Once Homophobic Black Pastor Becomes Advocate for Gays, Thanks to Lesbian Friend
By Jeff Kunerth
Orlando Sentinel

December 4, 2010

Richard Davis grew up in the black Pentecostal church in the 1960s and '70s
(Hear it this abomination of a pastor is the product of a Pentecostal church – this is not an isolated incident, first the seed, then the stem, then the leaves, then the flower, then the fruit, then the harvest) that preached homosexuals were doomed not only to eternal damnation but a hotter place in hell than where other sinners might go. Old Testament scripture quoted from the pulpit fostered within Davis a homophobia.  (Several years a go we wrote and warned that what was occurring at the time in Roman Catholic Churches that Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, Pentecostals, and Charismatics pointed their fingers and declared loudly over and over that the invasion of homosexuals into Roman Catholic priestly orders and ministerial positions was the SURE SIGN that they all were of the devil.)

 At the time we spoke of the day in my youth when the Church pointed at the world for their rising divorce rates loudly declaring Divorce was the sure sign of God’s judgment on their sin and corruption.  We then witnessed in a period of 5 short years that bible believing and Spirit-filled churches were overtaken by the same grievous sin, how those that divorced unrighteously, justified themselves, fell into fornication and adultery with other members of the Church, and then remarrying making their partner a partaker in adultery and polygamy as before God the blood covenant of their first marriage shall cry out against them.

Because the church took no or little action, the contagion spread like wild fire among their members. So much so that in all to many churches the unrighteously divorced and now the remarried in adultery and polygamy became sizable a sizable block in these churches – representing now a whole lot of tithes, so that the preacher winks at their sin for their money and support.

Can one not see God in this day and hour is making manifest the evil and perversion that today fills bible believing and Spirit-filled churches.  The daughters of
the great whore, with all the entertainment, fleshly delights, and comforts they offer their customers, as well as justification for whatever sin they may immerse themselves into.       

By the time (This fallen away Pentecostal) Davis was ordained as a Baptist minister in 1982,
the overt condemnation of gays in the black church had been tempered into an unspoken acknowledgement that some members of the congregation, and the clergy, might be homosexual. (He is speaking that by the 1980’s the preaching and teaching within bible believing and spirit-filled churches shifted away from preaching of sin, righteousness, and the coming judgment – and in its place began the regiment of feel good and uplifting messages.  And in that day the last vestiges of judgment were removed from these churches.) But as long as they did not acknowledge their sexual orientation, they could remain within the church.

We want to point out the sign behind this pastor.  A Baptist church that preaches healing casting out devils, the prosperity gospel and of course their great spirited worship.

Yet Davis, 58, very publicly broke that code of silence when he conducted a series of forums this fall on "Gays in the Black Church: Is it time to come out of the closet?" Even as divorce, fornication, adultery, and polygamy overthrew the church in the 1980’s, so now it is revealed that in 2010 in bible believing and spirit –filled churches their; congregations, preachers, teachers, youth ministers, and music ministry have been compromised.  That in and among them the new contagion of homosexuality spreads, polluting and defiling all who come in contact with it.  that called out the hypocrisy and homophobia of black churches. (Just as the church has embraced the unrighteously divorced, fornicators, adulterers, and remarried polygamists – now the call is going out for bible believers and spirit filled believers  to embrace homosexuals and lesbians in their midst)

In the forums, Davis apologized to black gay church members for his past homophobia. It was an apology that may never have come were it not for the empathy he received at a low point in his life and which came from a lesbian friend.

In looking at the black churches' silence on gays, Davis said, "We know our musicians, our best orators, our best preachers, our best singers, are homosexual. We know you're gay — just don't tell us."

And yet, he said, "We were hypocritical because while gays were amongst us, worked and died, we never recognized them, never gave them the love that Jesus would give them." Exactly. You did not and still do not love them as Jesus Christ would have. For if you did you would have worked night and day to bring these grievous sinners unto repentance. You would have gotten them washed in the blood of the Lamb. You would have brought them into right relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ.  And then you would have been able to present them as burning shining lights that would go and do likewise.

