“Where are leading Black pastors, honorary inductees, and leading Black churches protesting the induction of an openly homosexual man into the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Board of Preachers at Morehouse University?–BCN1”

This question is being posed on the website of Black Christian News Network One. The challenge is for “godly” people to protest the induction of Bishop Oliver Clyde Allen III, who told Ebony Magazine he’s been married to Rashad Burgess since 2002 (legally since 2009), and together they parent two children.

Allen will not be the first gay minister to be inducted into the revered pantheon of preachers—the now-deceased Rev. Peter J. Gomes, who taught at Harvard University, holds that honor. However, Allen may be the first who is married and living openly as a homosexual.

Morehouse College spokeswoman Elise Durham told the AFRO that a minister’s sexuality is not part of the consideration for potential inductees.

The institution issues no releases or statements as to the identity of the inductees. It merely sends individual notification of the nomination inquiring whether or not the honor will be accepted and the ceremony attended, according to the Morehouse personnel office.

Allen made the announcement March 13 on his Facebook page.

The issue was originally raised on the site of Obnoxioustv.news, which BCN1 cited as a source. BCN1 said this move will “diminish the honor of being named to the Board of Preachers to nothing,” and that “many are going to ask to have their names taken off the list.”

Durham said the college has received no pushback or public outcry, however.

“We have not gotten any blowback whatsoever,” she said, noting the lack of mainstream media coverage of the issue.

Allen was featured in the April 2013 issue of Ebony, along with his husband and their daughter, Cayle, under the banner of “The Coolest Black Family in America.”

A Morgan State University and Morehouse graduate from Los Angeles, the bishop is the pastor of the 3,500-member Vision Church in Atlanta. Burgess is the former branch chief at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the Ebony article, Allen talks about how he reconciled his faith with his sexuality.

“I’ve always been groomed to pastor, but of course my sexuality was always a personal question of mine—even when I reconciled my theology and I was very clear that God loved me and I wasn’t going to Hell,” he said.

It took his family a little longer, he said.

“My mother initially didn’t know how to embrace it,” Allen said. “After getting to know Rashad, and seeing that he was a responsible man who not only loved me but was willing to take care of me and build a life with me, she developed respect for him.”

There are some who see Allen’s openly gay marriage and induction as something to be celebrated.

“Black men and their sexuality is an unnecessary struggle that folks are resisting accepting, especially black men that enjoy having sex with other men in secret: men that are openly married to women, dating women, or just pretending to be celibate,” wrote blogger William G. McCray.

He later added, “Bishop Allen (Clay) is a personal friend that refused to lie and hide. Kudos to him!”


Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO