Thanks to UK Gay News for sending us this article by the Rev. Gilbert
H. Caldwell. This is the first article in a series.
Dr. Martin Luther King and "Gay Rights" A Prelude
by Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell
There is a great debate over what the late Dr. Martin Luther King
might have had to say about the "gay rights" debate in the USA, and
elsewhere in the world. The Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell, a retired UMC
minister, knew Dr. King and this is the first of several "letters" in
which he addresses the question. Rev. Caldwell is a champion of
equality in his Church, and beyond.
I am a 71 year old retired African American United Methodist
Minister. Martin Luther King and I both graduated from Boston
University School of Theology. He received his Doctor of Philosophy
and I, my Master of Divinity. He and I met for the first time in the
spring of 1958 at the School. He was in Boston to speak at the Ford
Hall Forum, a well-known and popular lecture series. I thought it
would be appropriate to ask him to return to his Boston Alma Mater to
speak to some of the classes. Much to my surprise I was able to
contact him in his hotel room via telephone and extend the
invitation. He accepted!
After that meeting I was with him on the Selma (Alabama) to
Montgomery March, the March on Washington and a March on Boston
protesting school segregation. It was my honor to serve as Master of
Ceremonies as he spoke in a rally amidst the rain on Boston Common.
The most prized pictures in my possession are of that day.
Martin King, as we say of some persons, "marched to the beat of a
different drummer." His decision to serve as minister of an African
American church rather than become professor at some College or
University, was significant. He was a "son of the middle class", yet
was able to transcend the class barriers of the USA (barriers we
claim not to exist), as he identified with the struggles of poor
people. He was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn. at a time when he was
supporting, through protests, the quest for decent salaries by
During those first months of 1968, he also was organizing a "Poor
People's Campaign" that would end with a protest in Washington, DC
confronting our government. Some have suggested that his
assassination on April 4, 1968 was not unrelated to his developing
challenge of our economic system that in our nation with such great
financial affluence has so much poverty, invisible to most Americans
as it might be. He of course, on April 4, 1967 (an exact year before
he was murdered) delivered his powerful message, "Beyond Vietnam".
If Dr. King were alive today, I am certain he would challenge our
nation's involvement in Iraq.
I write all of the above as a prelude to sharing my thoughts on what
Martin Luther King might say about Gay Rights as my way of indicating
that he dared to say and do those things that countered prevailing
sentiment in both the church and society.
We of African descent in America rejoice that our slave ancestors
were able to respond to the Bible as a book of liberation rather than
subjugation. Slave masters attempted to control the mind and actions
of slaves by drilling into them the words in the New
Testament, "slaves be obedient to your masters".
But they embraced other portions of Scripture that countered these
words of oppression. I suggest that African slaves in the
Americas "adapted" Scripture to fit their reality rather
than "adopted" it as it was forced upon them as a methodology of
control. Careful study of the "Negro Spirituals" indicate that my
ancestors in their interaction with Holy Writ, as it was read, taught
and preached, found in it meaning for their circumstance.
Here in the USA, I have urged my Gay sisters and brothers and those
of us who are allies and advocates of the Gay rights justice
struggle, to "claim" a Bible of liberation rather than oppression.
My spouse Grace is calling me to breakfast. When one has been
married for 47 years as have we, I have found it wise to respond to
Obviously I have not gotten to answering the question that I have
posed. I look forward to begin to do this in my next letter. May
this letter serve as the "first" of others to follow. Hopefully this
may encourage readers to look for its sequel.
(c) 2004, Rev. Gilbert Caldwell. Used with permission of the author.