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Equality in Faith Volume 3

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This bi-monthly presentation of stories and information is generated by EqualityNC's faith outreach program. We hope you will share by forwarding to friends, family, congregants and others to help us raise visibility of North Carolina's growing LGBTQ-affirming faith community.
EQUALITY  IN  FAITH

Sharing stories from within North Carolina's
LGBTQ-affirming faith communities 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017
In this edition...
• For Fahim Gulamali, Islam informs his sexuality and vice versa
• N.C. religious leader seeks healing, awakening
• Southern Baptist school releases "guidance" on transgender children
• From urban centers to rural areas, are anti-gay protesters dwindling?

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For Muslim man, faith

not only affirms but informs
 





Fahim Gulamali serves as assistant director of social justice education and programming at the Wake Forest University Pro Humanitate Institute’s Office for Social Service, Social Action and Public Engagement.

Persons of faith – particularly adherents to the Abrahamic religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam – seek for those around them that which is good and that which is best.
Without seeing the person, hearing that person’s story and understanding their lived experience, knowing what is best for that person can be obscured by misunderstanding – particularly when such misunderstanding is grounded in long-held religious teaching or belief.

Fahim Gulamali believes empathy is a powerful force behind changing religious attitudes toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. He believes the principle is not only a moving force behind progress for the LGBTQ Civil Rights Movement but a powerful agent for social justice in general.

Gulamali serves as assistant director of social justice education and programming at the Wake Forest University Pro Humanitate Institute’s Office for Social Service, Social Action and Public Engagement.

Whether discrimination faced by LGBTQ individuals, prejudice toward African Americans, social hostility toward transgender people or other areas of social injustice, Gulamali believes persons of faith have somewhat of an intrinsic desire to help those around them enjoy what is best for their lived experience.

Hopefully few persons of faith would consider social hostility that which is good for whoever or whichever group of individuals is facing such derogation. But yet Gulamali believes many persons of faith do not recognize the harm from such hostility in the lived experienced of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals – or any of other individual or group of individuals being marginalized in our society.

To continue reading, see INFORMS  below.

"But while millennial Muslims are more likely than foreign-born Muslims to say homosexuality should be accepted (60% vs. 49%), both groups saw an increase of more than 20 percentage points in the last decade, Pew found. 
After a Muslim-American shot and killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando last year, American Muslims were forced to come to terms with gays and lesbians in their mosques and families, prompting conversations about homosexuality and Islamic teachings, said Zareena Grewal, who studies the American Muslim experience at Yale University."

DATA AND DEMOGRAPHICS


U.S. Muslims Concerned About Their Place In Society, But Continue To Believe In The American Dream.


Read the Pew Research Report

          Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman wth his wife Janet.

N.C. religious leader yearns for healing

and awakening in the Christian church

“The time is always right to do the right thing.” 

― Dr. Martin Luther King

It was late one evening many years ago that Dr. Rev. T. Anthony Spearman of Greensboro resolved any conflict between his mind and heart in relation to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.

His mind had been conditioned to believe – like many religious leaders and others at the time – that “homosexuality” was a sinful condition.

In a meeting that evening with a student who was contemplating ending his life, Spearman began to understand the oppressive social climate the young gay man was experiencing. It also was a point at which he began to better understand how certain religious teaching forms a foundation for such oppression.

That night, he began a journey that would bring him to what he knows today to be a truth – there is no inherent sin in sexual orientation or gender identity. Instead, Spearman has concluded the egregious sin related to “homosexuality” belongs to a “distinct strain” of Christianity that teaches Christians should condemn, judge and oppress lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.

Spearman has been involved in LGBTQ advocacy for a number of years and has been an outspoken critic of anti-gay marriage amendments and anti-LGBTQ legislation such as last year’s HB2 – a bill that eliminated municipal LGTBQ nondiscrimination protection and targeted transgender individuals with a campaign of misinformation and demoralization. 

But as Spearman assesses the Christian church today – and more specifically that distinct strain within the Christian church – he sees a problem that is far from limited to negative religious attitudes toward LGBTQ people. 

From Spearman’s watch, it is much more pervasive than that. Listening as Spearman talks about the current condition of the Christian church, it becomes clear that he is talking about a form of blindness – a condition from which Christians fail to see how what once may have been considered blemishes on the body of Christ have now taken on a much more ominous prognosis.

