For many, the very idea of an African American pastor or clergyperson publicly embracing LGBT equality is unimaginable. You know the story; the Black Church is conservative and homophobic.
That story is shifting. While the larger society has grown in support of LGBT people and their families, pastors and church members in black religious settings have engaged in 'Many Voices' dialogues, seminars, and discussions, and forged deep relationships over the last four years.
Now three are speaking out through Many Voices' video campaign launched on October 7. The campaign features the voices of Southern Black clergy who have broken through disbelief and resignation. These clergy tell how they hold fast to their faith and support LGBT people and their families.
In the series, sexuality is not avoided, as is too often the case in our churches, rather it is celebrated as an essential part of scripture.
Misinterpreted biblical mandates used to condemn gays and lesbians are illuminated, giving Christian families and friends courage to love without hesitation.
As Rev. Dr. Rodney Sadler reminds us, "All people are worthy of God's love." He is clear there are no exceptions.
Later in the series, Rev. Dr. Terence Leathers testifies to the power of honest dialogue within his congregation as they grow and learn together. He raises the question, "How could someone be treated as if they don't matter?" His faith and relationship with God informs him that, "Whosoever" relates to everybody - transgender, gay, lesbian, queer - "
Speaking from their hearts as pastors, they know all forms of discrimination are to be challenged. The lessons of the civil rights movement, commitment to social justice and full human rights are at the core of their theology.
Rev. Reggie Longcrier provides ministry and care in rural North Carolina to those on the margins. It wasn't a leap for him to be outspoken and supportive of LGBT people. Reflecting on growing up, he says , "We were friends. We were family. We had a common bond. We shared in the same pain. We shared in the same struggle."
Isn't that the point? Our common experiences, similarities, shared hurts and hopes connect us far more than anything that divides us.
Another powerful Southern preacher steeped in black religious heritage said it this way, ""It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly." Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
As one viewer of the first video commented, "I hope it can create a wave of change." Amen to that, I do too as the next two videos are released in the coming weeks.
I believe the wave is part of a rising tide, and as more are willing to face the troubling concerns, conflict and questions that hinder the necessary conversations, the sweep of this wave will lead toward greater justice everywhere and for everyone.