Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thank you, Rev. Coates!

Following is a letter from PFLAG National Board Member Rev. Gilbert Caldwell. Rev. Caldwell is a retired United Methodist Pastor, who also served on the staff of the United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race based in the Methodist Building on Capitol Hill.

 I write to congratulate and thank Rev. Delman Coates. While there is a 40 year difference in age between us, as African-American pastors, we have walked a different path but arrived at the same view on marriage equality for LGBT Marylanders and same-sex couples.

For me, the path began as an active foot soldier alongside Dr. King.  

The justice journey of LGBT people and same-sex couples is certainly very different from the Civil Rights Movement, but there are similarities in the use of faith, religion and scripture to justify discrimination, as well as the desire to seek constitutional support for justice and equality for LGBT people. One of the challenges we have in the church is enabling people to discover and affirm their God-given dignity. Rev. Coates has done that for the many gay people in the black community with his decision to no longer be silent on the issue of marriage equality for LGBT people. I imagine the decision to speak out did not come lightly and quickly for the reverend. 

Early in my own ministry, I was influenced by the writings and civil rights advocacy of Malcolm Boyd, a white Episcopalian clergyman. When he declared himself gay within his denomination, I found myself wondering, "Must I deny the positive impact his writings have had on my ministry because of his sexual orientation? Must I suppress my appreciation for his civil rights activism as a white clergyman because he is gay?” In time, logic, rationality, and my Christian faith enabled me to continue appreciating his gifts and, as a result, I became a straight ally and advocate of the rights of LGBT persons.  

Thank you again to Rev. Coates! I only hope that more of our pastoral colleagues will walk this path and join us in speaking out on behalf of our LGBT brothers and sisters in the black community.