Washington Blade, "Church’s Gay Rights Debate a ‘Baby Step’ Forward"

Church’s Gay Rights Debate a "Baby Step" Forward


Friday, May 30, 2008

The National Black Justice Coalition is hailing a local church’s gay rights debate as "a baby step" forward.

Dr. Sylvia Rhue, the organization’s religious affairs director, said the May 24 debate at Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., was a valuable meeting between Bishop Harry Jackson and gay rights supporters.

"Bishop Jackson did say that this is the first time that he’s heard such cogent answers to these questions and that he had heard things he’d never heard before," she said. "This is a baby step thing."

The meeting, coordinated by the National Black Justice Coalition and Soulforce, took months to organize.

Soulforce first contacted Hope Christian Church in December to see if local same-sex couples could meet privately with Jackson. Rhue said plans were made so all involved could hold a "civil discourse on common ground."

But in an unexpected twist three days before the meeting, Jackson’s anti-gay High Impact Leadership Coalition issued a press release saying Soulforce had "targeted" the church "for protest and demonstration."

Soulforce responded by calling on Jackson to share a "heart-to-heart" conversation with gay rights supporters, and Rhue said an agreement was reached to hold the meeting along with a debate.

Rhue said about 60 people attended Saturday’s debate, and she and other gay rights supporters returned to the church for Sunday service.