Recently, gospel recording artist Kim Burrell was filmed giving a “homophobic” sermon at the Love and Liberty Fellowship Church in Houston. In this sermon, Burrell refers to “the perverted homosexual spirit.” Shirley Caesar, another well-known gospel singer and evangelist, recently defended Burrell by saying, “Kim should’ve spoken out against homosexuality four years ago, before the president made that stuff alright.”
Religious abuse is abuse administered under the guise of religion, including harassment or humiliation, which may result in psychological trauma. Religious abuse may also include misuse of religion for selfish, secular or ideological ends such as the abuse of a clerical position.
The words of Burrell are very abusive. And I am sure that Caesar is not the only minister who supports Burrell’s abusive rant. Unfortunately, there are those who ignorantly use poor exegesis to demonize others. Unfortunately, these same people often see defending their flawed, archaic interpretation of the Bible as more important than actually saving lives. Seemingly, they are not aware that the evil rhetoric that they have spewed has caused many to leave the church and denounce the Christian God. Even worse, others have actually committed suicide because they have been told that they are an “abomination.”
The good news is, this rhetoric is not of God. The loving God who created humanity in his/her own image does not hate nor condemn individuals because of their sexuality.
In 1993, I was a victim of spiritual abuse. I was publicly “outed” as being gay and my credentials as an ordained minister were taken away. At that point, I left the church and found refuge in working with inner-city youth. On a day off, by accident, I discovered my very first Pride parade. In this parade was a contingent representing Metropolitan Community Church. This church marched proclaiming a message of God’s love for whosoever. It is this same church that I pastor today.
Over the years, many victims of spiritual abuse have sought refuge at MCC. The very same message that revived me in 1994 has been preached time and time again at MCC — “God’s love is for whosoever” — and that message is the “Good News of Christ.”
I encourage all LGBTQ individuals (especially youth) who belong to a faith group that does not totally accept you because of your sexual orientation or gender expression to emancipate yourself. Your spirit deserves it. When I first came to Philadelphia, MCC was one of the only churches that was radically inclusive. Today there are many. You do not have to give your time, talents and treasure to a faith group that abuses you. You do not have to tolerate violence.
There are many faith groups in Philadelphia that will fully accept, love and nurture you, and appreciate all that you have to offer.
“Now more than ever,” it is time to let go of this kind of abusive and violent religious language so that we can build beloved communities that seek the common good for all. Several months ago, approximately 19 LGBTQIA faith leaders came together to form a coalition to proclaim a sacred voice of defiance against injustice, inequality and spiritual abuse. This group has held two meetings and soon will introduce itself to the general public. Until then, I invite anyone who is a victim of religious abuse and/or is seeking a safe, inclusive faith community to contact me. In turn, I will direct you to a faith leader who will help you discover a safe place to call home.
“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature [including Kim Burrell and Shirley Caesar] shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” — Romans 8:38 and 39