New York Times and ABC Highlight LGBT-Affirming African-American Congregation

On Saturday, the New York Times highlighted the LGBT-inclusive ministry at Rivers at Rehoboth, a Harlem-based congregation in New York City, in its article “A Rare Haven for Gay Men and Lesbians in Harlem.” The congregation, which is formed as the merger of Rivers of Living Faith and Rehoboth Temple, has its roots in the Black church tradition, while maintaining an active outreach to the Black LGBT population.

The story comes at a time when there is increased scrutiny on African-American Christians and their relationship with LGBT people. Two weeks ago, President Obama stated his personal support for marriage equality and cited his Christian faith as a reason for his evolution on the topic. Since then, the media has been focused on the reaction of African-American churchgoers and preachers to the president’s endorsement.

While it is easy for the media to (incorrectly) portray the relationship between African-American and LGBT Americans as a universally hostile one, articles like this New York Times one highlights the growing support for LGBT Americans in Black Churches across the country.

One of the pastors at Rivers at Rehoboth is Joseph Tolton. Pastor Tolton is also gaining prominence by speaking about the growing support for marriage equality among African-Americans. Tolton is one of the main organizers of the “No Wedge 2012:  A Memo to Black America” campaign, in which Civil Rights, LGBT and faith leaders all gathered to address the “wedge” tactics that have been used by conservative, anti-gay groups to “divide” the Black vote on the single issue of marriage equality. GLAAD worked with Tolton and other African-American faith leaders in launching the campaign.

Tolton also spoke of his and his congregation’s support for marriage equality with Sandra Bookman of Here and Now, a program of New York-based WABC dedicated to covering the issues and interests of the African-American community. Tolton explained to Bookman how his congregation sees God’s support for love and for committed couples.

GLAAD commends Pastor Joseph Tolton, and all those at Rivers at Rehoboth who share the message of God’s love with all people. We are proud to be working with Pastor Tolton to speak out about the growing acceptance of LGBT people within the Black Church. The New York Times article offered a portrait of a Black Christian congregation who is a part of the growing support for LGBT people.