The time has come for Black pastors to stop dividing our families and community. We have seen this recently with the encouragement to oppose an education act designed to promote understanding and decrease violence against some of the most vulnerable in our public schools. This opposition, led by Pastor Xavier Thompson of the Southern Missionary Baptist Church, encourages other pastors to protest Governor Jerry Brown's signing into law California's SB 48, the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act. This law will do just what it says, help educators and students to become more respectful and inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals by including their history alongside with the stories and contributions of other figures found in textbooks. However, the pastors who stand against this law are creating wedges between clergy and their parishioners who are uncertain how to help young people who self-identify as LGBT.
What Pastor Thompson and others fail to see is that this FAIR Act does something they refuse to do, which is to acknowledge the existence and positive influence LGBT people make in our communities, especially the Black community. People like gospel recording artist the late Rev. James Cleveland, community leader Bishop Yvette Flunder and Rev. Anthony Charles Williams II, the gospel recording artist formerly known as Tonéx, each have compelling stories of how God's peace and presence encouraged them to be exactly who they were created to be. Each of them has positively impacted the Black community through song, preaching and testimony. Each of them would be great candidates for the history books and fine examples of what it means to be Black, LGBT and Christian.
How many other LGBT people are forced into silence and shame because there is no one who will value their story due to a "one size fits all" point of view? Our families and communities will be stronger when we begin to recognize the value of every voice and the contributions of every person. Preaching and encouraging opposition to the values of fairness and respect in our schools goes against the teaching of Jesus Christ to love your neighbor and to provide help for the "least of these." There are parents who look for ways to love their children no matter what. The love and acceptance of these parents know no boundaries. It is a shame when there are pastors who preach of a God with conditional love and support ignoring the voice of young people who desperately want to find their place in society and within the community of God's people.
The last place bullying should occur is from the pulpit. What Pastor Thompson and others need to understand that opposition to this new law in California further reinforces the stereotype that the Black community is homophobic and not supportive of our LGBT children. This new law will benefit everyone in our community, both gay and straight, because it supports one of the primary tenants of the Christian faith -- we are all created in the image of God and that God so loved the WORLD. Every person is worthy of respect and recognition, even if we may not understand or agree with them.
Any theology that is not life producing, but is detrimental to the human spirit, should be abolished. It is time to stop divisive words and actions against members of our own families and communities. It is time to be fair and welcoming of all who need to find a place in our homes, our churches and in our textbooks.