“Which of the 25 judicatories will it be to strive for the high-level cost of discipleship, to denounce the bombastic bigotry and hate-filled hypocrisy that annihilates our Christianity,” he asks in his address.

He sees long-festering sores that now appear as ugly wounds – the result of a mindset that prevents many Christians from seeing their neighbors as not equal in God’s image but rather inferior.  No one can dispute the historical analysis which makes evident how an element of the Christian church in America has treated African Americans as inferior to whites; women as inferior to men; gay as inferior to straight; and transgender as inferior to cisgender.

Spearman, who currently serves as president of the N.C. Council of Churches, is encouraging its members to visit the writings of its founder, H. Shelton Smith, who in the early 1900s wrote about racism and the Christian church in a book entitled “In His Image But…Racism in Southern Religion.’’ One 19th century reviewer writes: “Extremists considered the Negro inherently inferior and opposed any attempt to help him, while moderates agreed on his inferiority but favored educational uplift. Standing outside this dominant position were a handful of religious iconoclasts who rejected the doctrine of Negro racial inferiority.”

During a sermon delivered last year at the N.C. Council of Churches’ Critical Issues Seminar, Spearman made an impassioned plea for churches – whether many, few or a handful – to stand against the destructive forces that exist not outside the church but within.  “Which of the 25 judicatories will it be to strive for the high-level cost of discipleship, to denounce the bombastic bigotry and hate-filled hypocrisy that annihilates our Christianity,” he asks in his address. Listen to his address.
 

To continue reading, see SPEARMAN below.

"Dr. T"

A well-known social justice activist, Dr. T. Anthony Spearman is pastor of St. Phillip African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Greensboro. Spearman serves as the third Vice President of the NC NAACP. Dr. Spearman has a Bachelor of Science Degree Summa Cum Laude from Mercy College in Yonkers, N.Y. in 1995; a Master of Divinity Degree Magna Cum Laude from Hood Theological Seminary in Salisbury, N.C. in 1998; and a Doctor of Ministry from the United Theological Seminary in Dayton Ohio in 2013. He is proficient in Greek, Hebrew, and Spanish. Spearman has been involved in community activism for the past 45 years and has rallied college students together; advocated for KMart employees; marched with Smithfield Workers; been a constant participant with the Historic Thousands on Jones Street Peoples Assembly; stood with the LGBT community against Amendment One and was one of the first 17 persons arrested during the Forward Together Movement’s Moral Mondays.

FEATURED READING
Racism was the crucial social issue of Smith's chosen period. The alliance of churches with anti-Negro forces assured that the racist issues would not be fairly met or settled. Churches supported the Confederacy in order to preserve the institution of slavery. After the war the churches helped fashion patterns of white supremacy to keep the black "in his place." So the wound of racism was passed along to newer generations, constantly bruised but never healed.
Photo courtesy Ryan Wilusz/NewsHerald
Two religious protesters hold signs at this year's second annual Burke Pride in Morganton. Their signs may be large but their numbers appear to be getting smaller.
Dwindling anti-gay religious protesters
may be barometer of changing landscape
As North Carolina survey data shows dramatic shifts in religious attitudes toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, changes are beginning to appear in the lived experiences of LGBTQ persons.

The dwindling number of anti-LGBTQ protesters at LGBTQ Pride festivals being held across the state may be one example.

At the Aug. 26 Charlotte Pride – the state's largest – three to four religious protesters made barely a ripple in the waves of Pride-goers traversing the festival midway. In years past, 15 to 20 religious protesters have been at the event to carry signs predicting damnation to "homosexuals" and other similar slogans.

At the Hickory Pride on Sept. 2, there were no protesters. At a Hickory Pride two years ago –  a small venue – the 10 or so protesters crowded the midway and attempted to drown out others with their megaphones.

Organizers of the second annual Burke Pride in Morganton this year said they observed the smaller number of religious protesters as well. Last year, a group of 20 or so persons set up immediately adjacent the Burke Pride Courthouse Square and blasted nonstop derogation toward the festival-goers – and anyone else walking the streets of Morganton that day.

Seth Loven, one of the organizers for the Burke County event, said last year’s inaugural event was marred with threats and harassment from protesters prior to the event. He saw a noticeable difference this year.

“The threats, stalking, even the protesters attending Burke Pride this year – it seems like it's all died down a lot,” Loven said.

