The Atlanta pastor heralded for criticizing the hypocrisy of churches for preaching against LGBT equality while profiting off their gay members wants to make it clear: He's against gay marriage and not an LGBT advocate.
A 4-minute excerpt from a recent sermon of Rev. E. Dewey Smith, Jr., pastor of House of Hope Atlanta on Flat Shoals Parkway in Decatur, was posted to YouTube on Thursday. (Watch below) Since, it has been viewed nearly 432,000 times. Widespread media attention soon followed.
And why not? The fiery preaching of a black megachurch pastor chiding colleagues for exploiting the talents of LGBT congregants while condemning them from the pulpit makes for a great story.
“And God said to me, here's the problem. You guys in the church can be so hypocritical. He said in the African-American church you really got to be careful. I said what do you mean. He said because you are guilty of condemning the Supreme Court system and preaching against something but if you look at half of our choirs and a great number of our artists that we call abominations, that we call demons, we demonize and dehumanize, the same people that we use and we don't say nothing about the gay choir director because he's good for business. As long as the choir sounds good, I ain't saying nothing about his sexuality.”
Turns out, Smith wasn't prepared for the attention he received as the video went viral. And he certainly wasn't interested in being held up as supportive of LGBT equality. On Tuesday, he came clean – about the sermon, his anti-gay preaching, his clunky stereotypes and that he's only a few steps removed from the anti-gay pastors he seemed to condemn a few days earlier.
“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”.
And lest anyone wonder, he's a “proud heterosexual” who has traded in anti-gay rhetoric in the past.
“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.
Just to be clear, Smith stresses again that he's not too far removed from the behavior he criticizes in the video clip – demonizing LGBT people and calling them “nasty.”
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.
Smith also wants to address any misconceptions about his criticism of pastors who invoke Leviticus to knock the gays. That was a comedic riff. Get it? So funny.
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?
And then, employing a trick favored by politicians, Smith blamed the media for making him seem tolerant.
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”.
Point taken, pastor.
[h/t GA Voice]