FOUR EMERGING/COMPETING VIEWS OF THE BLACK CHURCH ON HOMOSEXUALITY
KIM BURRELL, E. DEWEY SMITH, REGINALD SHARPE JR. AND YVETTE FLUNDER
BY WILLIAM DWIGHT MCKISSIC, SR.
Are Kim Burrell, E. Dewey Smith, Reginald Sharpe Jr. and Yvette Flunder representative of the evolution and competing views of the contemporary Black Church on Homosexuality?
A Sunday morning sermon at the close of 2016 preached by noted gospel singer Kim Burrell in her Houston pulpit has erupted into a national controversy/discussion in the Black Church regarding various views that Black pastors and gospel singers hold on the topic of Homosexuality; and calling into question: What does this generation’s Black Church believe on the subject of homosexuality? Does the Black Church of today still hold a monolithic position regarding homosexuality?
No one would seriously dispute or debate that the absolute historic universal position of the Black Church regarding homosexuality has been and officially remains: Consensual Homosexual Sexual Activity Is A Sin—Period. Just as adultery, fornication, drunkenness, gluttony, pride, laziness, racism, sexism, pride, ingratitude and a host of other vices are also sin. By sin, I mean missing the mark; or falling short of the Glory of God; thinking or behavior displeasing to God. Yet, God loves homosexuals as He loves all sinners. God loves us while we are yet sinners, but He loves us too much to allow us to remain in our sins. He’s called us to maturity, growth and holiness.
However, in recent years—particularly since the declaration by the nation’s first African American President in 2012 affirming same-sex marriage and homosexuality—we have seen some cracks in the dam from high profile Black pastors and preachers who openly affirm homosexual marriage and by extension, homosexuality. The question before us is: Will the cracks in the dam become an avalanche and in short order crumble and crash the fortress of protection that has kept the act and lifestyle of homosexuality from being viewed as acceptable, normal, and approved as God-ordained behavior in the hearts and minds of most Black people in and outside of the Church? Historically, the Black Church has resisted homosexuality equally as strong as we have racism. With the bold affirmation of President Obama, we have lessened our resistance to homosexuality.
If the Black Church had not fought racism in America on her knees, in her pulpits and in the streets, the battle would have been lost. If the Black Church does not address homosexuality as a matter of spiritual warfare, demonstrating love and kindness, evangelizing and disciple-making—the battle will be lost. My thesis is, just as the historic Black Church has stood strongly against the legalizing, normalizing and institutionalizing the immorality and insanity of racism, we must do likewise with homosexuality and with the same intensity and tenacity. Failure to do so may result in us seeing homosexuality mainstreamed in our lifetime.
Homosexuality is knocking hard, fast and furious at the door of the Black Church. And this generation appears to be the one that is attempting to pry the door open with all the strength they can muster in an attempt to radically alter the Black Church’s historic opposition to homosexuality. If homosexuality continues to infiltrate the Black Church, it will destroy it from within rendering it impotent and unable to fulfill her mission to exalt the Savior, evangelize sinners, edify saints and elevate society. Neither will the Black Church be able to combat racism if she’s destroyed from within because of homosexuality. Have we forgotten the lessons from Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19; Ezekiel 16:49-50). It is time for the patriarchs, matriarchs and gate keepers of the Black community to step up to the plate with the Word of God in our hand and the Holy Spirit as our guide and lovingly shut the door on allowing homosexuality to become unofficially and officially accepted, mainstreamed, and affirmed in our churches, communities and families.
By and large, we have been very effective as a church in fighting racism. God has used the Black Church and her leaders to bring about wonderful changes on the racial front in America. Will we allow God to use us to now fight and thwart the onslaught of homosexuality that seeks to ravish our churches, families and community? Do we have the character and courage to tackle homosexuality as we have tackled racism? Do we see homosexuality as a sin equally as evil as racism? Are we willing to fight it with the passion and reckless abandon as we have done with racism? It’s time for the Spiritual Adults in the Hood to come to the forefront and prophetically and lovingly address this issue. We need our denominational leaders to weigh in and take a stand on the Kim Burrell controversy.
