A Sanctuary for LGBT African-Americans In DC

Jim Burroway

July 27th, 2009

Bishop Rainey Cheeks (in blue) prays with youth during a service at Inner Light Ministries (Nikki Kahn/Washington Post)

Bishop Rainey Cheeks (in blue) prays with youth during a service at Inner Light Ministries (Nikki Kahn/Washington Post)

This Sunday’s Washington Post highlighted Inner Light Ministries, a Black church in Northeast Washington, D.C., in which some two-thirds of the congregation are gay:

In the middle of a sermon, Bishop Rainey Cheeks felt his medicine bottle bulging in his pocket and realized he hadn’t taken his pills. He paused in the pulpit and faced the congregation in his tiny storefront church.

“Excuse me,” Cheeks remembers telling his parishioners last year as he poured three pills into his hand. “This is my HIV medicine. I’m going to take it now.”

As he washed down the pills with water, Cheeks saw some members staring with wide eyes. Everybody knew that their pastor, an imposing man with flowing dreadlocks who once competed in taekwondo championships, is gay. But not everyone knew that he is HIV-positive.

Inner Light Ministries is providing an important sanctuary for Black gay people, who often feel rejected by both the African-American community as well as the LGBT community. The ministry also provides a vital link for those who are dealing with the additional prejudice and stigma associated with being HIV-positive. Bishop Cheeks is worried about the complacency the younger generation has about HIV/AIDS, which he sees as a dangerous mix of believing it to be “manageable” disease and believing that it’s what they deserve:

“Most messages . . . to young folk is if you’re gay or lesbian, you’re going to hell,” [Bishop Cheeks] said. “So why take responsibility if you’re already condemned?

“They need to understand God loves them. But they also need to be accountable for their sexual behavior. Not everything goes.”

Pender

July 27th, 2009

What a wonderful thing. Thanks for publicizing this church, Jim; getting its name out there in DC as an alternative to corrosive hate-based faith could do wonders for the lives of a lot of people.

(I hope they don’t take away my bitter atheist card for this comment!)

Aaron

July 27th, 2009

I agree Pender, it is so good to see the Body of Christ actually “being christian”.

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