“Bishop” Tonyia Rawls, founder of North Carolina’s “Sacred Souls Community Church,” discusses how she is targeting clergy at black churches for private meetings to slowly lead them towards LGBTQIA+ affirmation in their congregations. This clip comes from a Zoom panel discussion for Virginia’s Union Presbyterian Seminary, titled “Pride: Queer Justice and Human Justice.”
Get ready for some Wormwood/ Screwtape vibes, as she explains the nefarious steps she takes to accomplish her goal.
Our work centers black churches primarily and also civil rights groups, those two entities. And in many instances, the civil rights arena and the church share very similar DNA. So when you think about most black civil rights leaders in particular, they are often faith leaders or at the very least people of faith.
So it was important to us, when thinking about this nexus of faith and justice, to understand that you really had to simultaneously have these conversations, ideally, for the level of work we do, because again, our work is culture shift.
And so we experienced great success through a couple of things. One was we started by having general conversations with black pastors exclusively in private rooms by themselves. Why was that important? That was essential, because safe space has to be created to do any of this work. I’m just going to tell you that straight up.
And if you think you can just bulldoze your way through, that’s not going to happen, because culture is among the most difficult things to shift in any human being and in any society. Because culture takes generations to establish. So if you first give yourself enough grace to understand it took generations for us to get here, so as we’re moving forward we must be grace-filled in that process.
Our first goal was not to make people welcoming and affirming. Our first goal with the black church was to say just “don’t cause harm.” That was the first step. The first step with the black church pastors we worked with was: I get that you might not be able to affirm LGBTQ people, but your charge is to not cause harm, similar to doctors and the like. Right, Doctor? I cannot cause harm.
And so if we own that your rhetoric has been causing harm, has been literally killing people. If not physically, spiritually killing people. If I know that my actions did that, then at the very least can you not pause the damning stuff? Can you just get off that box, all right? While you’re figuring it out.
The other thing that I say when we’re doing our work is, and this reminds me of the conversation that I had when I was in the Church of God in Christ and my pastor was actually bishop Charles Blake. I was a member of West Angeles Church of God in Christ, and we were talking about the woman issue at that time. And I was, I had a private meeting with him and, you know, I’m an up-and-coming evangelist missionary. I’m all excited and I love Jesus and I’m all celibate and doing my thing, you know. And when I went in to talk, I was saying to him, I’m troubled by the fact that the way that these things are presented within the church, principles, lessons, messages, it all centers men. And it appears that the issue of women in leadership is not being addressed and definitely the issue of queer people.
And his response was interesting. He clearly was open to the conversation, but he said that it wasn’t at my door yet. It wasn’t yet at my door. Okay. And the church had many things that was done. I’m sharing this, and I rarely say a person’s name, but I’m saying this because I wanted to just note the magnitude of: this is a man who has definitely evolved as time has gone on, definitely. Our church was full of gays and everybody was up in there, okay? But nobody was willing to really step forward and say yes, but in a full-throated voice, I affirm women in leadership. Yes, in a full-throated voice, we affirm queer people, right? So when you think about it from that vantage point, the opportunity to provide safe space for these leaders to journey themselves is important.
h/t to the inimitable @wokepreachertv, who provided the descriptions, the title, the video, and the transcript. Heck, the whole thing is his, with the exception of the wormwood line.
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