Will ’Bishop’ Eddie Long’s Gay Scandal Alter Black Churches’ Homophobia?

by Kilian Melloy
Friday Sep 24, 2010

Eddie Long, an Atlanta-based black pastor, has long been a leading anti-gay voice among African Americans of faith. Now a lawsuit accuses him of pressuring three young men into sex when they were teens under his spiritual authority. Will the allegations lead to changes in America's black churches, which have been stereotyped as staunchly homophobic?

"Gay men and lesbians have always been present in the black church, actively engaged at that," noted Joshua Alton in a Sept. 23 article. "The prevalence of gay men in black church choirs and bands, for example, is accepted but not widely discussed. The unspoken agreement is that gay men get to act as Seraphim, so long as they are willing to shout in agreement as they are being flagellated from the pulpit. It's an indignity some gay men subject themselves to each and every Sunday. Why should they have to live this way?"

Alston went on to write that the three young men were of the legal age of consent when the alleged sexual encounters took place, and to opine that the story would be touted and received much differently if Long's supposed victims were young women.

But there are questions that lay beyond the ages of the parties who were purportedly involved, or even their genders: issues such as the contrast between the sexual mores espoused publicly by a man of the cloth and his own private conduct, and the question of whether pressuring another person for sex from a position of authority is ever defensible.

Still, the primary focus of the story, as Alston pointed out, is the gay element. "Long's predicament is bringing back to the surface the endless debate over whether or not homosexuality is fundamentally moral or acceptable, a debate that preachers like Long have prolonged with their bigoted teachings," Alston wrote, going on to wonder whether the suit would spark dialogue about the place of black GLBT people of faith within the church, or whether the larger issues would be ignored. Wrote Alston, "It's about the black community on the whole and whether or not gay men and lesbians are going to be considered full citizens in it."

Alston recalled how another black pastor in Atlanta, Dennis Meredith, had gone from espousing anti-gay views to "preaching acceptance" once his own son came out as gay. Some parishioners left, rather than hear a message of love and acceptance for gays; they were replaced, however, by new congregants looking for a church that would accept and affirm them.

The issue of homophobia in black churches has been an ongoing topic of discussion among GLBT people of faith and of color. A meeting in the spring of 2009 brought leaders and students together at Howard University for a discussion of the phenomenon. One gay Howard divinity student, Dustin Baker, noted, "It's a hard statement to say, but the reality is oppressed people do oppress people. At one point in time, the black church was an oppressed group of people...and at times we oppress individuals, especially people of same-gender-loving communities." Baker had worked with gay youth and lost two teens with whom he had worked to suicide.

Sharon Letterman of the People for the American Way was also at the meeting, and told the group, "Amongst the African-American community, sexuality is not a conversation. It's not just homosexuality," Letterman specified; "sexuality is not a conversation." Letterman went on to say, "We have allowed a subculture to be created within our community because we won't have this conversation."

The Rev. Dr. Kenneth Samuel, from Victory for the World, a church in Stone Mountain, Ga., noted that Biblical injunctions against gays had been cited by anti-LGBT pastors, but uttered a note of caution. "Certain text in the Bible, as we know, had been used to support slavery in America for over 200 years," Samuel pointed out. "Certain texts have been used to justify patriarchy and sexism," added Samuel. "We have toxic text in the Bible that needs to be interpreted in the light of the truth, and... from the light and lenses of the all-inclusive love of Jesus."

Indeed, the allegations against Long claim that the cleric pointed to scripture to coax his purported victims into sessions of oral sex. But the public affirmation of scriptural passages seen as condemning gays and private conduct would seem to be two different things, if epidemiological data are to be believed. HIV transmission rates are soaring among young black MSMs (men who have sex with men, whether they identify as gay, bi, or straight), and while some black churches cling to anti-gay messages, others have begin to tackle the problem by addressing the AIDS crisis in the black community.

Next: The Black Faith Community Responds to AIDS


  • kenny, 2010-09-24 11:16:55

    Just another self hating gay man. I really feel sorry for the poor fools of the congregation that supports his lifestyle.

