Despite Cathedral of Hope’s gift, church where pastor backed marriage equality forced to move

White.Oliver

The Rev. Oliver White

We first told you back in March about Grace Community United Church of Christ in St. Paul, Minn., the predominantly African-American congregation that lost 72 percent of its membership after its pastor, the Rev. Oliver White, signed a resolution in support of marriage equality at a UCC conference in 2005.

With Grace UCC facing the prospect of having to close its doors, White had sent a letter to 40 other UCC congregations across the country seeking donations. After Dallas’ predominantly LGBT Cathedral of Hope, the UCC’s fourth-largest congregation, responded to White’s letter with a $15,000 “miracle donation,” the story went national and was picked up by The Washington Post.

But as COH member and Dallas Voice columnist Hardy Haberman explained in May, the Cathedral’s donation was really just a drop in the bucket, and Grace Community UCC needed to raise nearly $200,000 by July 1 to pay off its high-interest loan on the building. The church still needed a miracle — and while the national media attention had helped with donations, it had also led to death threats against White and shots being fired near the church during a wedding.

Which brings us to last Friday, when White announced that rather than extend a deadline for the loan payment, Grace UCC has opted to leave its worship space, and will instead take the $55,000 the church has raised and look for a new home. From the Star Tribune:

After days of tense negotiating this week between the church and the investor holding the loan, Grace leadership decided it did not want to keep paying to stay in the beige stucco building on the East Side of St. Paul.

White says it will be sad saying goodbye to the space congregants worshiped in for nearly 12 years, but he hopes to buy a new church using the nearly $55,000 he’s received from dozens of churches, groups and individuals nationwide.

“I’m overwhelmed with a lot of belief in the power of humankind,” he said. “It’s been an amazing display of human kindness. There will be sadness [when the congregation leaves]. But it’s still a building. We are the church. We don’t have to be in that building to be Grace Community Church.”

 

—  John Wright

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

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:

—  John Wright