The ordination of homoerotic clergy who are open about their sexuality (or gender identity if transgender), are sexually active if lesbian, gay, or bisexual, or are in committed same-sex relationships is a disputed practice within some contemporary Christian Church communities.
While most Christian churches ban the ordination of LGBT clergy because they view homosexuality and identifying as transgender as incompatible with Biblical teaching and traditional Christian practise, a growing number of Churches are allowing openly LGBT clergy to serve.
According to Benjamin C. Evans III, a minister, motivational speaker and Managing Director of BMe Community – an award-winning network of community-builders known for defining people by their positive contributions to society – the year he turned 30 was the year he became openly gay.
“I was ready to stop fighting my truth, embrace who I am and love whom I want to love,” said Evans, “I came to terms with three words that would change my life completely: I am gay.”
Now more than ever, the atmosphere in some contemporary churches is ripe for members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & Queer (LGBTQ) community or the now popularly known as the Rainbow Community to openly express who they really are and how they identify.
The issue of same-sex relationships, although it is ripe in most western states and closer to home South Africa, it is not so ripe in the Black communities in every nook and cranny.
Because of their religious nature and generally conservative belief system, the Black community has been slow to accept the advances made by openly same-sex oriented men and women.
“I learned to be ashamed of myself at a very young age,” said Minister Evans.
“The church taught that homosexuality was wrong and that anyone who had succumbed to these feelings ought to be delivered by praying and should ask God to take the desires away. So, I spent most of my teen years pleading with God.”
Evans even went to the extent of praying for deliverance.
“I ran to the altar to be delivered,” said Evans. “Imagine how upset I was when, before I even got back to my seat, I was eyeing a beautiful brother in the third row and he was eyeing me back.”
Soon Evans realised that who he was would not change, and he embraced his real self. He has largely been accepted on his journey.
Today he is an openly gay Black minister and the Managing Director of BMe Community where he oversees the execution of a national campaign strategy to build caring and prosperous communities inspired by Black men. He serves as the principal aide to the CEO in all aspects of administration, communications, fundraising, culture and organisational development.
Under his watch, BMe’s growth has been impressive with BMe leaders having already served over 200,000 people and in influenced national policy, and committed over $1,000,000 to local community leaders.
But, the journey to self-discovery has not been easy to Minister Benjamin, even though it’s the decision he had to make.
“I was born this way, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with who I am,” said Evans. “Walking into the light was scary, but I was willing to walk.”
Today, Evans works toward an America that works for everyone.
“I want America to be a place where respect and equality triumph over intolerance and oppression,” said Evans. “We can learn to love despite our differences.”
Evans’s life story stands out historically.
The ordination of gays, lesbians, and bisexuals is not a new thing, but their ordination as openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual people has caused controversy among some churchgoers.
A 2006 survey in the USA suggested that two-thirds of weekly Protestant church-goers believe that it is inappropriate for gays and lesbians to serve as bishops or pastors; with the number opposed rising to 80% amongst evangelical Christians.
In the past, ordinands who were gay, lesbian, or bisexual did not admit their sexuality and were ordained.
The Metropolitan Community Church, a predominantly LGBT church, has ordained LGBT candidates for ministry since its founding in 1968.
In 1972, the United Church of Christ became the first mainline Protestant denomination to ordain an openly gay clergy.
Other churches are the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (since 2010) and the Presbyterian Church (USA) (since 2012).
The Episcopal Church and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) have also allowed the ordination of openly gay and lesbian candidates for ministry for some years.
Internationally, churches that have ordained openly lesbian or gay clergy include the Church of Scotland, the Church of England, the Church in Wales, the Church of Sweden, the Church of Norway, the Church of Denmark, the Church of Iceland, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, the Evangelical Church in Germany, the Methodist Church in Britain, the Protestant Church in the Netherlands, the United Protestant Church in Belgium, the Swiss Reformed Church, the United Protestant Church of France, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, Anglican Church in Canada, the Old Catholic Church, and the United Church of Christ in Japan.
According to the Catholic Church’s moral doctrine, homosexual attraction is disordered, and homosexual acts themselves are sinful. However, the Church does allow the ordination of men who may have, in the past, experienced homosexual attraction, but only on the condition that they have lived without engaging in “homosexual culture” or acts for several years, and that have no “deep-seated homosexual tendencies”.
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