Even as marriage equality gains momentum around the country, ministers who speak out in favor of same-sex marriage still face serious consequences. The Rev. Oliver White, an African-American minister in the United Church of Christ saw his congregation in South Saint Paul saw his congregation plummet from 320 to 70 and lost its building after White voted in favor of recognizing same-sex marriages at the UCC’s General Synod in 2005. But he and his parish are carrying on.
Samuel G. Freedman of The New York Times has the story:
For Mr. White, 2012 contained a piercing paradox. His advocacy of marriage equality brought him national media attention; he was profiled on CNN and named a “Brave Thinker” by The Atlantic magazine. President Obama endorsed same-sex marriage. By outward appearances, time seemed to have caught up with Mr. White.
Yet he remained a preacher without a pulpit, doing guest sermons at this or that local church, trying to hold on to the remnant of Grace Community’s dwindling congregation. Entering his 70s, he was surviving as a schoolteacher and a part-time van driver. With marriage equality an especially volatile issue in Minnesota — a statewide measure essentially banning it was defeated in November 2012 — he received a steady stream of hate mail and threatening phone calls.
“Many times, I did ask, ‘Why me?’ “ Mr. White recalled. “I had nothing. No money. No congregation. Who am I? My colleagues are building new churches, have great choirs, get lots of amens. Wouldn’t I love to preach at a church like that? And the only thing that gave me comfort was to think, ‘If not me, then who?’ “