Thursday, September 23, 2004

ITs Gettin Hot In take off all

Well things are really starting to heat up around my way. Today is Thursday, I have a sermon due tomorrow and the Poetry Slam is but a week off. On Sunday I will be interviewed on WTLC FM our local R&B black radio station. The Subject? Homophobia in the black church. I imagine the phones will be ringing off da' hook. I am prepared however. When one is telling the truth their really isnt much that can be said to refute it. Truth is truth and homphobic hate rhetoric is indeed being spewed from pulpits across this country and their are plenty of African American gays and lesbians intently listening.

But before I am to speak on the radio, I have a leadership meeting at my current church, Jesus Metropolitan Community Church. Our Pastor holds these meetings 3 times a year and the purpose is to discuss board positions, vision for the church, and mission for the church. Being the largest gay and lesbian church in the midwest I believe our goals and missions should be clear and evident. However, this morning my pastor sent out a proposed mission and vision statement. I cannot include this 16 page document here but suffice it to say it included the expected usual suspects. Outreach, discipleship, church growth and more tithing were among the major focuses as well as justice. Conspicuosly missing was any language or dialogue pertaining to diversity or integration of the congregation. My church is 450 strong and the non white population is a scarce 20-30 folks. Can you see my dilema??? So I shot off an email to my pastor.


I received the announcement concerning Saturdays meeting as well as the attached mission statement and 12 month plan. I have some initial concerns and wanted to share them with you prior to Saturdays meeting. I have been wrestling with whether or not I should even mention this with the entire leadership or just with you privately. I am sure you will advise me appropriately.

I am concerned about the lack of language in the mission statement with regards to diversifying our congregation. I believe we are making strides in the right direction however, unless the entire membership is engaged in focused and direct efforts to become a congregation that more accurately reflects the GLBT community I dont believe we can make advancements in this area. As you know the diversity ministry has been well recieved by the congregation and I certainly am not suggesting that the church leadership has been anything less than accomodating and supportive. However, you have suggested that if I observe areas where the church can be more inclusive I should bring them to your attention. I believe including diverse language in our mission statement will send a clear and concise message to the congregation that leadership is genuinely interested in diversifying not only its membership, but the leadership and worship style as well. Would it be a fair estimate to suggest that less than 5% of our congregation is non-white? That is an astonishingly low number considering the racial make -up of Indianapolis as well as the racial make-up of the local gay population. I am aware that a large amount of that responsibility lies on the minority population, but how much of that responsibility lies with the church? If my estimates are even in the ballpark, that makes our church 85-90% caucasian, which wouldn't and isn't a problem for most congregations but we serve a unique oppressed segment of society. The entire GLBT population has to know that JMCC exists and is welcoming to all people regardless of socio-economic status, race, ethnicity, or level of "outness".

The diversity team is only a tool in achieving what should be an over arching goal. Unless the entire membership is, not only accepting, but celebratory of other races and nationalities the work of diversity will be futile. If we dont have some radical change in the direction and vision for JMCC then I fear that we will all look up 10 years from now and have the same circumstances that we face today only on a larger scale. We will have a congregation of 1555 and still only have a 5% non-white population(78 people). If we always do what we've always done, we will always get what we've always got.

I myself find the task overwhelming at times. Trying to minister to a group that doesnt always know that they need to be ministered to. Many African Americans have been so brainwashed by the "historic black Church" that they are unable to even discuss religion and sexuality, accepting to believe that they are innately wrong and sinful for being who they are. However, I will not be deterred in this mission and I believe that our church must take a more active role in reversing the terminal, life threatening damage done by the black church and institutions like it.

My suggestions:
In the document entitled Our Vision, under the heading Implementing our vision, perhaps we could consider adding a sentence to effective outreach. Some words that better define what effective outreach is and how these efforts can be targeted at specific groups.

Also in this same document under the heading, reaching beyond ourselves-doing justice there needs to be language that addresses the unique needs of people who are minorities within the minority. Politically, economically, and spiritually Latino and African American gays and lesbians are under represented and all but ignored. As the midwests largest GLBT founded church JMCC has a responsibility to investigate why this is happening. It is not enough to recognize that a problem exists, questions have to be asked and challenges made.

Also as we discuss the unique worship style of JMCC, could we not use that subject to discuss how we want our worship experience to reflect more of the culture, history, and backgrounds of the entire congregation and not just the majority of the congregation.

Finally Pastor, I know that you understand the logistics of my argument. In order for JMCC to truly grow and mature we have got to be focused, diligent, and driven to open the doors of our church to different cultures and segments of the GLBT community and I believe that unless we make this mission one of our primary goals we will achieve little in eradicating division within the local gay and lesbian community.

These are just some of my initial thoughts. I hope that you will give them your deepest consideration and provide pertinent feedback.


Now between the talk show which will raise the eyebrows of the straight black church and the cold water diatribe that will prick the ears of the gay white church I am sure to catch some flap all over my new white K-SWISS tennies but When I die and they have to bury me fast
make sure that I am placed face down
so that my detractors can kiss my A**

My apologies to Bobbi Knight


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