But the truth is you have consigned all of them to hell, as you have done with all the members of your congregation, whom ye shall follow shortly into everlasting destruction prepared for the devil and his angels.

While many predominately white denominations — including Lutherans, Episcopalians and Presbyterians — have become more accepting of gays in the pews and the pulpits, the black church has largely not. The silent acknowledgment of gay members in black churches has not evolved into an open embrace of gays and lesbians. Black churches accept the sinner, but not the sin.
"As a pastor, I believe homosexuality is a sin because it is against the Word of God," said Bishop Ronald F. Kimble Sr., pastor of The Life Center Church in Eatonville. "I also believe God forgives sinners when they repent and allow Him to direct their lives into His will for them."
Homophobia exists in white and Hispanic churches, too, but it's more pronounced in black churches because most congregations are Bible-based, conservative and fundamentalist. Black denominations have stuck by the biblical condemnation of homosexuality, unlike many mainline white churches, said sociologist Richard Pitt of Vanderbilt University.
But because blacks have one of the highest church participation rates of any group, just about every black congregation has gay members. They remain members because of their spiritual and worship needs, but also because anti-gay remarks by pastors are not usually direct or all that frequent.
The homophobia is most often expressed through the affirmation of what it means to be a black man or a black woman, Pitt said.
"It doesn't come up as a gay issue as much as men shouldn't act like sissies or punks," Pitt said. "Men should act like men and women act like women."
More than sexuality
Anti-gay sentiments in black churches reach into the deeper issues of race, sex and equality, said Melina Chateauvert, a professor of African American studies at the University of Maryland.
Homosexuality goes against the black church's emphasis on the nuclear family of father, mother and children. Denied the opportunity to marry in the days of slavery, and then denied the status of equality, the black church has long viewed marriage and family as the hallmarks of "first-class citizenship," said Chateauvert.
"I think that is one of the sources of homophobia," she said. "It has to do with undercutting this notion of what the family should look like."
A divide over homosexuality also has developed between black leaders who come from a church background and those who haven't, said Chateauvert.
When the funeral for Coretta Scott King, who was an advocate of gay rights, was held at Bishop Eddie Long's church in Atlanta, a number of black leaders and politicians refused to attend because of Long's stance against homosexuality, Chateauvert said.
Long recently was accused by several young black men in his church of engaging in homosexual acts with them — opening the door for Davis' forums on homosexuality and the black church.
Bitter divide
Davis' forums brought together members of Orlando's gay community and the black community in what, at times, was a fiery display of fear and acrimony on both sides.
Black church members expressed their feelings that what they viewed as the immoral and aberrant lifestyles of homosexuals were bad for their children, their community and their country. Gays vented their feelings of rejection and abuse by the black church, the black community and members of their own family.
"There were a lot of angry people on both sides. You had these two viewpoints going at each other," said Trish Duncan, a 38-year-old black lesbian whose friendship with Davis contributed to his conversion from a homophobe to an advocate of gays and lesbians.
Davis said he had to experience himself the rejection and ostracism of the black church before he could empathize with black gays and lesbians. In 2003, while serving as associate pastor of New Covenant Baptist Church in Orlando, Davis was accused of sexual misconduct by female members of the church.
Dismissed by the church, Davis said none of his fellow pastors came to his assistance when he was hurting. The only one who offered sympathy and understanding was Duncan.
Duncan told Davis: "Now you know what it's like to be gay in the black church."
Davis had to reassess what he learned in church about homosexuals. He prayed for guidance. He now believes God is leading him toward an acceptance of all people, regardless of sexual orientation.
In Orlando, Davis stands nearly alone in the black church community in his embrace of gays and lesbians. These days, he preaches the "Gospel of Inclusion" that accepts all people.
"If we are not inclusive of everyone, we miss the mission of the church," Davis said.
Davis contends that his forums were the first step in a process of reconciliation between the black church and the gay community. Duncan believes her friendship with Davis serves as the model of what that future relationship might look like.
"He came full circle and it's wonderful to see that," she said. "The Rev and I are from two different walks of life who became friends. We're an example for everyone."