African American pulpits across our nation are standing steadfast in condemning the continuous brutality and injustice against Black lives, as it plays out on American streets and often on our nightly news. It is now time for our pulpits to also turn our eyes inward and conduct an exploratory investigation into the massive killing of character and explosive hatred that is continuously aimed at the human rights and dignity of Black gay men and women, all done in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus, and our loving God.
The recent press release issued by the National Baptist Fellowship of Concerned Pastors calling for Rev. Forrest E. Harris, President and CEO of the American Baptist College, to disinvite Bishop Yvette Flunder; Allan Aubrey Boesak, who holds the Desmond Tutu Chair of Peace, Global Justice and Reconciliation Studies at Christian Theological Seminary; and Pastor Delman Coates to preach at the 2015 Garnett-Nabrit Lecture Series is yet another example of the misguided leadership of some pulpits that must bear responsibility for some of the erosion that Black families face today.
Crucifixion is being requested for these prophetic, ambassadors of God because they are advocates of human rights for all persons and seek to tear down the walls of hatred, brutality and injustice for same-gender loving persons in our families, communities and world.
The U.S. Department of Education released new statistics on student homelessness, reporting that nearly 1.3 million public school students in the United States experienced homelessness in the 2012-13 school year. This marked an 8 percent rise from the 2011-12 school year. Every day 13 homeless youth die on American streets. The rates of African American youth are disproportionately higher and steadily increasing every year in many cities.
It is well-documented that as many as 40 percent of homeless teens are LGBT. These youth sleep on streets; eat from trash cans and are often sexually and mentally abused because their parents decided to put them outside of the home because of their sexual orientation. According to suicide prevention resources, LGBT youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide as their straight peers. LGBT youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as LGBT peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection. Suicide attempts are nearly two times higher among Black and Hispanic youth than White youth. 1 out of 6 students nationwide (grades 9-12) seriously considered suicide in the past year.
For more than 30 years, the African American community has sat silent while the rates of HIV among Black gay men and Black women reaches the highest in the nation. CDC reports that 1 in 4 Black gay men will become HIV positive by the time they are 25; and 1 in 2 will have HIV by the time they are 35.
The sin of this is far too many pulpits give comfort and support to families and communities who de-value the lives of their children as they promote homelessness, suicide and death in the name of a loving God who rains fear and evil on His LGBT children. Across our nation, Black Lives Matter banners are being widely flown and worn by men and women of faith. According to biblical scriptures, all Black lives matter, including gay, bi-sexual, transgender and heterosexual lives.
The African American church is the most influential institution in the lives of Black Americans. This is noted by Pew Research that states African-Americans stand out as the most religiously committed racial or ethnic group in the nation. Eighty-Seven percent of African-Americans describe themselves as belonging to one religious group or another.
The Balm In Gilead stands solidly with President Forrest Harris and The American Baptist College for your commitment to educating a new generation of faith leaders and advocates who will stand boldly against the dark forces of ignorance and hatred. We pray that the prophetic work and courage to restore wholeness of all men and women; families and communities through the redeeming, unconditional love of Jesus Christ, championed by Bishop Yvette Flunder, Professor Allan Aubrey Boesak and Pastor Delman Coates will bear witness and initiate demonstration from all pulpits throughout our nation and world.
Pernessa C. Seele is Founder/CEO The Balm In Gilead, Inc., an organization that develops educational and training programs targeting African American and African congregations that strive to become community centers for health education and disease prevention. •