The Rev. Gerald Palmer, founder of Word For The Soul Ministries, is challenging traditional church orthodoxy regarding Lesbian-Gay-Bi Sexual-Transgendered-Queer (LGBTQ) Christians and sexual orientation. His book, “The Church Has AIDS: Essays on Sexuality, Sexual Orientation, Taboos, and the Black Church” has arguably created a stir in some communities.
Palmer, 39, is from Kansas City, Mo. He’s a married heterosexual man and a strong advocate of LGBTQ civil and religious rights. He said his urban ministry is committed to winning souls for Christ by breaking down the barriers of homophobia.
Palmer said his ministry is one without walls. It’s primarily a virtual ministry that advocates and educates the public (and church leaders) about acceptance and tolerance of LGBTQ congregants in the church via a blog, website and social media presence. On his Facebook page, he has many people and organizations supporting his ministry.
“I have found that the best approach for my ministry was to go cyber,” he said. “So, a lot of what I do is basically online, via Facebook, emails, and blogs, and things like that.” Palmer’s passion flows from a concern that traditional church communities are often cold and blatantly unwelcoming to members of the LGBTQ community.
Palmer said that as a result of his evolved theological beliefs and advocacy of LGBTQ tolerance, he revised his book to reflect his current worldview about LGBTQ Christians, and he re-launched his book.
“Actually, the book was put out in 2010, and because of certain circumstances, with me evolving on my theology, the actual push for the book was delayed and reset for a 2012 national release,” Palmer said.
“When the book was put out in October 2010, I was in a traditional Baptist church-African American congregation. [Serving as an associate minister] “I have always been an ally to the LGBTQ community, but I’ve never really been that open, until I released the book. And the book actually dealt with my three years hosting a gospel radio talk show [in Kansas City] that addressed HIV and AIDS in the black community.”
Palmer’s inroads into befriending and supporting the LGBTQ community stems from his professional social work experience serving as an HIV case manager. His mentor and pastor, the Rev. Eric Williams, also greatly influenced his advocacy work to minister to the LGBTQ community. Palmer earned his Master’s of Social Work degree at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Palmer provides an outlet of ministry service to those in the LGBTQ community who have felt or experienced biased treatment from mainstream churches. In 1972, the first major faith-based denomination in the United States to ordain openly gay clergy was the United Church of Christ. Liberal Protestant churches have also ordained openly gay or lesbian clergy to create church environments that are more gay-friendly and affirming.
Gay-friendly and affirming congregations are growing in America and internationally. According to Gaychurch.org, other church communities that are gay friendly/affirming churches include: First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, Affirming Pentecostal International, Evangelical Anglican Church in America, Catholic Apostolic Church in North America, Dignity USA (Roman Catholic), Oasis-Episcopal Churches, Mennonite-Brethren Council for Lesbian and Gay Concerns, G.L.A.D. Alliance-Disciples of Christ, and others.
According to Palmer, many LGBTQ Christians conceal their sexual orientation for fear of being ostracized, harshly ridiculed, or exiled from church affiliation. In 2010, the Rev. Jim Swilley, senior pastor and founder of Church in the Now, in Conyers, Ga. shocked his mega church congregation by coming out of the closet to publicly declare he was gay, according to an ABC/Good Morning America news report. Swilley, a married man and father of four, felt he couldn’t conceal his homosexuality any longer.
“I know a lot of straight people think orientation is a choice. I want to tell you that it is not,” Swilley said. “Many people say ‘I love you, but I cannot condone your sin or your choice.’
Palmer added, “And the way I looked at sexual orientation is that it’s not chosen. I don’t believe that, even as a straight man, I don’t remember the day that I chose to be straight. It’s like, many of my LGBT friends and family members can’t recall the day they chose to be attracted to the same sex.”
Palmer certainly has staunch critics that denounce his theological beliefs, as evidenced by Andy C. Wuhraizer, of Durham, NC. On the popular religious blog website Black Preaching Network, Wuhraizer takes Palmer to task on Biblical scriptures that denounce homosexuality. In one of his blog entries, Wuhraizer’s wrote, “Due to false teachings that are concocted by church founders, many Christians are obeying church, not Christ.”
The Holy Bible, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11outlines a list of unrepentant sinners that will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Included on the list are homosexual individuals.
Palmer can be reached at Word for The Soul Ministries, PO Box 18369, Kansas City, MO 64133, (816) 876-5924. The blog site is: www.word4thesoul.blogspot.com.