"Dr. E. Dewey Smith Responds To Anti-Gay Church Hypocrisy Video Clip That Has Gone Viral!"
This is a long article, but in all thy getting GET understanding! Media is quick to edit and only report on the part they feel is relevant. We asked Dr. Smith for a response and we decided to publish the ENTIRE reply and here it is! Click HERE to see FULL SERMON!
For almost 30 years I have been blessed to share the Gospel in enumerable settings and
favored to move fluidly throughout diverse contexts. I have always been considered an
“ecclesiastical diplomat”, who has sought to find a way to “draw circles” and not “lines” from a Christian vantage point. My focus has consistently been centered on highlighting the essentials of the Faith.
As a student of church growth and history, it has become painfully evident that post-modernity has created a myriad of challenges for established ministries as well as Christianity as a whole. To be quite honest, nearly every main-line denomination in the Western Hemisphere has recently experienced significant decline in terms of conversions, baptisms, missions and contributions. Millions of millennials do not identify with any faith tradition, while a host of others declare themselves as “spiritual but not religious.”
On July 22, 2015, I was given the opportunity to minister at a Holy Convocation of one of the premier African-American Pentecostal denominations in the United States. In preparation for my message on that night, I had a sense of “calling” to focus on the theme of evangelism. My message was taken from Acts 8:1-8 and was entitled “Blessings In Disguise.” The crux of the message centered around some traumatic things that the early church experienced in the opening verses of the 8th chapter. These painful moments were necessary in propelling early church believers to leave “Jerusalem” and spread the Gospel all over the world.
After I communicated what appeared to be the disintegration of the church in the first three verses of Acts chapter 8, Philip, one of the “Deacons/Servants” selected in Acts 6:1-7, went to the city of Samaria. This was quite significant because for 800 years, the Samaritans were a marginalized group of people. The Jews actually despised the Samaritans and avoided contact with them. The body of the message dealt with Philip’s approach toward the Samaritan people. St. Luke explicitly recorded, “Philip preached Christ unto them”. As Philip preached the Gospel, the Samaritans “with one accord” listened to him, and inevitably persons who had been lame, sick and “possessed” found healing, deliverance and breakthrough. Philip went to Samaria to “evangelize and not antagonize” the people.
At that moment, I made a logical application and challenge from that point; who could many “religious” people consider to be “21st Century Samaritans”? Would they be willing to leave “their Jerusalems” and share the Gospel with those not like them? In making that point, I posited that maybe recent Supreme Court legislation could be a moment for persons to share Christ with those who some consider and treat as 21st Century “Samaritans.”
For decades within many African-American churches, homosexuality has been the “big elephant in the room.” Homosexuality has long been a “taboo subject” in black congregations. Many churches have operated by a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. A host of bishops, pastors, evangelists, musicians and singers have lived homosexual lifestyles. The theology of traditional ministries forced a lot of people into marriages that were strictly for public purposes. A myriad of homosexual men married unsuspecting women, for the sake of the church, while still privately engaging in same-sex relationships.
The theology of an overwhelming amount of people and fear of church scrutiny, led countless individuals to live pretentious lives for “the sake of the Kingdom”. In my message, I highlighted the undeniable contributions that gay musicians, singers and directors have made to the African-American church. For decades, church members have seen effeminate men and women with masculine traits leading music departments. Enumerable churches have relied heavily on same-gender loving people to help build ministries. On Sunday mornings, excited parishioners anxiously gather in houses of worship to hear the choir “blow the roof off of the building.”
The majority of Pastors know, whether they would admit it or not, that good preaching and awesome music can help “put butts in the seats and bucks in the banks.” To this very day, an awesome worship, arts and music department is highly valued and regarded within African-American churches. Music aside, some of the most faithful and supportive members of many black churches have been same-gender loving individuals.
African-American people, in general, love music. The love for and importance of music has created quandaries for years within black ecclesial contexts. An uncomfortable dichotomy exists for many: a “traditional theology” versus the need for a powerful worship service. On one hand, many Pastors have “preached what the Word of God” says about the “abominable nature” of homosexuality while simultaneously having those guilty of the “abomination” on payroll. While vociferously highlighting the nature or preferences of whom some disparage as “abominable Sodomites,” many Pastors never fathomed their own “abominable” pride that led to them wanting to have the “baddest choir in town,” regardless of their theology.
I, along with thousands of others, have used the most insulting and degrading terms, from the pulpit, in referencing “unnatural” people. I shared how the same themes of “demonization” and “exploitation” that were systemic during the times of slavery were eerily similar themes with traditional church theology and homosexual employees. While nothing more heinous has ever existed than African chattel slavery, similar diabolical motivations were present. While some persons connect the struggles of the LGBT movement to the abolitionist and Civil Rights movements, that was not my purpose or intention during the message.
