How the Cathedral of Hope saved a black church that nearly became a martyr for marriage equality

Posted on 02 Mar 2012 at 8:12am

The Rev. Jo Hudson

In today’s Voice we have a column by local leatherman and regular contributor Hardy Haberman about the straight pastor of a predominantly African-American church in St. Paul, Minn., whose support for marriage equality cost him 72 percent of his flock and now poses a financial threat to the very survival of his congregation.

Haberman focuses on how the pastor, the Rev. Oliver White of Grace Community United Church, did the right thing regardless of the potential consequences when he voted in favor of a resolution supporting marriage equality at a United Church of Christ meeting in 2005.

Haberman reports that he got wind of White’s predicament when his own pastor, the Rev. Jo Hudson at Cathedral of Hope UCC in Dallas, issued an appeal on behalf of Grace Community UCC during a recent service.

On Thursday, Religion News Service and the Washington Post picked up this same story, shedding some light on the ensuing response from Haberman’s fellow worshippers at the Cathedral.

Turns out, although White sent letters seeking financial assistance to 40 UCC congregations across the country, he got only three responses — one for $500, one for $600 and “a miracle donation from Dallas.” The donation from the Cathedral, raised during two services on the same Sunday, totaled $15,000 and has allowed Grace Community UCC to keep its doors open, at least for now.

The Cathedral, commonly referred to as the world’s largest gay church, also happens to be UCC’s fourth-largest congregation.

Below is a snippet from the WaPo piece, which you can and should read in its entirety by going here:

The cathedral’s senior pastor, the Rev. Jo Hudson, was preparing a sermon for Lent and felt led to revisit the letter from Minnesota that had been sitting on her desk.

“I didn’t know how to respond to the letter at first,” she said. “I began reflecting on my sermon and Black History Month … which led me to the letter.”

Hudson said she knew her church would have a chance to live out its stewardship theme for the year, ‘Every Gift Matters,’ and White’s letter offered the chance to stand by a church that stood up for gay rights years before.

After just the first service, members contributed more than $7,000. The second service contribution raised the total to almost $14,000. The church kicked in another $1,000 to make it an even $15,000.

“Jo called right after church and said they had raised $13,000. Then she called again and said it was now $15,000 and she was sending two delegates … to present the money,” White recalled. “It literally took my breath away.”

On Sunday (Feb. 26), two Cathedral of Hope parishioners delivered the check to White’s congregation.

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