When I Spoke Out, Support Poured Out

When I first joined the Many Voices Video campaign, I wrote a reflection on the importance of having the conversation around lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) acceptance in the Black Church—even when we’re not sure how.

Since my video voicing my support as an ally and a southern minister was released, one thing is for certain: People are talking.

My congregation at Mount Vernon Church is talking. My fellow ministers are talking. All of Clayton, North Carolina, is talking. Loud. And their response has been overwhelmingly positive.

While there were pastors who called, concerned that I took such a strong stance publicly, and community members that could not get on board—for every naysayer, there have been multiple unapologetic supporters spreading a message of acceptance.

My participation in the campaign made my views about inclusion unequivocally clear. Although I had never condemned anyone from the pulpit and even alluded to my support of the LGBT community, I wanted my church members to hear firsthand why I stepped out in this way. So I preached a sermon called “The Invite” for them to gain clarity on my position.

It was something I had on my heart that I needed to do. 

The message came from John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

I talked about how Christ invites everyone to the table. No matter what position you hold, no matter how you identify yourself, you are still God’s child. I explained how some folks don’t feel welcomed coming to church. They feel discounted, judged, and moved aside.

Some people didn’t care for that message but, by in large, it was a moment in our church that we’ll remember. It broke a lot of chains.

After my Many Voices video and Sunday sermon, I realized that many people want something from the church that they aren’t getting.

There were parents I didn’t know had gay children pouring out their appreciation and parishioners sharing my testimony on social media. Some felt they had to keep their LGBT loved ones a secret.

I got emails and phone calls thanking me for making them feel comfortable—and that’s how family should feel. The church is home for everyone. No one should have to leave parts of themselves at the door.

When people wonder why I participated in this campaign, I tell them plainly: God loves everyone. It’s that simple. I’m 52 years old. I have to walk in my authentic self. If I can’t be me, who am I going to be?

At times I don’t even have to defend my decision.

Members of my church and my community jump to my defense. For instance, someone commented on a congregant’s Facebook post about the video saying, “I don’t know why these pastors can’t deal with black issues.” My church member responded, “Black people are gay too…and my pastor deals with all issues.”

I recently went in to get my car fixed and the manager said, “I saw you in the newspaper concerning ‘that issue.’” I said, “Yes, I was…you still gonna do my car?” He said, “I’m so proud of you,” then proceeded to tell everyone in the shop the details of the campaign and the local paper that covered my participation.

A woman at the auto repair added, “That was so brave of you. God is going to bless you. I know so many people that struggle with this. I’m going to get the paper.”

I’m not sure where this is going but we’re moving through this process to a deeper understanding together.

Let’s keep talking.

Rev. Dr. Terence Leathers for the Many Voices Video Campaign

Originally published by Many Voices; Photo via the Many Voices Video Campaign

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