A 2014 Pew Religious Landscape Study reports 42 percent of Christians surveyed stated  “homosexuality should be discouraged by society.” In the 2007 Pew Religious landscape Study,  57 percent of those Christians surveyed stating “homosexuality should be discouraged by society.” That represents a 15-point decrease between 2007 and 2014 in the number of Christians who believe homosexuality should be discouraged by society.

Majorities of all major religious groups in North Carolina support LGBT nondiscrimination laws, according to data release in 2016. At least seven in ten Catholics (76%), religiously unaffiliated North Carolinians (73%), and white mainline Protestants (70%) favor LGBT nondiscrimination laws, according to the data.

As negative religious attitudes have been a primary impediment to LGBTQ equality, the shift in those attitudes naturally may produce more support for the LGBTQ community and its issues.

Pride festival attendance likely is another indicator of that growing support.

Loven said the number of attendeees at the Morganton festival increased substantially and so dd the number of vendors.

Crowd attendance at the 2017 Charlotte Pride Festival was reported as the largrest ever and the Charlotte Pride Parade has now assumed its position as that city's largest parade.

COMMENTARY 
Seminary endangers children and
families with transgender 'guidance'
"The problem with bad theology, worse ideology, and unsafe suggestions, even when they are spoken and written kindly, is that they are still destructive and untrue.”
Kathy Baldock, founder, Canyonwalker Connections

If there are those who might hope that the Southern Baptist Convention would not be joining anti-LGBTQ religious groups bent on demoralizing transgender individuals – especially trans youth – great disappointment will be found in the latest news publication from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Contained in the most recent newsletter from the SBC’s flagship seminary is an article by Andrew T. Walker, who serves as director of Policy Studies for The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.  The short article is actually an excerpt from Walker’s book entitled “God and the Transgender Debate: What Does the Bible Actually Say about Gender Identity?”

The seminary publication's article is entitled “Transgender and Children: Responding in the local church.” The subtitle is worth noting: “What should church elders/leaders do if a congregation member asks for their child to be identified as transgender.”

For people who have only limited understanding of what it means for someone to transition, the subtitle is sufficient to recognize the level of misunderstanding being promoted by Walker.

Dear pastor, I’d like for you to identify my child as transgender.“ Seriously? How about: "Dear pastor, this is my daughter/son. I hope you will embrace her/him.

It is inconceivable to think such a statement would be contained in a publication developed by an institution of higher learning, considering the level of misunderstanding packed into that subtitle.

It gets worse as the following two paragraphs uncover the intentional isolation and marginalization of parent, child and family.

“It’s important to remember that the same request could be made with very different motivations. For example, a parent may hold to the Bible’s teaching but be trying to shepherd wisely a teenager who is feeling suicidal, so their request is based on a desire to enable their child to feel able to keep coming to church without it increasing their temptation to self-harm, while the parent seeks to model and teach loving biblical standards in the home.”

“That parent requires very different help than one who is wanting to ignore and deny God’s Word because they think that is in their child’s best interest. But whatever the situation in the home may be, pastors and elders should say they’ll be unable to comply with this parent’s request, or to ask anyone else in the church to do this, because it goes against what the Bible teaches about who this child is.”

It is hard to imagine a parent turning to a pastor for guidance about their child and their motivation be anything but love and care for their child. How dark and sinister to think otherwise.

Kathy Baldock is founder of Canyonwalkers Connections, an LGBTQ Christian Advocacy organization. Baldock, a straight Christian evangelical,  has worked in North Carolina and other Southern Baptists strongholds. She has read Walkers entire book and offers a review at the Amazon Books website.

“I commend that Walker intentionally tries be loving," Baldock writes. "If you listen to his speaking, he very much comes across with a gracious and compassionate tone. The problem with bad theology, worse ideology, and unsafe suggestions, even when they are spoken and written kindly, is that they are still destructive and untrue.”

Reading Baldock’s review, it is clear she knows why Walker would think a parent would be motivated by anything other than love of their child. It is because Walker apparently sees sexual orientation and gender identity as sinful conditions and any person or parent who thinks otherwise has sided with Satan.

It is such pathetically misinformed, misconstrued and bizarre close-mindedness that Walker encourages parents to unleash on their children and families. The fact that the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary would posit such malicious and unsafe guidance demonstrates depravity within the Southern Baptist Convention as a religious institution.

Baldlock in her review of Walker’s book shares a very frank and forthright conclusion.

“I am a Christian,” Baldock writes. “A Christian who will not abuse Scripture and unsubstantiated interpretations created by others to marginalize groups of people that are not like me. It is unfortunate that Mr. Walker has apparently not taken the opportunity to befriend transgender Christians and learn from them.

