"Their Own Receive Them Not": New Book Tackles Black-church Homophobia
- Controversial New Book Tackles Black-church Homophobia
October 6, 2006 (for immediate release)
Cleveland--Attempting to break "hundreds of years of silence," a new,
controversial book argues that pervasive homophobia in the
historically black church has reached "crisis" proportion.
"The black church's teaching that homosexuality is immoral has created
a crisis for lesbian and gay Christians in black churches," the Rev.
Horace L. Griffin, an Episcopal priest, writes in the preface of his
new book, "Their Own Receive Them Not: African American Lesbians and
Gays in Black Churches." The book is being officially released on
October 15 by Cleveland-based The Pilgrim Press.
"This black-church-sanctioned homophobia produces a lot of twisted
black people," he writes.
Griffin, who is black and gay, grew up in a Missionary Baptist church.
Based on his life and church experience, he has witnessed how "black
church leaders and congregants have been resistant and even closed in
treating gay and heterosexual congregants equally or, in many cases,
of simply offering compassion to gay people."
In his 240-page hardcover book, he now attempts to deconstruct the
history and legacy of homophobia in the black church using a
sociological, theological and biblical lens.
Comparing the plight of black gays and lesbians to "a game of Russian
roulette," where the children of the church are no longer welcomed by
the church, black lesbian and gay Christians find themselves in
"no-win situations," he says. The end result robs them of "their soul,
if not their integrity, family and lives."
Griffin, who teaches pastoral theology and directs field education at
The General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church in New York
City, says black church leaders use the Bible to oppress gays and
lesbians in a similar fashion to the approach once used by white
church leaders to oppress blacks during slavery and segregation.
The black church's "sexual secrets," says Griffin, have led to tragic
outcomes, including a quiet complicity with the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
"Even after two decades of AIDS research African American ministers,
for the most part, display almost no change in their attitudes that
AIDS is God's retribution on the 'sinful,'" he writes.
Griffin also believes the church's "secrets" have led to
less-than-honest sexual practices among its members.
"Until black church leaders adopt different Christian approaches,
'Down Low' practices will continue," Griffin writes in reference to
closeted, sexual activities of some black men with other men.
The book's arrival on bookstore shelves comes at a time when the
worldwide Anglican Communion is facing schism over issues related to
homosexuality. The divide has pitted the largely white Episcopal
Church in the United States against the more-conservative and growing
Anglican churches in Africa.
Griffin says the black church often "rewards" its gay and lesbian
ministers and members for staying in the closet.
"Everyone within black churches realizes that there is reward and
acceptance for those presenting themselves as heterosexual, while
[out] gays and lesbians encounter ridicule and condemnation," Griffin
writes. "Even in churches where it is 'known' that the pastor is gay,
black church Christians are content to remain in the church if the
pastor is willing to present himself as heterosexual with a wife and
"Their Own Receive Them Not" (ISBN 0-8298-1599-6) has been shipped to
members of the RNA. Other writers and reviewers may receive a copy by
contacting the publicity department of The Pilgrim Press.
Contact: Aimee J. Jannsohn, publicist
The Pilgrim Press
700 Prospect Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44115-1100