A Church in Conflict with Itself over Homosexuality

Gospel singer Tonex

Gospel singer Tonex

The Church of God in Christ (COGIC) is the largest African American church and largest Pentecostal church in the United States. And as the largest denominational black church in the country, it is also the loudest in rebuking homosexuality.

But using many of the gospel music industry mega-stars from COGIC, the church’s charismatic worship style shouts to a black gay male queer gospel aesthetic every Sunday. The church is conflicted with itself.

Unfortuantely, these black gay male mega-stars are always forced to go back into the closet, denouncing publicly their sexual orientation at the church’s annual convocation.

Case in point: Speaking at the COGIC’s 102nd Holy Convocation International Youth Department Worship Service on November 7 held at the Memphis Cook Convention Center, was Pastor Donnie McClurkin, the poster boy for African American ex-gay ministries.

“God did not call you to such perversions. Your only hope is Jesus Christ. Were it not for this Jesus, I would be a homosexual today. This God is a deliverer,” McClurkin told his audience.

McClurkin attributed his homosexuality to being raped twice as a child, first at age eight at his brother’s funeral by his uncle, and then at age thirteen by his cousin, his uncle’s son.

Confusing same-gender sexual violence as homosexuality, McClurkin misinterpreted the molestation as the reason for his gay sexual orientation. McClurkin “testi-lies” that his cure was done by a deliverance from God and a restoration of his manhood by becoming the biological father of a child

In his book Eternal Victim, Eternal Victor, McClurkin writes, “”The abnormal use of my sexuality continued until I came to realize that I was broken and that homosexuality was not God’s intention…for my masculinity.”

At the Convocation McClurkin espoused his ex-gay rhetoric by castigating former gospel industry worker Tonéx(Anthony Charles Williams II) who unapologetically stated that he “didn’t struggle with his sexual attraction to men.”

A talented singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, rapper, dancer, producer, and preacher, Tonéx has won six Stellar Awards, a GMA Award, and received a Grammy nomination for Best Soul Gospel Album for his 2004 gold album “Out The Box.”

Known for his outlandish multi-colored hairstyles and flamboyant garb with feather boas, fur coats, Tonéx’s image caused consternation in the black gospel and contemporary Christian music communities.

“It wasn’t me trying to make a statement; I’ve always been different,” he told George Varga of the San Diego Union-Tribune. “And it really worked. Out of church, people are always asking me what my tattoos mean.”

According to McClurkin, black males, like Tonéx, are gay because of sexual molestation, an absentee father, or they didn’t have strong male images around them. Tonéx is the son of the revered late, Dr. Anthony Williams, Senior Pastor and District Elder in the Truth Apostolic Community Church in suburban Spring Valley.

In an open letter to the Convocation, Bishop Yvette Flunder, an out lesbian who is a third-generation preacher with roots in the Church of God in Christ, licensed in the COGIC, and is now the Presiding Bishop of The Fellowship and Senior Pastor, City of Refuge United Church of Christ, wrote the following:

“I watched a clip of Pastor Donnie McClurkin at the COGIC Convocation Nov 11, 2009 where he used the words perversion and vampirism in reference to feminine young men and ‘evil’ butch young ladies. He suggested that the church had failed them and not been active enough in helping these young people find deliverance. He ranted against gospel artist and pastor Tonéx with regard to Tonéx’s recent affirmation of his own same gender orientation.”

Pastor Donnie knows, like I know, that Tonéx is more the ‘rule’ than the exception to the rule. What makes Tonéx unique is not that he is a gay gospel music artist and pastor, but that he told the truth about his sexuality, while not claiming to be delivered.

Gay males continue to find ways of being supported in the COGIC.

For example, “blaquebigayministers” is a Yahoo gay ministers group, boasting 787 members since July 2000 and was founded by COGIC Elder Ronald Kimbrew. Kimbrew served in the Arkansas 1st Jurisdiction as the Assistant Secretary of the Pastors & Elders Council of COGIC from December 1996 to March 19, 2005 and is now the Public Relations Director at Greater Trinity, a COGIC congregation in Arkansas.

The “blaquebigayministers” website states the following:

“WELCOME. This fellowship is for support and encouragement especially of black Christian ministers and friends who are “family” (bi or same-gender loving) and need a place of refuge. Enjoy the “fellowship.”

Kimbrew organized meetings of bisexual and same-gender loving COGIC ministers for most of the national meetings like Memphis Holy Convocation that McClurkin now denounces but use to take part in.

irene-headshot.jpgA reported following the Convocation asked, “Is COGIC going to be silent while an organized culture of homosexual ministers and bishops populate its pulpits?”

And the answer is yes.

COGIC shouts to a black gay male queer gospel aesthetic every Sunday and no one knows it better than McClurkin himself.

COGIC was formed in 1897 by a group of disfellowshipped Baptists. I wonder if the guys were disfellowshipped because they were gay.

Rev. Irene Monroe

Published by the LA Progressive on November 19, 2009
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About Rev. Irene Monroe

Rev. Irene Monroe is a Ford Fellow and doctoral candidate at Harvard Divinity School. One of Monroe’s outreach ministries is the several religion columns she writes - “The Religion Thang,” for In Newsweekly, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender newspaper that circulates widely throughout New England, “Faith Matters” for The Advocate Magazine, a national gay & lesbian magazine, and “Queer Take,” for The Witness, a progressive Episcopalian journal. Her writings have also appeared in Boston Herald and in the Boston Globe. Her award-winning essay, “Louis Farrakhan’s Ministry of Misogyny and Homophobia”, was greeted with critical acclaim.

Monroe states that her “columns are an interdisciplinary approach drawing on critical race theory, African American , queer and religious studies. As an religion columnist I try to inform the public of the role religion plays in discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. Because homophobia is both a hatred of the “other ” and it’s usually acted upon ‘in the name of religion,” by reporting religion in the news I aim to highlight how religious intolerance and fundamentalism not only shatters the goal of American democracy, but also aids in perpetuating other forms of oppression such as racism, sexism, classism and anti-Semitism.”