A Georgia pastor’s explosive rant that went viral on YouTube says he was taken out of context. He doesn’t support equality, he just hates hypocrisy. But there may be hope for him yet.
“In the African-American church you are guilty of condemning the Supreme Court system and preaching against something. But if you look at half of our choirs and a great number of our artists that we call abominations, we call demons, we demonize and dehumanize the same people that we use. We don’t say nothing about the gay choir director because he’s good for business,” Pastor E. Dewey Smith says in the video.
“As long as the choir sound good, I ain’t saying nothing about his sexuality. We have done what the slave master did to us. Dehumanize us, degrade us, demonize us, but then use them for our advantage,” he also preached.
It turns out, the preacher says he’s not an LGBT ally, isn’t supportive of same-sex marriage, and isn’t really into equality. He even admits he doesn’t know how to talk to gay people.
The video, he insists, was taken out of context. His real message, he says, was about hypocrisy, and how to minister to those whom you don’t like or are different.
In an extremely long but worthwhile Facebook post, Pastor Smith, who is the head pastor atThe House of Hope in Decateur, writes that his “message was not presented in an effort to ‘affirm the rights’ of the LGBT community. My sermonic intentions and ministerial assignment is not to be the ‘pro gay pastor’. My agenda is Jesus’ message and exaltation.”
But Smith acknowledges in the video he “confidently affirmed the humanity of and contributions that have been made to the black church by many from the gay community. I stand wholeheartedly behind that because it is the truth.”
“Millions of people within the LGBT community and other sects have reached out to me over the past few days. While this has been different, unexpected and uncomfortable for me, it has shown me how so many within the gay community only want to be respected, positively acknowledged and have their humanity affirmed. It is sad to hear the stories of alienation that many same-gender loving people have emailed or sent via social media. Millions have stated, ‘thank you for sharing that we both are on the same level in God’s eyes and have access to Jesus….thanks for letting me know that I Jesus still loves me……thank you for not making me feel inferior’. While these messages have opened my eyes tremendously, please know that I was not trying to become a focal point or ‘champion’ for a ’cause.'”
But anyone who takes the time to read Pastor Smith’s Facebook post, and not the PR statement sent to media outlets, can see he has genuine questions about how the church, pastors, and Christianity treats LGBT people. And he’s clearly uncomfortable with what he’s seeing.
What does the “anti-homosexuality church” say to parents who have gay children? Does our theology cause a wedge between “straight” parents and same-gender loving children? Is it “godly” for a parent to ever turn their backs on their gay children?” Can we be like Philip and share Christ with those who are hurting and wounded? Are the members of our congregations prepared to do what Philip did?
What is the response of the church to persons who are “comfortable in their lifestyle”, do not see it as sin and accept homosexuality as their normal and God-given reality? Can they participate in ministry? Will it still be “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”? As many churches will not perform same-sex marriages, will they dedicate or christen the babies who are being raised in same-gender loving homes? Can same-gender loving people attend our churches? While some congregations are “welcoming and affirming” of gays, will others be at least “welcoming”? Will some churches excommunicate persons who admit that they’re same-gender loving? Corporations, schools and the public square have all become more open to the LGBT community; have our churches prepared congregants to live in a civil manner with all people? Is proper treatment of our “gay neighbors” a part of our ecclesial efforts to promote decency, civility and citizenship? Is Dr. King’s concept of the “Beloved Community” relevant in this context?
I have always believed and taught that marriage is between a man and a woman. Even as society changes and my theology evolves around ministering to and being intentional about loving all people, my personal theology is still based on male and female relationships only. While this may disappoint many who have encouraged me over the past few days, please allow a mutuality of “tolerance”. However, I do think it is important for us to distinguish between personal theology and public policy. The Supreme Court ruling is an issue of policy. Post-modernity has made me more aware of the pluralistic democracy that governs America. The U.S. is not a theocracy and has been established to supposedly provide certain freedoms and rights to all of its citizens. Every American citizen is granted both the freedom of and freedom from religion. As cynical as that may sound for some, it is the essence of our Nation’s founding. It is very likely over the next 100 years, that many Atheists will be in policy-making roles in America. In the last Presidential election, the majority of evangelical Christians voted for a Mormon as President of the United States. Imagine the changes in society over the next century. I have grave concerns about whose theology could be used to form public policy in the year 2115, should The Lord delay His return. The present policy of this land allows me to worship where I desire to worship and to live with my wife and children. The policy of this land has recently given same-gender loving persons the right to have marriage ceremonies, should they choose and the right for me as a Minister to not perform that ceremony.
Pastor Smith also says the video has “caused several ‘saints’ to ‘hate’ and even ‘wish death’ upon” him.
Smith supports separation of church and state, and unlike so many anti-gay preachers, is willing to at least ask questions. That means there’s hope.
Here’s the video, if you’ve not seen it yet: