|Rev. Dennis Wiley|
Fairly or not, African-Americans have become the public face of resistance to same-sex marriage, owing to their religious beliefs and the outspoken opposition of many black pastors.
Yet the presence of gays and lesbians in black churches is common. And the fact that they often hold leadership positions in their congregations is the worst kept secret in black America.
While many black pastors condemn gays and lesbians from the pulpit, the choir lofts behind them often are filled with gay singers and musicians. Some male pastors themselves have been entangled in scandals involving alleged affairs with men.
"Persons who are in the closet serve on the deacon boards, serve in the ministry, serve in every capacity in the church," the Rev. Dennis W. Wiley, pastor of Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ in Maryland, says of black churches. Wiley is a prominent advocate of gay marriage. "I do believe a certain hypocrisy is there."
. . . Some say pastors' hostility cuts hard against the history of how countless black churches have flourished. The virtuosity of gay singers, musicians and composers has been the driving force in developing popular gospel choirs — even chart-topping, Grammy-winning acts — that make money for a church, help expand congregations and raise the profiles of pastors.
It all happens under an unspoken "don't ask, don't tell" custom that allows gay people to be active in the church, though closeted, and churches to reap the benefits of their membership.
Some say the arrangement is not only hypocritical, but exploitative.
"On the one hand, you're nurtured in the choir but you also have to sit through some of those fire and brimstone sermons about homosexuality being an abomination," says E. Patrick Johnson, an openly gay gospel singer and author of Sweet Tea: An Oral History of Black Gay Men of the South.
Read more of Blacks, Gays And The Church: A Complex Relationship