The evolving and competing views of the Black Church can be illustrated with the published views of Kim Burrell, E. Dewey Smith, Reginald Sharpe and Yvette Flunder. They represent four distinct views:
I. Kim Burrell’s Biblical, Historic, Traditional Views on Homosexuality:
One could quiver with the tenor and tone of Kim Burrell’s speech; but the text of what she had to say is in line with Scripture and the traditional theology of the Black church on the subject. Burrell represented “The Old Landmark.” She spoke in graphic and no uncertain terms; but she captured the simplicity and summation of what the Bible teaches believers regarding engaging in homosexual activity.
“I came to tell you about sin. That sin nature. That perverted homosexual spirit, and the spirit of delusion and confusion, it has deceived many men and women, and it’s caused a stain on the body of Christ…
You as a man, you open your mouth and take a man’s penis in your face, you are perverted, and you cannot tell me ‘thus sayeth the Lord.’ You’re perverted. You are a woman and will shake your face in another woman’s breast, you are perverted.” (http://www.dailywire.com/news/12057/gospel-singer-attacked-expressing-christian-views-frank-camp)
Who would argue that what she spoke is essentially what the Bible teaches in the following Scriptures?
Galatians 6:16-20; I Cor. 6:9-10; I Tim. 1:8-10; Jude 5-7; Mark 7:20-23; Romans 1:18-32; Leviticus 18:22.
II. E. Dewey Smith’s Biblical-Bridge Building—Triangulation View of Homosexuality
One of the more interesting responses to the Kim Burrell’s message came from Atlanta pastor, Dr. E. Dewey Smith. Dr. Smith has made it clear in a previous message in July 2015 that he affirms marriage is between a man and a woman. Tiga Finn, Executive Assistant to Smith, released a statement saying, “by no means is Smith now, nor has he ever been a proponent of same-sex marriage. Smith has always believed and taught that marriage is only designed for a man and woman.” I have no reason to believe that Pastor Smith has changed his view at all on biblical marriage. The Negro Baptist Preacher Table Talk report that during his tenure as a pastor in Macon, before he became, internationally known as he is today, he preached a sermon against homosexuality and repeated the tag-line—“Get the Punks Out of the Church.” Dr. Smith has clearly moderated his tone since then and seeks to build bridges and lines of communication with the LGBT Community by speaking of them with compassion, understanding, and respect. So-much-so, he has been mistaken to now be affirming their lifestyle.
In response to Burrell, Smith gave five points:
#1: Smith raises the question: “Do we believe that 60% of African American women have been given the gift of ‘celibacy’ and will live their entire lives without any sexual relations or intimacy, based on what their churches teach?” Atlanta has a high Black single population, as does the rest of America. Smith is correct—these are practical questions our churches must address. But we must also make it clear that statistics and sociology does not drive our theology; our theology dictates our sociological beliefs and practices. The Word of God does not bow to contemporary culture. Contemporary culture must bow to the Word of God.
#2: Smith affirmed Burrell’s right to share her message without stating agreement or disagreement with her message. He affirmed Ellen Degeneres’ right to cancel Burrell’s appearance without expressing agreement or disagreement with Ellen’s decision.
#3: Smith referenced biblical passages that address homosexuality such as Genesis 19, Leviticus, Romans 1:26-27, and briefly highlights how opponents and proponents of homosexuality interpret those passages differently; and he does not give the readers his interpretation of those passages.
#4: Smith makes a case for peaceful coexistence with opponents and proponents of Burrell’s theology. I don’t find his emphasis here disagreeable, but I do find it interesting. No one argues for peaceful coexistence with proponents of adultery or “swingers”—not quite understanding why there’s a need to argue for peaceful coexistence with proponents of homosexuality—particularly within the Bible-believing churches.
#5: Smith asked eight questions that are critical and necessary in light of today’s changing views on homosexuality.
As I read E. Dewey Smith’s statement, it reminds me of Bill Clinton’s political philosophy which was “triangulation.” Bill Clinton’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Policy; his “Three Strikes You’re Out” Policy; and his “Welfare” Policy all represent “triangulation”—where he combined conservative, liberal and moderate views on the issues in one policy. E. Dewey Smith has mastered “triangulation” as it relates to homosexuality in the Black Church. I find more in agreement with Smith than I find disagreement. Particularly, I support his non-negotiable view on marriage strictly being between a man and woman. I also agree that our tone and tenor in addressing these matters as the Bible says must be “truth spoken in love.” My concern in Smith’s approach, though, is that the truth that homosexuality is sin may get smothered in his effort not to offend. You cannot preach against sin without offending. Jesus, Himself, is a Rock of offense.
