Friday, October 14, 2005

Bang!, Then Stillness from Black Ministers

Pick up the current Bay Windows for an insightful piece on the nebulous role of black ministers in anti-gay, anti-same-sex marriage politics. Ethan Jacobs points out the undercurrents.

mug shot of Gilbert ThompsonOur key player is Bishop Gilbert Thompson. He is:
  • Main pastor at the Mattapan neighborhood's Jubilee Christian Church (a.k.a. New Covenant Christian Church)
  • President of the Black Ministerial Alliance (BMA)
  • Unabashed basher of gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick
  • Liaison who tied the BMA to the VoteOnMarriage.org anti-same-sex marriage group
So, it ought to be pretty straightforward. The BMA is or is not politically involved in the 2008 ballot initiative to rescind same-sex marriage here.

It is not obvious though. Some black ministers are in the traditional Christian welcoming mold. They see homosexuals as just other congregants, who are worthy of love and respect. For example, Rev. Martin McLee at the Union United Methodist Church in the South End is a BMA board member who "certainly will not be fighting to support that (new) amendment." His church welcomes gays.

Also, even though the 80-congregation member BMA released a statement last year (February) supporting the first anti-SSM amendment and opposing SSM, it has been silent since. Their political-affairs chair, Rev. Richard Richardson says they are still in favor of one-man/one-woman marriages and that the 2004 announcement still holds.

Jacobs says the BMA is remaining low-key and a silent partner. It did not join the Roman Catholic leaders in pushing the petitions on its parishioners. In a pretty cagy reply, Richardson said that the BMA's "main goal as a member of the coalition is to articulate its opposition to same-sex marriage. He said the BMA does not feel it must make a specific statement in favor of every marriage amendment that comes up for a vote."

We can speculate on whether Thompson thinks playing a heavy Sean-O'Malley-style hand might divide the BMA. Perhaps his group thinks that playing cool on this gives the appearance by default that all black clerics are anti-gay and anti-SSM.

We do know that from his own pulpit, Thompson called Deval Patrick "demonic" for supporting gay marriage. This is when many black Bostonians see Patrick as a good guy and do not share the pretty and charismatic bishop's sexual self-righteousness.

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