As a proud heterosexual with a southern upbringing, I have also preached more unfavorably and critically of homosexuals. It is much easier for preachers to be more vocal about the “sins” of which they have not been or are not guilty. However, I have found that often many preachers who have “hammered” homosexuals regularly and consistently in the sermonic moment, are often guilty of having the same proclivities. I believe that many heterosexual boys are socialized to hate homosexuals. This socialization could be subconsciously based on the premise of “if you hate them, you will not become them.” I was one of those young guys who did not want to ever be around homosexuals. I took pride in only having heterosexual musicians on my music staffs.
My preaching, perspectives and disdain “shifted” as I matured as a Pastor. Having to counsel men who were embarrassed and had no relationships with their children because of their child’s orientation; praying with 14 year old suicidal teenagers in psychiatric units who felt hated by God, their parents and by me because of their sexual identity issues; and discovering that a family friend, was homeless and addicted to drugs because of his life long struggles with his orientation, forced me into deep contemplation. This great human being discovered when he was an adult, that he was born as a hermaphrodite.
At birth, his parents decided to “make him a boy” and never divulged that to him until recently. This revelation also forced me to find a “space” for his story within my theological and ideological framework. I know he loves God too! He was one of the most kind persons anyone could meet. Could I now continue to preach “God did not make anybody that way” and “God never makes mistakes”? Would my theology allow room for pre-natal sex organ abnormalities? If God did not make him that way, who did? Was it simply genetic? Was he “cursed” as some of his family members implied? Could his “salvific conversion” amend his deficiencies?
Could the Holy Spirit take away the high levels of estrogen in his body? While pondering these questions, I discovered that two members of my present congregation were born with hermaphroditic issues as well. What does the Gospel say about that? Is it possible that someone could be born loving the same gender? If a person was born loving the same-gender, is that then considered abnormal? Would a “depraved nature theology” answer those questions? If a child can be born with chromosomal abnormalities, Down Syndrome and other issues, could the same be applied to sexuality? Does our theology consider recent science?
Since science and faith rarely mutually co-exist, should we work harder to harmonize in this context? Many of these answers I still don’t have. Honestly, for a long time I really had not cared to know. Please don’t be angry, but I must share both my ignorance regarding this subject as well as my brutal truth. The humor and irony of the viral clip is that I have always been guilty of speaking my truth. I despise pretense, “so what you see is what you get” with me.
The aforementioned questions and more are asked by many millennials. The inability of many church leaders to answer questions or allow room for questions has turned many people away from faith. Additionally, the hypocrisy that is so prevalent in some ecclesial settings is cause for much disdain amongst young people. Many teenagers from Pentecostal backgrounds, are often lambasted about getting tattoos and piercings, because the “Word says so in Leviticus.” The complications of and hermeneutical skills required to delineate between “Moral Laws”, “Ceremonial Laws” and “Civil Laws” in Leviticus are overwhelming, frustrating and almost impossible for young believers and unbelievers who just “want God” in their lives to comprehend. On one hand some have heard, “you are saved by Grace and not your works” and on the other they are told to “learn all 600+ sins/abominations in Leviticus in order to stay saved”.
I facetiously referenced this point in the message last week. I did not expound on the categories of law in Leviticus, not because of ignorance but because it was not germane as a major point in the message. It was simply a comedic portion of the application of that point. Those who know me and follow my ministry understand that I am a comedian by nature and always interject “light-hearted” moments while ministering.
While there are several passages in the Bible that are used to condemn homosexuality, my point was that we often “pick and choose the sins that we highlight.” While my brief and comedic reference to Leviticus in the message may not be sufficient and not detailed enough for some, what do we think about the myriad of perspectives about “divorce and remarriage”? In many African-American ecclesial settings, church leaders have been divorced and remarried. If a bishop or pastor divorced his wife, without her committing adultery and he remarried while his first wife is still alive, is he in sin? Is that sin less than homosexuality? Can a pastor get divorced and still be qualified to preach? What if the bishop doesn’t “rule his own house well”?
Can a woman serve as a pastor or bishop? What about some people justifying “slavery” with their interpretations of the Bible? What about the abomination of pride? What about those with “lying tongues”? Any thoughts about the innocent Iraqis killed during “Operation Freedom”? Any homiletical outcries over the “drones” that kill children? Any sermons in white, evangelical churches on Dylan Roof? What did Jesus say about poverty and the poor? Which sin is worse? Whose interpretation is correct?
What is orthodox? I really believe that an ecumenical forum of Bible Scholars and faithful preachers should convene to critically examine biblical texts pertaining to homosexuality. Often our interpretations are skewed by our own biases and backgrounds. As the early church gathered at Nicea in 325 AD to discuss “Arianism”, I sense that this shifting culture needs a similar gathering. “Pre-Understandings” of biblical texts should be “left at the front door” and the most critical and objective hermeneutical skills brought to the forefront.
