are (for instance, slavery, Exodus 21:2-6). There are things that were once unacceptable that presently are (for instance, wearing clothing of more than one fabric, Leviticus 19:19 or wearing gold and pearls, 1 Timothy 2:9). “People have no idea about the language and transcribing changes the Bible went through,” Reverend King notes. “There are several versions of the Bible that have books in them that our Bible does not, like the Vulgate of Saint Jerome. If folk only knew…” Beyond just teaching the Word, it’s crucial for pastors to preach how the Bible came to be.
“I am not an atheist nor am I pro- any anti-religious organizations. If I must be ‘pro-something,’ I’m pro-education and the betterment of society,” adds Russell.
After performing the commitment ceremony, the Covenant Baptist Church lost half of their congregation, over 250 families. I hope they gain 500 more gay ones.