The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

LGBT Affirming BLACK Churches' Responses To Homophobia, and The HIV/AIDS Crisis

Saturday, January 18, 2014: 5:00 PM
Marriott Riverwalk, Alamo Ballroom Salon F, 2nd Floor Elevator Level BR (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Terrence O. Lewis, PhD, Assistant Professor, Augsburg College, Minneapolis, MN
There is a psychosexual health crisis in the African American community, with disproportionate rates of HIV / AIDS infections and poorer medical treatment outcomes for Black men and women (Fullilove, 2006; CDC, 2010).   In contrast to the homophobic responses of most Black Churches, some Black Churches are offering an affirmative ministry for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) individuals.  This dissertation examines how these ministries developed and what strategies they employ in response to the HIV/AIDS health crisis.  Building on Stigmatization theory, Queer theory, and previous research on Black Churches, I construct a conceptual framework for interpreting this phenomenon. Using the Heuristic methodology, I explore the historical, theological, and practical dimensions of four LGBT-affirming African American ministries.

            During a period of four to six weeks with each church, I conducted two narrative interviews with the pastors, 15 to 20 hours of observation of ministry activities, and a review of church documents regarding relationships with the LGBT community.  Using narrative analysis and grounded theory, I analyzed the interviews, documents and observational field notes for evidence of the LGBT affirmative ministry.   I constructed holistic profiles of each church and a composite profile of the four.

            All four pastors credited formal theological education, divine revelation, and personal experiences with the LGBT community as foundations of their affirmative theologies. Two of the pastors self-identified as members of the LGBT community; LGBT inclusion was the central focus of their ministries. The other two pastors integrated LGBT inclusion into a broad based social justice ministry that focused on multiple oppressions, including racism and sexism.  All four pastors seek to provide a ministry that heals the psychological, spiritual, and physical harm that homophobic Black churches inflict on LGBT Black folk. All four pastors seek to discourage behaviors that contribute to the proliferation of HIV/AIDS. Each pastor offered LGBT affirmative strategies for decreasing LGBT stigmatization and HIV infections in the Black community