III. Reginald Sharpe’s Liberal, Bible-Denying View of Homosexuality
Whereas, E. Dewey Smith did not take a definitive position on Kim Burrell’s statement, his satellite pastor at his Macon location of House of Hope headquartered in Atlanta, GA, did.
Reginald Sharpe Jr. had this to say in response to Kim Burrell’s message:
“And let me say a word to all of you secret supporters of Kim Burrell’s comments. You are a part of the reason the church is trouble! It was the secret supporters of Donald Trump that put a megalomaniac in office. She may be a wonderful person but what she said DID NOT represent the Jesus, the God, or the Holy Spirit I have come to know. God is love. Let’s look at ourselves in the mirror and find a way to heal our country with more love and wisdom. Hatred and ignorance has never helped heal anyone.”
Reginald Sharpe Jr. appears to embrace an extreme liberal view of homosexuality that would not declare homosexual activity as sin. He’s a generation younger than his Pastor, and my concern is that if the current patriarchs of the Black Church don’t sound the alarm, when we go in our graves—Reginald Sharpe’s theology will be the ruling theology of the Black Church on homosexuality. It will also spell the death of the Black Church as we know it today. To label Burrell’s views as “hatred” and “ignorance” is to deny the Bible and to deny her the respect and love that he’s anxious to give to gays. Sharpe’s pastor, Dr. Smith, was careful not to do that, and I appreciate him for that. If what Burrell spoke was hateful and ignorant, then what the Bible teaches is hateful and ignorant. Sharpe’s published statement reflects liberal theology and a denial of biblical truth on this topic.
IV. Yvette Flunder’s “Third New Testament” View on Homosexuality
If you want to see where the Black Church may be in 40 years—if we don’t hit the brakes on this now—is to simply look at Yvette Flunder and Shirley Miller. They are legally married and pastor a gay church in the Bay area of Northern California. Yvette Flunder is the voice on Walter Hawkins “Love Alive IV” singing “Thank You Lord for All You’ve Done for Me.” Shirley Miller is the voice on Edwin Hawkins, “Oh Happy Day.”
While speaking at the American Baptist College in Nashville, TN, a National Baptist institution, in 2014, Yvette Flunder made a statement on the nature of Scripture:
“God will not be fixed; God will not be stuck; God will not be concretized.”
She made that statement while intentionally flipping both ends of the Bible, to symbolize that God could not be “concretized” in the canon of Scripture. She further stated:
“My theology is alive and shifting and it’s not stuck between the corners and the pages of a book. Just like God spoke to them, God is speaking to us. I’d like to see Martin’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” canonized one day…maybe in a Testament III—because God is still speaking…Thank God for theological evolution.” [Emphasis Mine]
Referring to the Third Testament, equivalent to the Bible, that Flunder proposes, because “God is still speaking” Flunder suggested that it could include “skype,” “in-vitro fertilization,” and…”somebody will write about me and Shirley in 30 years.”
And, of course, Flunder released a statement in opposition to Burrell’s statement:
“I will not reciprocate and attack or seek to diminish you, but you must know the injury of your words…” (http://blackchristiannews.com/2017/01/homosexual-clergy-members-are-coming-after-kim-burrell-for-her-sermon-condemning-homosexuality/)
Kim Burrell’s words were only injurious if they were false or contradicted Scripture. And, they did not.
By 2040, I predict if the Black Church does not act with the same urgency and intensity by which she did with the Civil Right Movement, we will see open/ practicing homosexuals occupying our pulpits, serving on our ministry teams and in leadership in our churches. Flunder and Miller will be the norm.
The time is now. The crisis is apparent. Shirley Caesar is correct: Someone should have spoken up in 2012 when President Obama came out in support of homosexuality. Nevertheless, the future of our families and churches hang in the balance. Will The Church of Jesus Christ Stand Up? And just for the record, my view is somewhere between Burrell’s and Smith’s; but I lean closer to Burrell’s view.
Anybody who does not believe that homosexual activity is sin is on the wrong side of the Bible. I’d rather be on the wrong side of history, than the wrong side of the Bible.