Although enumerable media outlets have used my sermon clip for their own journalistic and editorial priorities, my message was not presented in an effort to “affirm the rights” of the LGBT community. My sermonic intentions and ministerial assignment is not to be the “pro gay pastor”. My agenda is Jesus’ message and exaltation. I preached that sermon and in it confidently affirmed the humanity of and contributions that have been made to the black church by many from the gay community.
I stand wholeheartedly behind that because it is the truth. Millions of people within the LGBT community and other sects have reached out to me over the past few days. While this has been different, unexpected and uncomfortable for me, it has shown me how so many within the gay community only want to be respected, positively acknowledged and have their humanity affirmed. It is sad to hear the stories of alienation that many same-gender loving people have emailed or sent via social media. Millions have stated, “thank you for sharing that we both are on the same level in God’s eyes and have access to Jesus….thanks for letting me know that I Jesus still loves me……thank you for not making me feel inferior “.
While these messages have opened my eyes tremendously, please know that I was not trying to become a focal point or “champion” for a “cause”. My message was presented with the hopes that we could develop a heart of “ministry” for those who desire it. I, like many other pastors, have not been equipped with the tools or even the “know how” to engage in a meaningful conversation or ministry opportunity with a gay person. I have heard some gay people say, “I want out of this lifestyle”.
What does that mean for most churches? What is the response? Do we have ministries to address that? What does the “anti-homosexuality church” say to parents who have gay children? Does our theology cause a wedge between “straight” parents and same-gender loving children? Is it “godly” for a parent to ever turn their backs on their gay children?” Can we be like Philip and share Christ with those who are hurting and wounded? Are the members of our congregations prepared to do what Philip did?
What is the response of the church to persons who are “comfortable in their lifestyle”, do not see it as sin and accept homosexuality as their normal and God-given reality? Can they participate in ministry? Will it still be “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”? As many churches will not perform same-sex marriages, will they dedicate or christen the babies who are being raised in same-gender loving homes? Can same-gender loving people attend our churches? While some congregations are “welcoming and affirming” of gays, will others be at least “welcoming”?
Will some churches excommunicate persons who admit that they’re same-gender loving? Corporations, schools and the public square have all become more open to the LGBT community; have our churches prepared congregants to live in a civil manner with all people? Is proper treatment of our “gay neighbors” a part of our ecclesial efforts to promote decency, civility and citizenship? Is Dr. King’s concept of the “Beloved Community” relevant in this context?
I have always believed and taught that marriage is between a man and a woman. Even as society changes and my theology evolves around ministering to and being intentional about loving all people, my personal theology is still based on male and female relationships only. While this may disappoint many who have encouraged me over the past few days, please allow a mutuality of “tolerance”. However, I do think it is important for us to distinguish between personal theology and public policy. The Supreme Court ruling is an issue of policy.
Post-modernity has made me more aware of the pluralistic democracy that governs America. The U.S. is not a theocracy and has been established to supposedly provide certain freedoms and rights to all of its citizens. Every American citizen is granted both the freedom of and freedom from religion. As cynical as that may sound for some, it is the essence of our Nation’s founding. It is very likely over the next 100 years, that many Atheists will be in policy-making roles in America. In the last Presidential election, the majority of evangelical Christians voted for a Mormon as President of the United States.
Imagine the changes in society over the next century. I have grave concerns about whose theology could be used to form public policy in the year 2115, should The Lord delay His return. The present policy of this land allows me to worship where I desire to worship and to live with my wife and children. The policy of this land has recently given same-gender loving persons the right to have marriage ceremonies, should they choose and the right for me as a Minister to not perform that ceremony.
My sermon was not intended to be a condemnation of gays nor a condoning of same-gender loving relationships. My message was simply to say that those of the LGBT community who desire our ministry and love should not have to wonder if we care! Heterosexuality and patriarchy should not cause an “elitism” and ” superiority” that prevents us from doing what Jesus did in St. John 4:1-40 and following Philip’s example in Acts 8:5-8. Both fought through the biases and prejudices of their day to converse with those unlike them. Jesus and Philip never allowed their differences and presuppositions to prevent them from conversing with the Samaritans and treating them with decency and love.
I have no idea why my 4 minute sermon clip was posted and became viral without context or my approval. I do not know why those brief words have caused several “saints” to “hate” and even “wish death” upon me. I will never understand why some would rather “condemn” without getting context. I do know why those with “causes”, both positive and negative, used the clip for their “purposes”. In spite of it all, I am comforted by the fact that God and those who have actually heard the entire message, know that my purpose was simple: Spread the message of Jesus with those who will listen and expect God to bring transformation to any life. Though I wish God had given me prior warning about the “firestorm” of the past five days, I am confident that Jesus’ name has been heard by millions all over the world via my mouth. Although “Stephen has died, Saul has gone crazy and the Saints are scared and scattered,” through it all it’s still a “Blessing In Disguise.”