Soulforce, a gay Christian activist group, visited the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church June 1 to meet with outspoken Bishop Eddie Long as part of as six week campaign of visiting megachurches.
Long and several church officials met with Soulforce in a private, closed-door meeting in the church’s administrative offices. Soulforce members said Long told them that much of what he has said and done regarding the gay issues has been misconstrued.
“He talked a lot about being bashed [in the media], and admitted that some hurtful things have been said, but one thing he admitted that pleased me is that there are things he needs to learn,” said Soulforce member Dr. Dionne Bates, an Atlanta-area therapist. “He gave the impression he is willing to learn those things. In order for healing with our community we have to give him time to learn.”
In December 2004, Long held a “Re-ignite the Legacy” march protested by gay groups. Banning same-sex marriage was the No. 1 item on the march agenda, followed by reforming the education and health care systems and creating economic opportunities for minorities. (Source)
The meeting with Soulforce is a step in the right direction towards healing the pain inflicted on Long's gay and lesbian members and the broader community by his hateful rhetoric. Only time will tell if he's indeed serious about offering a place at the table for LGBT Christians.
Jacquelyn Williams, a member of New Birth, who was unaware that Soulforce was in attendance stated "They are welcome in the house, they can worship with us, but we do not condone that lifestyle.”
One immediate positive as a result of the meeting was the reunion between Rev. Troy Sanders of The Vision Church of Atlanta and his godmother, a New Birth member, who had been estranged since Rev. Sanders publicly came out.
In her remarks she stated that she wanted to publicly ask forgiveness for having lost connection with Troy following his coming out as a gay man. She commented that her lack of communication with him was solely based on the fact that she did not know what to say or how to say it. She wishes now that she knew then how to approach him because her love for him had never changed.
Well if that gave you a warm feeling inside then savor it because there's a spoiler. Not everyone is excited about Bishop Long's willingness to have dialogue with the LGBT community and are already plotting his downfall. Yes, other so-called "Christians" are preparing to write him and his congregation off for simply sitting down to talk. They've sent him a letter forewarning him of the consequences he'll face if he starts to preach the gospel of inclusion. A drop in attendance, lack of monetary support, no bling-bling, and fading celebrity. Oh I almost forgot, the loss of his soul too.