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Human Rights Campaign urges Black church LGBTQ acceptance via video

The video features prominent church leaders and LGBTQ advocates sharing their perspectives — and sometimes evolving attitudes — on LGBTQ identity while images highlight Black history and congregational life.

Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David speaks during the 37th annual HRC New England dinner on Nov. 23, 2019, in Boston. The annual event brings hundreds of LGBTQ advocates and allies together for an evening of celebration across greater New England. (Josh Reynolds/AP Images for Human Rights Campaign)

(RNS) — The pro-LGBTQ Human Rights Campaign has released a video encouraging greater acceptance of gay, lesbian and transgender people by Black churches.

The organization officially released “Stone of Hope,” a 17-minute video, on Wednesday (Feb. 24), timed to Black History Month. HRC is promoting it on social media after plans to screen it at Black houses of worship last year were halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Black LGBTQ people of faith have always been an integral part of the Black Church’s movement work, charting a course from oppression to liberation,” said HRC President Alphonso David, in a statement. “However critical, vital, and profound their contributions have been, Black LGBTQ people of faith have often been written out of the story.”

The video features prominent church leaders, HRC staffers and LGBTQ advocates sharing their perspectives — and sometimes evolving attitudes — on LGBTQ identity while images highlight Black history and the congregational life of African Americans.

For example, the Rev. Howard-John Wesley, pastor of Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia, describes in the film how he once declared “there’s no such thing as a gay Christian” after the 2003 Massachusetts Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage.


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The Rev. Howard-John Wesley appears in the “Stone of Hope” video produced by Human Rights Campaign. Video screengrab via HRC

The Rev. Howard-John Wesley appears in the “Stone of Hope” video produced by Human Rights Campaign. Video screengrab via HRC

“I didn’t believe you could modify the term ‘Christian’ with ‘gay’ because I thought gay was sinful,” he said of his time as a pastor in the Bay State. “That’s where I stood at 25. Where I stand at 46, I’m much different and, prayerfully, we all have that journey.”

The video release comes a year after HRC coordinated a 2020 election-season tour during which David had planned to visit houses of worship of different faiths to foster relations between the LGBTQ and religious communities.

After his first stop at the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia on March 1, the tour ended due to the pandemic.

The short film is premiering a week after Pew Research Center released survey results on the faith of African Americans.

The Pew study found 62% of Black Americans say homosexuality should be accepted by society, compared with 57% of Black Protestants, 78% of Black Catholics and 75% of religiously unaffiliated Black people.

The title of the film, “Stone of Hope,” was drawn from a sentence in the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech: “With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.”

The King Memorial in Washington features a 30-foot sculpture of King’s likeness called the “Stone of Hope” that emerges from “A Mountain of Despair.”


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