Organization helps ease tension between LGBT community and church leaders

http://

INTRO:Members of the LGBT community have felt unwelcome in some of the city’s African American churches. One organization is trying to fight discrimination Harlem churches. Anjuli Sastry reports.

INTRO:Members of the LGBT community have felt unwelcome in some of the city’s African American churches. One organization is trying to fight discrimination Harlem churches. Anjuli Sastry reports.

—-
On the third floor of an unassuming office building in West Harlem, a bishop preaches to his congregation from a stage. A gold chalice sits on a makeshift altar in front of the congregation. Men and women in white robes sing behind the church’s founder and senior bishop, Zachary Jones.

 

Jones urges members of the congregation to come up and take Holy Communion.

 

Bishop Zachary Jones: Won’t you begin at the rear and come forward at this time. One by one.

 

It’s just another Sunday at Unity Fellowship of Christ Church New York City. But this isn’t your usual church service.

 

The relationship between members of the African American LGBT community and certain churches in Harlem have been strained in the past. ATLAH Worldwide Missionary Church in West Harlem made headlines last year when the chief pastor displayed a sign that read “JESUS WOULD STONE THE HOMOS.”

 

Other churches are not as extreme. But 23-year-old Miguel Vega still felt discrimination at his previous church when he came out as gay.

 

VEGA: As soon as I said it, they took me off choir, they took me off praise team, and they said, you are no longer welcome.
Vega’s previous church and others like it send a message that being gay is not accepted by the bible. But at Unity Fellowship, Bishop Jones uses the bible’s words to spread awareness of the LGBT community among new members.

 

JONES: They are educated on the historical view of bible as well as the way that we interpret it in terms of acceptance and where it’s not used much as a weapon or judgment tool but as used much more as an inviting, compassionate tool.

 

That message of acceptance meant a lot to Vega.

 

VEGA: It was a major blessing finding the church.

 

At Unity Fellowship, Vega is included in various committees and sings for the choir. He finally feels like he fits.

 

VEGA: And when I finally found that acceptance at church, it helped me to accept myself and now I’m actually able to accept everyone else.

 

The LGBT community’s struggle for acceptance was the main focus of a forum held late last month by LGBT Faith Leaders of African Descent. LGBT Faith Leaders was founded 5-years ago to help the LGBT community find supportive churches, and to make traditionally less open churches more aware of the community’s struggle.

 

Reverend Yunus Coldman is a transgender male who presides at another Harlem church, Rivers of Rehoboth. Coldman led a workshop at last month’s forum about the various ways churches can help trans people feel included.

 

COLDMAN: Another way you can do that to make everyone feel comfortable is to say ‘family,’ or to say ‘kinship’ using something that is a little more broad and a lot more inclusive.
LGBT Faith Leaders plans to get churches with mostly heterosexual congregations to attend its forums later this year. Anjuli Sastry, Columbia Radio News.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *