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9 comments | Friday, October 09, 2009

There's an outstanding profile in The Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest on openly gay minister Rev.Benjamin Reynolds of Pilgrim Congregational Church in Oak Park, Illinois.

Rev. Reynolds stepped down from his position as senior pastor of Emmanuel Missionary Baptist Church in Colorado Springs after serving in that capacity for over 16 years when he made the decision to come out. This spring, he arrived as transitional pastor at Pilgrim Congregational Church in Oak Park.

The Wednesday Journal of Oak Park & River Forest reports:

In 2006, Emmanuel Baptist Church in Colorado Springs, a congregation that grew from 125 members in 1992 to as many as 1,500 while under his leadership, voted to dismiss him as senior pastor after he came out at a congregational meeting.

Indeed, the term transitional is apt for Reynolds. He is not only serving as the interim minister for Pilgrim but he is also on his own journey, searching for a place where he can be true to both his calling as a preacher and identity as a gay black man.

"I think I've always known that I was going to be a preacher," said Reynolds, who gave his first sermon at Emmanuel at the age of 14. "I think I've always known that I was gay, but because of my home raising and my church background there was really no room for me to be a preacher and what society calls a gay."

On his path to becoming a pastor he tried to convince himself he was straight, even to the point of getting married.

"If being gay is being against God, I didn't want to be against God," he said. "So I repressed it in order to live out my calling and be who God had created me to be."

It was a question from his daughter, who asked why he and her mom slept in separate bedrooms, that forced Reynolds to finally address the issue of his sexual orientation.

"My marriage wasn't doing well," he said. "We were a good face for the people, but we weren't having a good marriage. What I was doing to my daughter and the damage I was doing to her mother led me to the point where I felt I needed to divorce."

During his divorce, Reynolds enrolled at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver where for the first time he found language that gave him faith he could be both gay and a Christian minister. At the same time, he had become the primary care giver to his gay younger brother, who died two years later from complications with HIV.

"Through that journey," he said, "one of the freeing things my brother gave me was that I should live my life as who I am. His freedom in life and death enabled me to come to some rationale about that."

While at Iliff, Reynolds discovered how resistant his church was to having a gay man be a minister of the gospel. On the night he came out, one of the deacons approached him and said, "Everyone in this church knows that you are gay, but I'm mad as hell that you told us."

Another example of the 'don't ask don't tell policy' of the black church. We'll tolerate you as long as you remain closeted and don't make us uncomfortable by forcing us to deal with an issue that's pervasive in the congregation and in the pulpit. So very telling.


<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

This ONE line out of the entire article said it all...

"...On the night he came out, one of the deacons approached him and said, "Everyone in this church knows that you are gay, but I'm mad as hell that you told us."

WHOOOOO!! Far too long the Black Church has been in the knowledge of and has BENEFITED from GLBT congregants, yet will teach them to HATE themselves, and refuses to embrace them in love.

Even now, when the Tonex controversy came out, you would BELIEVE the amount of hate from the people within the Church, and yet many of them had the nerve to sit high and mighty and claim that they "love" others.

Then the Black church wonders why so many African Americans leave the church and worship in predominantly White congregations.

Even more disturbing, we as Black GLBT people of faith AREN'T SPEAKING UP ENOUGH TO MAKE OUR VOICES HEARD!!!!

Until Black GLBT people come to a sense of empowerment for themselves along with a movement to call out the hatred that is within our places of spirituality, we will continue to see our people destroying ourselves physically and emotionally.

Whew, I need a shot of Patron now, LOL!!

October 09, 2009 12:33 PM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

I keep reading "the black church" like they are the only church opposing homosexuality. Can one of you please tell me when "the white church" became accepting? The opposition to homosexuality comes from the Bible itself so I'm curious as to the distinction I keep seeing about the black church.


October 11, 2009 7:24 PM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

How can opposition to homosexuality come from the bible?

The bible doesn't even a word for homosexuality or homosexual.

The bible is written in greek and hebrew.

All of this is based on interpretation. PERIOD!

October 12, 2009 1:25 AM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

This story is very timely for me...My 22 year old little brother has loved church his whole life. No matter where my mom moved he would always find a church to belong to (even as a child, when my mother had become disillusioned by the church and stopped going). He has the god-given gift of being able to play music by ear, and has taught himself to play several instruments. This gift led him to a position as minister of music at his current church, a position which he has held for years. But now my brother has fallen in love with another man and decided to be open about it. After finding out, his church has not only removed him as minister of music but asked that he no longer talk to, hang out with, or associate with members of the church. Being his big sister, it hurts me to my heart to see this young man who loves God and this church, and has given so much to this church and its members, just be thrown out like this. And this has effected his love for church, now he's scared to find another one, and almost doesn't want to.
This behavior baffles me...even if they believe it to be a sin and against the bible, isn't the church supposed to be in the business of welcoming everyone, EVEN sinners? I don't understand how a group of people who proclaim to follow a religion of love and acceptance could treat people with this much disregard.

October 12, 2009 12:45 PM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

Smooth, I was agreeing with everything you were saying until you said that they join majority white congregations. Now, I know for a fact that is false, most just stop going to church altogether. The few who do go back are likely to join one of the few inclusive black congregations.

October 12, 2009 2:23 PM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

Very good point for our times. It is all an effort of the "Bilderberg" to keep us suppressed. The problem is that we fail to resist and support resisters.

October 12, 2009 3:04 PM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

Naturallyfee, just because folks are in church doesn't make them Christians. That genuine love is missing from what I call "so-called" Christians is both obvious and sad. I guess their argument would be that if your brother intends to live his life as a gay man then to have someone who is willfully sinning (according to church standards) in the flock would be counter-productive. He's not trying to move away from it but embrace it. That would be the same as if God forbid Darian passed on and other gay friends continued his legacy through this blog but they let someone else post stories on this blog that were anti-gay...that would be against what this blog is about and its mission. If your brother has decided in his mind that he can be gay and Christian than you will have to steer him and his God-given talents to one of the many gay friendly churches that seem to be popping up everywhere.

I wish your brother luck.

The Church folks are not showing the love Christ expects from his flock but they are staying true to His Word. Again, if your brother has decided to be gay and proud then finding a gay friendly Church should be relatively easy depending on what city he is in.

October 12, 2009 3:37 PM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

@kayman said:
"Smooth, I was agreeing with everything you were saying until you said that they join majority white congregations. Now, I know for a fact that is false, most just stop going to church altogether. The few who do go back are likely to join one of the few inclusive black congregations."

I visited a predominately white gay church several years ago during a crisis period in my life and was surprised to see a significant number of black LGBT people in the church. The piano player and several of the singers were black and there were a number of black LGBT people there with their white partners.

What I saw in that white gay church does not necessarily invalidate what you said but it does indicate that at least SOME black LGBT people are searching for meaning in their spiritual lives away from the "black church". And good for them! Black gay people SHOULD expand their options. It's not hard to do. Just do it.

October 13, 2009 6:09 AM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

I really enjoyed this article!

October 19, 2009 6:03 PM


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