This is a reprint from the March 1, 2010 blog by Dr. Randal Jelks

By Theresa D. McClellan
Faith Advocacy Coordinator
Gays In Faith Together
Twelve years ago while working as a daily news reporter for Michigan’s second largest newspaper, I decided to add another vision of gay America.
The entertainment world was falling over itself in the spring of 1997 from debates on whether “America was ready” for Ellen Degeneres to come out of the closet on national television on the show bearing her name.
And in Grand Rapids, we were reeling from the 1997 heart attack death of 32-year-old Gerry Crane, a popular music teacher beloved by his students, but forced out of his job in the Byron Center School district after the school board learned he married his gay partner. The venom against him from Bible spouting Christians prompted the rise of a group of ministers called Concerned clergy who offered a view of Christ that focused on love and justice.
So I wrote an article on what it was like for me, an African-American Christian lesbian, living in socially conservative Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The crux of the column was that it did not matter if America was ready, WE are ready, WE are everywhere and WE come in all shades, faiths and beliefs.
Among the varied reactions of thank you and how dare you, the more intriguing one was the reaction of the older black sistahs at the hair salons.
“Why’d she have to tell EVERBODY?” they asked.
You see everybody knows Uncle George is gay or Aunty Susie is “funny” that’s just not stuff we as a black community talk about.
At least not to your face; or as a way of getting to know the person as more than a label.
It’s usually whispered. Complete with tipping-the-boat hand rocking gestures and the phrase “s(he’s) funny.”
But it’s 2010 and last year I retired from the Grand Rapids Press after 28 years of telling other people’s stories.
I’m on to my second career as a singer/songwriter, freelance writer and social justice advocate.
In January I became the Faith Advocacy Coordinator for a small non-profit organization here in Grand Rapids called GIFT (Gays In Faith Together) and part of my job is to build a coalition of support for our “Gay Christian? Yes!” campaign.
Because too often, the faithful have been the oppressors of the gay community.
And in some of the black churches, the oppression comes in silence, in dismissal, and in downright demonization of the lgbt community.
After writing my article a dozen years ago and explaining the heartbreak I felt when a former pastor and spiritual mentor rejected me because I told him I loved a woman, my current pastor wrote me saying I would be welcome at his church. He was right.
They underwent a process where the congregation studied, prayed and eventually voted to become open and affirming toward gays. It is a beautiful congregation, they have become family, and they are a predominately white church.
Now as faith advocate, I’ve decided to visit the black pastors where they are. The conversations have been difficult if not downright sad.
Some pastors, more progressive than their congregations, fear they will lose their jobs if they push the issue. Some pastors have a policy of praying away the gay. Some have actually ignored members of their flock who announce they are gay. And some pastors feel bad but don’t know how to move their flock forward.
MONTGOMERY BUS BOYCOTT KINGLast night for Black History month, GIFT showed the award-winning film“Brother Outsider: the Life of Bayard Rustin” the openly gay civil rights strategist behind the 1963 March on Washington.
Because of his sexuality he was practically erased from the history books.
But the battles waged by Mr. Rustin are not issues that remains in the past. Racism and homophobia remain twin evils today. And when the person feeling the brunt of the attack is black and gay, the load can be insurmountable. But Mr. Rustin did not bend.
But how many lgbt (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people are ignored, dismissed or demonized in their churches right here in Grand Rapids? In your communities?
How many have become invisible in their pews when they come to a church looking for guidance, acceptance, love?
How many young black men and women from the lgbt community, who have never heard of Mr. Rustin, have gone through life thinking no gay person of color made a difference in American history in anything besides entertainment ?
How many black men and women remain silent thinking they are the only one in their church ?
What does that do to a person’s psyche and to their ability to be all that God has made them to be, when they are told that they are on the wrong side of love?
As Faith Advocacy Coordinator for GIFT, we have an affirming message that there are no mistakes, God made and loves us all and YES, you can be gay and Christian.