The voiceless disappearing flock, again

Three months ago, I threw a fit about a St. Paul Pioneer Press report that focused on a black pastor who lost three-fourths of his congregation after endorsing same-sex marriage.

Don't get me wrong: That's certainly a newsworthy angle for a story.

My complaint: The report's miserable lack of opposing viewpoints — more precisely, the total absence of input from any of the people who left. I whined:

Based on my calculations, the heroic pastor’s church lost 150 out of its 200 members, yet the story names nor quotes not a single one of them. They are guilty as charged, based on this story. No need to give them a voice.

Also guilty as charged are other black ministers in the city. No need to give them a voice:

Since my post in March, the Rev. Oliver White has become a rebel whose cause the national media seem to love. From The Associated Press to the Wall Street Journal to Religion News Service, his plight has received sympathetic treatment. (RNS actually has written about White at least twice.)

As for the voiceless disappearing flock referenced earlier? I'm still waiting to hear from them.

The Star-Tribune came close to quoting someone who left, giving a voice to a pastor who previously rented space from White's congregation:

Pastor Donald Keith and his wife used to attend services at Grace Community. He leads a small Seventh-day Adventist congregation that once rented space at Grace Community for its services. But after Keith discovered White supported same-sex marriage, he moved his congregation of about a dozen or so to another location.

"We knew our rental money was supporting the church," Keith said. "When he came out and definitely said homosexuality was not a sin, we said 'Whoa, this is a pastor. How is he calling himself "reverend"? It's not compatible with what the Bible teaches.'

"I think he was offended because we abruptly left," Keith said. "Pastors have a responsibility to teach the Bible truth. We have no right to distort what the Bible has to say. We didn't want to support him at all if that's the way he believed."

CNN featured White over the weekend in a story with this headline:

Pastor risks church for his principles

The (by now) predictable opening of the 1,400-word report:

St. Paul, Minnesota (CNN)–Before Sunday morning services, the Rev. Oliver White looked at the rows of empty pews in his tiny St. Paul, Minnesota, church without regret.

"If this was a mistake," White said, "then I will make the mistake all over again."

In 2005, White made a costly decision.

At the United Church of Christ's annual synod in Atlanta, White was among delegates voting in favor of a resolution supporting same-sex marriage.

When word of his vote reached St. Paul, White's congregation quietly revolted. Two-thirds of the church's members vanished in just a few weeks, and they never came back.

White goes on to explain that his African-American congregants thought he was a heretic not leading them to Christ.

What do the former congregants say? Oh, wait, never mind ...

CNN does quote the dissenting voice of a black pastor (along with the Seventh-day Adventist mentioned by the Star-Tribune):

The Rev. Jerry McAfee, an African-American and president of the Minnesota State Baptist Convention, disagrees with White's view that homophobia is to blame for his church's problems with the black community.

"This debate is so crazy. Those of us who will disagree with that lifestyle, they will want to say we're homophobic, that we're narrow-minded. Just stuff that's nonsense," McAfee said.

McAfee said he sees a belief system at work among African-Americans that goes beyond teachings of the Bible.

"There's just something about (same-sex marriage) in their minds that (doesn't) seem right."

Now, McAfee either didn't make his point real clearly or CNN quoted him out of context, but those second two paragraphs don't make a whole lot of sense. Or maybe it's just me ...

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