  • , 2010-09-24 11:22:10

    Jesus hang out with people outside what was considered the "normal" society..... so a man of god (if there is any......) could well be hanging out with people who are out of the ordinary... What is disturbing though is that this man is accused of having forced himself onto underaged boys while being a man of god (if there are any).... The accusations being true or not, the fact that he is accused makes clear that he seems to be capable of doing this that a man of god (if there are any) should not be doing..... bringing himself in a position were such accusations are even possible! A person with brains never ever would be allowing himself to be brought into such a position, and it shows that megalomany is something that does not fit a man of god....... Assuming that one is so high that one is not touched by worldly things is sick, foul and rotten! And such people don’t belong in positions that hold power! This all apart from the notion that there is no god, and that all who pretend or claim to be "of god" are frauds per definition all the way!

  • Kon Krypton, 2010-09-24 17:48:36

    Black men have been having gay sex "on the down low" for a long time. I don’t have a problem with that, unless they are working against our community or abusing their position to get laid. This man is scum.

  • , 2010-09-24 21:48:26

    The news about the Pastor does NOT surprise me at all. Usually the people (especially so-called straight men), whether they call themselves religious or not, who RAIL and RANT about the so-called evils of homosexuality and the gay community are usually the ones who are on the down low trying to hide the fact that they are having sex with men or want to have sex with men. And if you get them behind closed doors, they would usually be the first ones down on their knees taking it at BOTH ends and loving it. And for anyone who have made comments and WRONGLY uses the Fword to describe gay people, I hope you don’t have a problem when others WRONGLY use the Nword to describe black people, OR when others WRONGLY use a pejorative to describe a person within your own group (whatever it may be). IF the allegations are true about this Pastor, I have no respect for this man, and heterosexuality OR homosexuality is NOT the issue. The issue is the MONUMENTAL HYPOCRISY of the Pastor and the VIOLATION OF TRUST that occurred between the pastor and his congregation, which includes these individuals, who were of consenting age to have heterosexual OR homosexual sex. This appears to be an abuse of power, breach of trust, and utterly unethical, no difference than a Prof. and a student, a manager and an employee. One’s religious belief is IRRELEVANT because everyone does not have the same religious belief and do not believe in the same religious book that you may believe in, and that’s why we have a separation of church and state. I am Christian and I believe in GOD (always have and always will), but I do not believe EVERYTHING that is in the Bible, because my God has given me a brain and has cautioned me to understand that the Bible (as with many other books of different religions) passages have been touched, interpreted, manipulated, and written in many instances by MAN, who is IMPERFECT, and many of the statements in the bible are not necessarily the word of God, but the word of man, who again is IMPERFECT (including Eddie, you, and me). I read the bible everyday because it has good guidelines on how I should lead my life, but just like with this pastor who railed and ranted against homosexuality, many of the so-called Christians and bible readers are being HYPOCRITES when they SELECTIVELY pull passages from the Bible when it suits their own personal PREJUDICES or position on a subject (such as homosexuality, etc. ), but will IGNORE the Bible passages on other matters (for example, adultery, women being subservient to men, working on Sunday, eating certain meats, wearing certain cloths, discipline their children, judging others, etc., etc. etc.). And we as Black people should NEVER forget that many people used the Bible to justify SLAVERY. So I hope you will remember some of the comments above the next time you are tempted to use the Bible in an attempt to justify your own prejudices, while CLAIMING that you believe EVERYTHING in the Bible, while ignoring the fact that YOU are not even following many, many, MANY of the passages in the Bible. This man needs to STOP the hating, STOP the prejudice, STOP the hypocrisy, and focus on getting his own life together instead of trying to tell others how to live their lives.