‘“God and the Transgender Debate--What Does the Bible Actually Say About Gender Identity?”’ continues this downward destructive spiral of scripture abuse negatively affecting people, the witness and message of Christ, and the SBC itself.”

An institution that seeks moral clarity mocks such a worthy ideal by willfully promoting misinformation and misunderstanding that causes harm to others.

Brent Childers serves as EqualityNC's faith outreach director.

Affirming Faith Highlights
Ames Simmons, trans policy director for EqualityNC, joined Christine Bush and Diana Newton for a discussion after the showing of "The Ties That Bind" in Wilkesboro, N.C.

"The Ties That Bind" sceening held in Wilkesboro

EqualityNC’s faith outreach program joined North Carolina filmmaker Diana Newton to bring a showing of her powerful film, “The Ties That Bind” to the Wilkes County community.

The event was held Tuesday, Aug. 29. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Wilkesboro hosted the 90-minute screening and discussion.

Newton is making the film available to churches across North Carolina. Faith families will find the film informative and inspirational at a time when demographic and social attitude data point to dramatic changes in religious attitudes about gender identity and sexual orientation.

Those interested in hosting a screening in their community can contact Newton at diananewton@fallingapples.com.

Help make LGBTQ-affirming faith communities more visible. 

EqualityNC is working with NC Faith Forward, a coalition of seven organizations engaged in faith-based advocacy, to create a statewide network of LGBTQ-affirming communities.

The coalition is comprised of Believe Out Loud, Equality North Carolina, Faith in Public Life, The Freedom Center for Social Justice, Many Voices: A Black Church Movement for Gay and Transgender Justice, More Light Presbyterians, and the National LGBTQ Task Force.

This coalition is hosting five upcoming regional gatherings across the state. Mark your calendars for one or more of these events to network, engage and help change the social climate in North Carolina.
 

Charlotte & North Mecklenburg  

Saturday, October 7 

9:00 AM - 2:00 PM  

Holiday Inn Charlotte University

RSVP

Durham

Tuesday, October 10 

9:30 AM - 12:00 PM  

LGBTQ Center of Durham

 

Greensboro

Tuesday, October 24 

9:30 AM - 12:00 PM  

Guildford College - Founders Hall

Wilmington

Saturday, October 28 

10:00 AM - 12:30 PM  

Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Wilmington

 

Asheville

Saturday, November 11  

Location: TBD

FAITH IN DEMOCRACY

Please join Democracy NC, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and the NC Council of Churches in rebuilding and defending “Faith in Democracy.” Each session will include answers to the following questions:
Legally, what can faith communities and faith leaders discuss about the social/political issues? Morally, what are leaders feeling compelled to do? 

What are the real risks, especially to minority faith and non-faith groups? 

How is this work rooted in standing up for racial justice?

Why is almost all current state and federal legislation so extreme? How does it threaten our own religious freedom?

How can leaders enable their communities, both inside and outside of the church, to see “political” issues through the lens of faith and become advocates for the good of all, especially for “the least of these”? What does meaningful, ecumenical coalition look like?

September 18 @ 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Wilmington, 4314 Lake Avenue 
Wilmington, NC

September 19 @ 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
Hood Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church, 2801 Rose Hill Road 
Fayetteville, NC

September 20 @ 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
NAACP Office, 4130 Oak Ridge Drive 
Winston-Salem, NC

September 21 @ 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
Union Presbyterian Seminary, 5141 Sharon Road 
Charlotte, NC

September 22 @ 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
Church of the Master United Church of Christ, 2230 29th Avenue Drive NE
Hickory, NC

INFORMS – from top of page

Gulamali believes a person’s faith speaks about the harm being caused in people around them but some cannot recognize a voice drowned out by years of certain religious teaching.

Gulamali knows personally how certain religious teaching can at times be an impediment to better understanding. In his own journey, it was a period of silence that created an opportunity for better understanding and positive emotional, psychological and spiritual growth.

 A first generation American whose parents are from India, Gulamali is a proud Muslim. It is Islam that informs his sexuality as 25 years old and queer.

 “I grew up practicing Islam and I still practice Islam everyday,” says Gulamali. “I am very proud to say that I’m Muslim. I’m also queer. I came out about six years ago now. It’s been a wonderful journey of growth. I wouldn’t be able to understand my queerness without being Muslim. And I wouldn’t be able to understand the nuances of my faith tradition without being queer. I’ve learned one informs the other.”

