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Dr. Martin Luther King and "Gay Rights" – A Prelude

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  • umcornet
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 3, 2005
      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
      garbage workers.

      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
      her call!

      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.

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