It wasn't long ago that a Palm Sunday sermon in 2006 by Bishop Alfred A. Owens Jr. of Greater Mount Calvary Church in Washington D.C. sent shock waves through the D.C. area and the black gay community. During a sermon titled "Fan or Follower", Bishop made it painfully clear how he felt about gays and lesbians in the church. He didn't censor his thoughts nor did he seem to care how his words would negatively impact his gay and lesbian members.
The audio from this controversial sermon where Bishop Owens called for all of the real men to approach the altar, "NOT NO FAGGOTS OR NO SISSIES, BUT SOME REAL MEN" could be heard on just about every gay blog and mainstream publication in D.C. from The Washington Post to The Washington City Paper. The fallout was swift and hard. In an act of courage, Former Mayor Anthony A. Williams demanded a public apology from Owens and threatened to remove him from his Interfaith Council.
Susan Newman, a religious adviser to Mayor Williams told Colbert King, a columnist at The Washington Post "that the words "faggot" and "sissy" are as offensive to gay men as would be the words "niggers, coons and bucks" spoken from the pulpit by a white minister."
Engulfed in controversy and feeling the pressure to release a statement, on May 18, 2006 Bishop Owens released a pseudo-apology saying, "It was not my purpose to wound anyone or discriminate against any group, and I apologize for any offense. However, I will not submit my sermons through political filters for fear of recrimination by political or social groups. On any given Sunday, I preach about love, faith and holiness, and, yes, about hell and sin. For that, I offer no apology".
If you're thinking his apology lacked sincerity then you're absolutely right and what I'm about to tell you confirms it. They say a leopard never changes its spots; well a homophobic minister never changes his sermon.
Fast Forward to January 5, 2008. I received an e-mail from a member of Bishop Owens' church informing me that the treatment of the gay and lesbian members of Greater Mount Calvary had not gotten better since 2006 but indeed worse. He requested to remain anonymous and I will respect his wish. But the tactics being used by Bishop Owens, his staff, and a portion of the congregation to bully it's gay and lesbian members out of the church, out of the "lifestyle", and back into the closet are despicable!
A modern day witch-hunt is taking place at Greater Mount Calvary in the form of an e-mail that lists over 100 men who are allegedly gay and serve in the choir, usher board, deacon board and various other auxiliaries within the church. This e-mail written by a female member of the church was sent to Bishop Owens and subsequently sent to over 300 members through a Yahoo group.
According to the e-mail "Bishop Owens met with all choir members for thirty minutes and offered to help anybody who wanted to change from being gay". "He said the bible says that wheat and tares grow together but there are too many tares and when the tares out number the wheat I got to do something".
"I am going to meet with all the people mentioned in the e-mail and use my discernment to figure out who needs to be "monitored" or sat down from what they do".
The writer of the e-mail identifies herself as a saved and concerned member in search of a husband and then begins to describe gay members as whores, freeloaders, drunks, druggies, on the dl, sex-partying sinners.
DOWNLOAD THE ENTIRE E-MAIL IN PDF FORMAT HERE.
The brother who reached out to me finally had enough and decided to leave the hostile environment Bishop Owens has created for his gay and lesbian members, but there are others who still continue to attend and even "amen" his sermons because they feel they have no choice.
Discrimination is discrimination. Why do we feel we have no choice but to be silent when discrimination is coming from the pulpit? Bishop Owens and other ministers have abused their position as clergymen repeatedly and have taught gays and lesbians to believe they're worthless and incapable of being "real" Christians (as if the only requirement is to be heterosexual).
How dare he discredit the spiritual relationship between God and gay and lesbian believers! The don’t ask don't tell policy and the hypocrisy in the black church is getting old really fast.
What is this man's fascination with homosexuality? Google his name and almost every entry is linked to a homophobic statement or sermon he's made over the years. But yet gays and lesbians still flock to his church. If this e-mail and Bishop's actions aren't enough for them to either speak up or leave then I don't know what it will take.
I'm sure this post will find it's way back to Greater Mount Calvary and possibly Bishop's desk and I want you (Bishop Owens) and your congregation to know that it's a new day. For every gay and lesbian person who willingly shows up for your abuse and suffers in silence, there are those like myself who are not afraid to speak up and claim their inheritance in Christ.
The church has historically been a refuge for all black people not just heterosexual blacks. You have turned Greater Mount Calvary into a hotbed of oppression for your gay and lesbian members and you should be ashamed! No one deserves to be singled-out and mistreated like you've done to your gay members. You may never be able to fully comprehend the damage you've done to people who lifted you up only to be torn down in return.
Gays in the church is nothing new. Look around Bishop we're everywhere, possibly in your family. You don't have to like us but you must respect those serving in your church that are apart of the success of your ministry. But don't worry, every time you decide to act up there will be plenty of us speaking out...It's a new day.
Outraged? Let Bishop Owens & his staff know:
Alfred T. Owens, Office Assistant
Alma Belcher , Counselor
Anthony Minor, Teacher
Beatrice Dawson, Bookstore Manager
Bernard Perry, Principal of Calvary Christian Academy
Betty Robinson, Lead Facilities Maintenance Staff
Beverly Lucas, Director of The Family Life Center
Bobby Daniels, Administrative Asst. to the Sr. Pastor
Bryan Smith, Duplication Technician
Calvin Sykes, Non-Teaching Assistant