Category: Community Published on Tuesday, 22 October 2013 11:29 Written by Donald James/ Michigan Chronicle
Abrams, 43, said some members of Zion Progress supported her announcement and wanted her to stay on as pastor; other members were adamant about her stepping down and moving on. She also found similar sentiments in local Christian circles of pastors. After a nine-year stint as secretary of the Detroit Council of Baptist Pastors, Abrams decided to resign rather than be subjected to proposed meetings to discuss her same-sex marriage. She also removed Zion Progress from its membership with the Baptist Missionary and Education State Convention, as well as the Progressive National Baptist Convention.
For Abrams, it was important to be honest with her congregation, self and spouse, but more importantly, with God. Therefore, Abrams identified her new spouse as Bishop Emeritus Diana Williams of the Imani Temple of the African-American Catholic Congregation in Washington, D.C. Abrams and Williams married in March, 2013 in Iowa, one of 13 states, as well as Washington, D.C., that allow same-gender marriage. "I am a person of integrity and didn't want to be a hypocrite on this issue," said Abrams. "There are other members of the clergy that speak out on this subject in public, but do just the opposite behind closed doors. I refuse to be a hypocrite. I felt that I needed to be married because I was pastoring a church and leading people."
Abrams said that her same-gender marriage represented a first-time love experience involving another woman. Abrams, a divorced mother of three children, said about a year before she married Williams, she asked God to send love her way, and not necessarily love based on a certain gender. According to Abrams, she and Williams had been friends and worked together on several faith-based initiatives. "She is definitely my best friend, a wonderful person and is a support system to me in tremendous ways," Abrams said of Williams. "We have a lot in common. We have similar visions, missions and goals. We complement each other very well in how best to serve God."
Abrams said that she was encouraged to make her decision about same-sex marriage after attending a conference in Atlanta about a year or two before she married Williams. Abrams recalled hearing Rev. Joseph Lowery, dean of the Civil Rights Movement, social activist and preacher, answer a question about gay people in the church. "I'm a red-lettered Christian," Abrams recalled Lowery saying. "I follow what Jesus Christ said...that is the only thing I know to do. All this talk about who can have rights and who cannot have rights doesn't make sense because Christ received everybody. If we are true Christians, we will follow the red letter words (of God) that's in the bible."
Abrams said Lowery's message hit home with power as she began to look within herself about love and not necessary love based on gender. Abrams also sought counsel from Rev. Dr. Ken Samuels, who is based in Atlanta, as well as Bishop Yvette Flunder, founder of the City of Refuge UCC, located in San Francisco. Flunder, who is openly gay, is also the founder of The Fellowship, an organization of black pastors and churches that openly welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members.
Others members of the clergy who gave Abrams advice was Rev. Christine Wiley, who along with her husband Rev. Dennis Wiley, serve as pastors of the Covenant Baptist Church (United Church in Christ) in Washington, D.C. In 2007, Covenant Baptist was the first Black traditional church in D.C. to marry same-sex couples. The husband and wife also co-chair the organization DC Clergy for Marriage Equality.
Abrams also found scriptures that she believed are important to read as "scriptural references" as it relates to same-gender relationships: Luke 7: 1 -10 and Matthew 8: 5-13 (about the Centurion's servant). She also believed the Greek words "entimos duolos pais" when seen together mean beloved servant, which means male lover. This, according to Abrams, is different from the other servants in nature of the relationship. "I don't want to get into scriptural debates with folks because folks can argue on both sides based on intreptation," Abrams explained. "I just want to say where I am and what brought me to this point."
While seeking the wisdom of other theologians and reading bible scriptures were important to Abrams, ultimately, she knew the final decision was hers to make. Once she decided to marry Williams, she also knew that such a revelation would not be popular with many conservative Christians, especially in the African-American community. She is, however, thankful for a loyal circle of local pastors that did not condemn her after she revealed to them the news of her same-gender marriage. The circle included Pastor Wilma Johnson, (New Prospect Missionary Baptist Church), Pastor E.L. Branch (Third New Hope Baptist Church), Rev. Charles Christian Adams (Hartford Memorial Baptist Church), Rev. Mother (Pastor and Christian radio show host) and a few others. "Bishop Abrams is a very intelligent, conscientious and progressive minister," Adams told a local reporter last week." According to the article written, Adams, from a constitutional rights standpoint, supports gay marriage. Adam went on to say that in the African-American community, there needs to be further discussions on the issue.
Rev. Al Sharpton, civil rights advocate and host of PoliticsNation on MSNBC agreed. "As Americans, it is up to each and every one of us to fight injustice and inequality when we are faced with it," Sharpton said during an interview with TheGrio.com in March of this year. "Today, we are faced with such injustices in the form of discrimination against same-sex couples, who deserve the same freedom to marry as anyone else. We cannot be part-time advocates for justice. When we fail to stand up to tyranny, we leave an opening for an attack on our own civil rights. The issue is not about being gay or straight but about the civil rights of Americans who are seeking to have the same rights and protections as their brothers and sisters across this great nation."
Interesting, on the same day that Abrams granted an exclusive interview to the Michigan Chronicle (Oct. 16), the Michigan Marriage Act was being debated before U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman. The judge ultimately set a trial date of Feb. 25, 2014, which shocked many who thought he would dismiss the case to uphold the Michigan amendment which bans same-sex marriage in the state.
Beyond Michigan, same-gender marriage has been a hot-button issue. Even President Obama and the NAACP have voiced strong support for same-gender marriage which has angered a significant segment of the African-American population. Many national polls now show that a great number of Americans support gay marriage, inclusive of great levels of support among various racial and ethnic groups: however, support among African-Americans remains under 50 percent.
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