  • , 2010-09-24 23:18:59

    after reading some of the comments today, it’s clear that Innocent until proven guilt does not apply here, every one that is "Gay" seem to feel Like the word of God has will have to be rewritten, because this Bishop may or may not be guilty, if ten thousand bishops or Men of God fall by the wayside, it will never say that it is OK for two men or two women, could join them selves together as male and female in Holy matrimony, you who have this view should take a moment to read the Bible for your self, if you can’t read, the Bible is also recorded on CD’s, there is no Comparison between a Black race of people and a alternative group of people, blacks did not and do not get to chose their color, gay people can chose to go strait one minute, bisexual another minute, or strait up gay the next, so stop your hostility against Blacks, you sound worse then any (kkk) could ever sound, but at the same time you are trying to relate to Black as if we have anything incoming, we are Black and Proud of it and are not trying to be compared to gay’s or any other race of people, maybe you gay’s should try to stand on your on; as far as the Bible, it say a lot of things that make me very uncomfortable but I learned to do my best to line up with the word of God, If you are going to try and quote Jesus Christ, you might want to take time out and read the gospel for your self He spoke against "Sin" always, Lot’s of people do not want to believe he is the only way, He is!! He in noway endorsed the homosexual life style, no where in the Old or New Testament, so why try and make those of us who have give up drinking alcohol, smoking and so many of our choices and pleasures that where contrary to the will of God, Sin is Sin if your choice of pleasure is your life style it a Sin like any other Sin, don’t hate the Messenger, Tell God About it, He wrote the Bible through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, Got to go, God love you and I do to.

  • , 2010-09-26 03:36:02

    The Bishop Eddie Long scandal has rocked the Christian world, sending folks numbering in the thousands to Google searching for information. And CNN is giving insight to some of those searcher’s questions, including Bishop Long’s divorce from his first wife: "He built an intimate bond with many members of his church by talking about his private failings: his divorce from his first wife; being rejected by his father; and being fired from a job in corporate America," writes CNN’s John Blake. In 2004, Long created a ministry to ’deliver’ men from homosexuality and one can only wonder if the creation of a ministry of this type was really a cry from within to be delivered from the same inclinations, since now he faces allegations of taking sexual advantage of four teenage boys. Many of Long’s critics say that since he helped to perpetuate homophobia, that the case could devastate his career, family, and challenge the anti-homosexual stance of many Black church members. Homophobia in the broader Black community - which some say is fueled by the Black church, as well as by prevailing views on masculinity and family - has in the past spilled into violence. In 2007 and 2008, Chicago (and countless other cities) saw a number of shootings and even killings aimed at gay black men, including a choir director who was shot shortly after coming out in a TV interview. Often I hear African Americans claim that Gay Rights are not Civil Rights because of the horrific abuse that Blacks have suffered through the years, and that nothing will ever compare to these horrible historical crimes. But when I read the hundreds, if not thousands of stories about people in the LGBT community who have been abused (in like manner), murdered, and discriminated against on every level, it sickens me to see how blind and unsympathetic we are as a race, especially after surviving these same horrific atrocities. The Church will continue to experience these kinds of occurrences until we open our minds and hearts and engage in an intelligent, unbiased conversation about same-gender-loving people. We are quick to want to burn people at the stake when they come out of the closet, and blame them for the spread of HIV/AIDS, but the reality is that we can’t have it both ways! We can’t insist that they disclose their preference and then deny them equal rights and equal opportunity when they do! If the allegations against Bishop Long are found to be true and factual that will be totally devastating but what is perhaps even more devastating is all the deacons, deacon’s wives, choir members, pastors, Bishops, priests, televangelists, teachers, prophets, etc. who are waiting in the wings, destined to be the next national or international scandal simply because we refuse to allow people to be who they are and respect them even if we don’t like it! I’ve said this once and I will say it again because obviously the multitudes still are not listening; there are millions of gay people in the African-American community and no matter how many revivals, prayer meetings, seminars, convocations and conventions we have, it will not change that fact. If we truly want to reach them with the message of God’s love then we have to stop trying to make them over ourselves and simply introduce them to the Savior, and leave the rest to Him. Yes, my brothers and sisters, this entire scandal is indeed earth-shattering and deeply disturbing! My prayer is that whatever the truth may be, that it will be revealed! God wants us to walk in truth, for when we do we are happier and He is truly glorified; but if we do not walk in truth, then we deceive ourselves as well as others! I am often criticized because I am a openly gay man who loves the Lord, but I never have to fear scandal or have to hide in a closet (this is not to imply that Bishop Long is) because I am walking in truth! Perhaps the Father is speaking to all of humanity (in this enlightened age) through situations like these, admonishing us to always "WALK IN TRUTH!" Terry Angel Mason, Global Author Love Won’t Let Me Be Silent They Say That I Am Broken WWW.TERRYANGELMASON.COM

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