But when moving to North Carolina to attend Wake Forest  University, the closest worship service for him as a Shia Muslim was more than 25 miles away.

He recognizes that silence – particularly for young LGBTQ persons – can be a form of rejection when parents, siblings or peers refuse to acknowledge the young person’s process of understanding his or her sexual orientation or gender identity. But when it comes to religious teachings that promote misunderstanding or hostility, the absence of such verbalized condemnation or rejection can foster positive emotional, psychological and spiritual outcomes.

 “Silence is not OK either but silence really helped me to understand and then reflect on the fact that nothing specifically is said about homosexuality in the Koran,” he says. “What it does preach is pluralism and it teaches that celebration of diversity is very important. And it teaches that it is fundamentally important to remember God. That is the most important thing and nothing else matters. Remembrance of God is only possible through deep reflection and love.”

Gulamali says he heard very little negative religious attitudes expressed toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons when he was young and being reared in a predominately South Asian community in Orlando, Fla. Reflecting on that period when he was 11 years olds and fundamentally understood he was different in terms of his sexuality, he believes that was an important aspect of his personal growth as a young LGBTQ person.

He says he speaks with other lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals who were reared in environments where negative religious attitudes were present and he understands how harmful that can be to a young person.

 “Silence is not OK but silence really helped me to understand and then reflect on the fact that nothing specifically is said about homosexuality in the Koran,” he says. “What it does preach is pluralism and it teaches that celebration of diversity is very important. And it teaches that it is

fundamentally important to remember God. That is the most important thing and nothing else matters. Remembrance of God is only possible through deep reflection and love.”

In regards to persons of faith who still hold negative religious attitudes toward LGBTQ individuals, Gulamali sees the progress being made in changing those attitudes but he knows that the journey toward better understanding for those persons isn’t a day-trip.

“It is easier to get people to understand that we as humans deserve to live the best lives that we can,” he says. “Someone who believes a certain thing is not going to change in a day. Trying to convince them what is right and wrong is not productive in my lens. What’s important is helping them understand that our liberation is tied to each other. When we help individuals understand that if we help our trans sister of color live the best life that she can, then we in turn are putting policies in place and putting measures in place that help us make our collective lives easier.”

A Pew Research Center survey conducted this year found that 52 percent of U.S. Muslims say homosexuality should be accepted by society. In contrast, only 34 percent of white evangelical Protestants believed in 2016 that homosexuality should be accepted by society. 

The rate at which white evangelicals are shifting their views is slower than the rate for Muslims.  White evangelicals shifted their views by 11 percentage points between 2006 and 2016. Muslims’ acceptance of homosexuality shot up by 25 percentage points between 2007 and 2017. 

Read the full study.

The data doesn’t suggest those Muslims became affirming at the expense of their faith.

Gulamali believes it is important to help non-affirming persons of faith understand the spiritual growth that occurs when a person no longer harbors prejudice or bigotry toward other individuals or groups of individuals. “When you come to understand someone else, you have the ability to grow from that experience,” he says.

He is hopeful that affirming churches and affirming persons of faith within non-affirming churches will continue to be a driving force behind changing religious attitudes toward LGBTQ persons.

“As Muslims, we are all about taking words and putting them into action,” he said. “There are many different types of Muslims and there are many Muslims in the United States. It only takes one individual within each congregation who understands the importance of community engagement and being culturally competent in community engagement and being culturally humble in community engagement. That person can help others in the congregation understand what that looks like. I think that is a huge void that we can fill.”

Gulamali has hope for future generations in terms of being able to authentically embrace who they are and reconcile their faith with other parts of their identity.

“It’s not going to happen tomorrow,” he says. “What I keep in mind is that our LGBTQ ancestors fought for us to be able to see what we see today. We are fighting today so that a future generation will see a more just society.”

SPEARMAN – from top of page

Spearman’s indictment against that distinct strain of Christianity is much more than fodder for a sermon. It comes from many years as a leader in various social justice movements, from African American Civil Rights, LGBTQ Equality, criminal justice reform and others.

He cites the current debate of Civil War Monuments as an area in which Christian complacency must be replaced with leadership.

North Carolina is a state that has one of the highest number of Civil War Monuments and a majority of those monuments are on courthouse grounds.

