One could argue that there’s no harder place to be a gay man than the church, and if you’re a preacher, that goes double. “You can be a lot of things in the black church, but, Lord, do not be gay,” so says Iyanla Vanzant who is helping two “down low” pastors come out of the closest on her OWN TV Show, Iyanla Fix My Life.
The three-part series kicked off Saturday night with an introduction to Revered Derek Terry, a 30-year-old minister from a southern black family who was ordained at 19, and Pastor Mitchell, a Kentucky minister who was once married with five children and who preached against homosexuality while sleeping with men behind his wife’s back. Neither man has revealed his true sexual identity to his family nor his congregation, with Revered Terry barely even being able to acknowledge his homosexuality to himself.
“When I hear myself say I am a gay man, I feel hurt. It makes me feel substandard. It makes me feel petrified. I feel lonely; the loneliness I feel is [that] no one will love me.”
It’s those feelings Vanzant will help both preachers work through in the coming weeks as they share the back story of their double lives and battles with depression and thoughts of suicide.
“The pastors’ stories touched me because they have an opportunity to touch so many people’s lives, and people to go to church, particularly the black church, seeking a level of solace and guidance and direction and if these men aren’t clean within themselves, with God, there’s no way that they can be guiding and supporting and directing people,” Vanzant said.
“When you stand courageously, you give people permission to do the same.I don’t know where we get the scripture and the understanding that gay people can’t love the Lord or be accepted by the Lord.”
According to Vanzant, after minister Terry’s reveal some 20 members of his church also came forward about their own struggles with their sexuality. As the series continues, such revealings will likely increase across black churches in the country. Did you catch episode 1 Saturday? What did you think?