The other day a good friend of mine told me I was attacking Bishop Eddie Long.
I countered that my previous blog post and even Facebook status updates about the situation were not an attack, but a wake up call for the rest of us, the black church.
For far too long, black gays and lesbians, have suffered in our community. They have had to hide under a shroud of piety while struggling with their natural, born sexual inclinations in a society that trumpets masculinity. All while loving Christ and having a strong desire to serve HIM.
The church is supposed to be a refuge, a safe place to come and worship, receive grace and mercy, and figure out this thing called life and our walk.
Too often, the church, particularly the black church, becomes a judgment seat.
I have personally experienced the one-sided, heavy handedness of pastors and churches who abuse their position. Not to the extent of the pain these four young men are dealing with, but to the extent of trust destroyed, confidences broken, and theology questioned.
One former pastor called me, almost a decade after I left the ministry, and apologized. "I was wrong." He was exercising power and control over the lives of the congregation, even to the point of choosing who could and could not marry and who they could marry. He had elevated himself to the position of being infallible.
In another church, while seeking counsel for a situation in my marriage, one of the co-pastors heard the conversation and went back and told my husband. Trust and confidence broken.
In another church, women were told to wait for their husbands, but not to date, and then if they meet someone to marry quickly so as not to inflame the fleshly desires. Only to find out the husband was abusive, sexually confused, or otherwise not ideal. Then she was told to pray more, fast more, give more, and if all else fails, she could not divorce, no matter what he did.
It was examples of spiritual abuse of power that bothered me the most about what Bishop Long did. Then for him to stand before his congregation and not emphatically deny he abused those four young men, sealed it for me. My attack is not against him, but against all shepherds who hold themselves up as being above reproach and the sin nature we all fight against.
I posted a link from Bishop Carlton Pearson proclaiming the Gospel of Inclusion. He spoke about his embrace of gay and lesbian believers and how the black church railed against him on this. He also spoke about the situation with New Birth as a church leader struggling against his nature in a close minded environment. Eddie Long had to put on the show, even parading his wife out before the congregation as if to say, "see, I'm normal, happily married, she is standing with me."
Black women have been made to suffer through sexless marriages and false marriages all disguising homosexuality in the church. All because black believers can not accept the fact that that handsome, strong, muscular man is really gay.
It is a wake up call, a time for believers to examine their belief. Is it the mega church and the gospel of prosperity that has enticed so many to seek a man and not seek God?
I left the church a few years ago. Part of it was a move to a new city and part of it was to find my faith. I still attend a church, but am no longer involved in the four walls as the only place to minister the love of Christ as HE put in me. I have done more and ministered more and affected more lives outside the four walls. I am free from the oppressive nature of some church inner circles that hold out the carrot stick of "waiting on your time" and "elevation will come" if I just give more, pray more, sacrifice more...to the church.
No man is above God. That is also the lesson of what is going on with Bishop Eddie Long.
No man needs $10,000 worth of black diamonds, equipment, and treasures in his church office.
Did he really need the private jet and custom made suits to serve the people of Atlanta?
It is the question that has plagued me as I see and hear pastors covet the "new church building" while hosting worship services consisting primarily of their family. As if the "if we build it, they will come" mentality will work, marketing glitz. What about actually loving the people and doing what is necessary? Is a building and a Christian version of the FOI really necessary? Is it really needed for the congregation to wait for the Pastor and First Lady to be escorted like royalty down the center aisle while their adoring followers clap loudly for their entrance? Is that serving the body of Christ and shepherding them to a deeper relationship with Christ?
I have been attending a large church in St. Louis that has allowed me to breathe. I say that because I can worship (everything from gospel to country and western), hear the word, and leave without feeling like a weight of guilt has been placed on my chest because I didn't give, or didn't buy the pastor's tape, or didn't clean the church toilet (they hire people to do that). I haven't even met the pastor, after being here for 3years. No pressure. Everyone of every walk of life comes and goes, receives the word, and become active in small groups as they see fit. Grace, both the name and the feeling. And a simple man, with a simple wife, who drives a simple old van, and ministers a simple word. And changes lives.
These are the lessons.