As an advocate for laws and policy that address inequities for African Americans in the criminal justice system, Spearman sees the placement of those monuments on courthouse grounds as more than just irony or coincidence.

“I doubt that very seriously,” Spearman says. “There is more intentionality than we even give thought to in regard to these monuments. These monuments were erected when white supremacy, Jim Crow and segregation were going on and there were attempts to memorialize the North versus South fight. These monuments are filled with hatred.”

Spearman says he considers the toppling of a Civil War statue in Durham last month as a courageous act by the young woman who was arrested for allegedly leading the effort.

Former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in 2015 signed a law that prevents removing, relocating, or altering monuments, memorials, plaques and other markers that are on public property without permission from the N.C. Historical Commission.

“These monuments are so holy and so scared now it is like it is a sin to tear them down,” he said. 

He recalls how an activist in South Carolina in 2015 took down the Confederate Flag that flew above the S.C. Capitol Building. That activist also was arrested but the S.C. Legislature voted the next month to discontinue flying the flag.

That episode followed the death of eight African American churchgoers in Charleston, S.C. at the hands of a self-avowed white supremacist.

Durham’s statue toppling followed the death of a 23-year-old female activist in Charlottesville, Va., after a man who reportedly sympathized with white supremacists drove his car into a crowd of peaceful counter-protesters.

“Why is it that in America blood has to be spilled before there is change,” Spearman asks.

He has personally worked to free imprisoned African Americans after they were wrongly convicted of crimes and he is not the only one who has taken note that many of North Carolina’s monuments are on courthouse grounds. “All those years, black people had to go to court, walk past this sign, and think you were going to get justice?” Tia Hall, an attendee at the Durham statue protest, was quoted to say in an article in “The Atlantic.”

And while there may be some who will argue for a historical significance to the Civil War monuments, few could doubt how the statues affect African Americans – memorializing a segment of a society that once believed slavery was a just and worthy cause. An unknown number of Christian pastors not only agreed but gave God’s blessing, according to H. Shelton Smith’s accounting.

A segment in H. Shelton Smith’s book posits that white Christians’ embrace of slavery and segregation is a chief reason the Christian church in America became segregated along racial lines– and for a large extent it remains that way today.

And while Spearman is remarkably attuned to the oppression of African Americans, his critique of the Christian church goes beyond racial injustice. He understands how a “distinct strain” of Christianity has been oppressive not only toward African Americans but other minorities.

“When you look at it analytically, you can’t help but come away with the understanding that there is a distinct strain of Christianity that is counter to Jesus,” Spearman states. “It goes against everything that Jesus stood for.”

Spearman says it is hard for him to understand how evangelical Christians – who often cast themselves as most endeared to the teachings of Christ – could have supported a candidate who played upon strife and social division while rejecting a candidate whose campaign messages included words like love, kindness and compassion for others.

That is what Spearman finds most perplexing if not vexing  – an inability or unwillingness for some Christians to discern between that which is of Christ and that which is not. More specifically in terms of furthering spiritual relationship is how or why some Christians cannot see the disastrous effect that such sanctioning of prejudice and bigotry is having on the Christian faith.

“I believe the gates of hell are prevailing against the church,” Spearman says. “And what is worse is that many Christians don’t seem to be aware of how the gates of hell are prevailing. They are living their lives blind sighted. They don’t realize, the person we call the Groom of the church – Jesus the founder of the church – is no longer there.”

Spearman speaks with a prophetic voice when he alludes to the consequence of a church that has fallen so far away from the teachings of Christ.

“I find it frightful,” he said.

But just as H. Shelton Smith identifies that handful of churches and pastors who could see their African American neighbors as equally God’s image, Spearman is hopeful that more than a handful are ready to step forward to re-establish that relational covenant.

“If what I read in the Bible, especially the Gospel account, has any resemblance to what needs to happen, there weren’t a whole lot of folk with Jesus,” he says. “He doesn’t need a lot of folks. He just needs committed folks. So I do have optimism that if enough of them come together, I believe a new dawning can take place and will take place. I’m hopeful enough to believe that is a possibility. As I told a group the other day, I believe a eucatastrophe is on the way from God Almighty. I believe that.”

Many in North Carolina’s faith communities believe the time is right. 

The articles and information presented in this feature are complied, researched and written by ENC faith outreach staff. Contact Faith Outreach Director Brent Childers at brent@equalitync.org with comments or suggestion for stories from within your faith community.
Copyright © 2017 • EqualityNC • All rights reserved.


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