Unfinished Lives

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Multi-Racial Response to Religious Gay Bashing at “Rally for Love” in Dallas

Apostle Alex Byrd calls for dialogue and accountability for religious homophobia

Dallas, Texas – Forty women and men from multiple racial ethnic backgrounds and several churches and LGBT activist groups rallied for prayer and protest, declaring that “spiritual abuse of LGBT people must stop” in pulpits everywhere.  The Rally for Love, swiftly organized by a coalition of Blacks, Native Americans, Latinos, Whites, LGBT churches, activist groups, and Brite Divinity School students and faculty, protested the homophobic sermon of Dr. Janet Floyd of Monroe, Louisiana, featured speaker at the Urgent Utterances Conference on Monday, April 12.  The conference gathered Black Church scholars from around the nation to meet for three days at Friendship West Baptist Church, a predominantly Black mega-church in South Dallas pastored by Dr. Freddie Haynes.  Galled by the claim that gays and lesbians are demonic, and that lesbians in particular have a demon that must be driven out, 12 students from Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, TX and half the student contingent of Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville, TN walked out of the Conference worship service in silent protest.  J.W. Richard, of the Examiner.com, reports that the participants heard accounts from three witnesses to the “disparaging comments” made by the speaker, sister of Urgent Utterances organizer, Dr. Stacey Floyd-Thomas of Vanderbilt Divinity School: “Speaking on the Dallas Voice’s Instant Tea weblog, Brite Divinity student, Sam Castleberry, wrote that among the comments made by Dr. Floyd was one that the ‘lesbian demon should be exorcised’. Two more witnesses spoke at tonight’s rally event, including Pastor Jon Haack of Promise MCC, concurred with that account and included that Dr. Floyd’s sermon mentioned that the storm of Hurricane Katrina and the tragedy at Columbine High School were also of divine appointment.”  Theologians and pastors at the Rally for Love condemned such a faulty theology of God.  Norma Gann, Cherokee student at Brite, called for prayer for Dr. Floyd as she denied that as a lesbian Christian she had any demon to be cast out.  She said that the pulpit in a church is a “sacred space,” and the sermon she heard aimed at LGBT people had violated that sacred space.  Katherine Heath said that the vigor and volume of Dr. Floyd’s sermon delivery concerned her as she condemned lesbians and gay people from the pulpit.  Transgender minister at Living Faith Covenant Church, Minister Carmarion D. Anderson, called for the Rally to remember that “transgender people and many outside the church” were harmed by such religion-based bigotry.  Rev. Deneen Robinson, representing the Human Rights Campaign, Michael Robinson, noted African American LGBT activist, Manda Adams of First Congregational Church (UCC) in Fort Worth, and Blake Wilkinson of Queer LiberAction, also spoke out.  Apostle Alex Byrd, spiritual leader of Living Faith Covenant Church of Dallas, claimed both his heritage as a black man and a gay man, and then called for understanding, dialogue and accountability for anyone demeaning any group of people.  He noted that the Tuesday sessions and workshops at the Urgent Utterances Conference were more inclusive, “something that would make us all proud,” the Apostle said to the crowd.  But while he decried religious homophobia in any church, Apostle Byrd made it clear that preachers in the Black Church tradition were also “accountable for the way their message affects those who hear it.”  He pledged to press the issue with the conference leadership because those who were directly hurt needed a response.  The Examiner reports that “Conversations at tonight’s rally included an email conversation from Apostle Alex Byrd …, working in tandem with Bishop Yvette Flunder, Senior Pastor of City of Refuge United Church of Christ [San Francisco], to gain an official response from Friendship-West pastoral leadership. In the meantime, as prayers for healing were offered for themselves, Dr. Floyd, Dr. Haynes, and conference attendees and speakers, it was also clear that attendees of tonight’s rally were no longer going to subject themselves to what Pastor Haack termed, “spiritual abuse”, from the pulpit.”  Dr. Leo Perdue, faculty member at Brite and a Vanderbilt Ph.D., said that he was deeply concerned that such a deplorable sermon could be delivered at an event sponsored by his alma mater, and organized by a faculty member there.  He hoped Vanderbilt would quickly distance itself from Dr. Floyd’s sermon.  “Wherever it is done and whoever sponsors it, homophobia is wrong and must be opposed,” he said.  Participants organized to endorse Apostle Byrd’s communiqué to Friendship-West Church, and to commit themselves to work for justice “for the long haul” as Dr. Stephen Sprinkle of Brite and Michael Robinson said at the conclusion of the Rally.  An album of pictures taken at the Rally for Love by Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle and Sam Green may be found on Facebook

UPDATE: Excellent article on the Event by the Examiner

April 16, 2010 - Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Bisexual persons, gay men, harassment, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Louisiana, Protests and Demonstrations, Racism, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, transgender persons, transphobia, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment

  1. […] out of the service.  News quickly spread throughout the Metroplex and around the internet.  A Rally for Love to pray for all parties affected by the sermon and to frame a response calling for dialogue and […]

    Pingback by Black LGBTQ Affirming Church in Dallas Acts to Counter Religious Homophobia « Unfinished Lives | April 20, 2010

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