For Some Black Pastors, Accepting Gay Members Means Losing Others For the complete text of the article go to: For Some Black Pastors, Accepting Gay Members Means Losing Others - New York Times March 27, 2007 By NEELA BANERJEE ATLANTA When the Rev. Dennis Meredith of Tabernacle Baptist Church here began preaching acceptance of gay men and lesbians a few years ago, he attracted some gay people who were on the brink of suicide and some who had left the Baptist faith of their childhoods but wanted badly to return. At the same time, Tabernacle Baptist, an African-American congregation, lost many of its most loyal, generous parishioners, who could not accept a message that contradicted what they saw as the Bibles condemnation of same-sex relations. Over the last three years, Tabernacles Sunday attendance shrank to 800, from 1,100. The debate about homosexuality that has roiled predominantly white mainline churches for years has gradually seeped into African-American congregations, threatening their unity, finances and, in some cases, their existence. In St. Paul, the Rev. Oliver White, senior minister of Grace Community Church, lost nearly all his 70 congregants after he voted in 2005 to support the blessing of same-sex unions in his denomination, the United Church of Christ. In the Atlanta area, a hub of African-American life, only a few black churches have preached acceptance of gay men and lesbians, Mr. Meredith said. At one of those congregations, Victory Church in Stone Mountain, attendance on Sundays has fallen to 3,000 people, from about 6,000 four or five years ago, said the Rev. Kenneth L. Samuel, the senior pastor. My pastor in Alabama said gays had three rights: to redeem themselves, to repent or to die of AIDS, said Mr. Brown, 32. He added, The African-American church thinks AIDS is a gay disease, and that everyone who got it deserved to. DeMarcus Hill, 32, said he admired Mr. Merediths ability to embrace those people who everyone had rejected. Mr. Hill once attended and worked at Tabernacle Baptist, and he is still friends with the Meredith family. But after reading the Bible closely, Mr. Hill, who is studying to be ordained as a Baptist minister, said he could not stay at Tabernacle because sex outside heterosexual marriage was not countenanced. Mr. Hill said he agreed with Mr. Meredith that God loves everyone, including gay men and lesbians. But God corrects you because he loves you, he said, explaining that for gay Christians, such a correction would probably mean lifelong celibacy or eventually being with someone of the opposite sex. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ RE: The last sentence of this article WTF!?!? Maybe it's because I'm not Baptist, or perhaps just naive; but that does not sound right! I am unfamiliar with the "God corrects you because he loves you" theme or verse of the bible. What book is that in? I have made many mistakes in my life, none of which God corrected. I'd like to think I was forgiven, but who knows. I agree that Black churches need to stop shunning and start welcoming andaccepting gays and lesbians. I am saddened but not surprised to see so many congregations dwindle down to nothing. I would hate to see these churches close completely because I'm sure they have done some good in the past for their communities and could continue to do so in the future. I believe the time has come for my people to put away their hate and fears and realize that gays and lesbians are not heathen heretics.