Like many states before it, North Carolina is currently in the midst of a battle over gay marriage. In November, voters will go to the polls and, among other things, vote on Amendment One, a ballot initiative that would amend the state’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Ever since the amendment was announced, debate has been furious, and much of it has been hateful. Celebrity pastor and North Carolinian Billy Graham came out in support of the amendment, saying, “Watching the moral decline of our country causes me great concern.” Less subtle was pastor Sean Harris, who told his congregation that it needed to “smack” the gay out of children. “Dads, the second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you crack that wrist,” he said. “Give him a good punch—you're not gonna act like that."
Thankfully, at least one pastor is going against the tide of anti-gay men of the cloth in North Carolina, and he’s not who you might anticipate. Pastor Ricky Woods is the senior minister at First Baptist Church-West, the oldest Black Baptist church in Charlotte. He says that the anti-gay sentiments Amendment One has stirred up are “troubling.” “This really is a civil-rights issue,” Woods told MSNBC. “A lot of people will know it was only a little over 40 years ago that North Carolina accepted interracial marriage. … This amendment is essentially making discrimination legal.”
Data shows that Blacks are more homophobic than whites, and African-Americans are more religious than other groups, as well. Those two qualities put together lead many people to believe that the majority of African-Americans in the church are bigots, intolerant of gays and lesbians despite the similarities between the struggle for gay rights and the struggle for Black rights. Pastor Woods proves that’s not the case, as do an increasing number of other Black ministers. We told you this last year:
[A]n opinion blog post in the Baltimore Sun suggested that Black religious leaders in the Baltimore area are coming out more and more in support of gays and lesbians in their folds. “Leaders such as Rev. Dennis Wiley, a Maryland resident and pastor of Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C., have spoken out publicly and unapologetically about their support for all loving and committed couples,” wrote Jamie Washington, himself a pastor at the Unity Fellowship Church of Baltimore. “Advocates like Rev. Dorothy Harris, pastor of Unity Fellowship Church of Columbia, and Pastor Larry Brumfield, with Westminster's Church of the Brethren, are standing firmly in solidarity.”
In short, just as it would be foolish for an African-American person to write off gay people as “sinners” without ever getting to know any of them, it’s also foolish for anyone to write off Black churches as hives of hate against homosexuals. If anything is sinful, it’s people’s stereotypes.
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(Photo: Ricky Woods)