Reactions to Kim Burrell’s Anti-Gay Comments Reveals Divide Among Black Churches

Kim Burrell at a 2013 tribute to Whitney Houston in Los Angeles. (Invision/AP)
Kim Burrell at a 2013 tribute to Whitney Houston in Los Angeles. (Invision/AP)

More than 1 million people watched Kim Burrell rail against “that perverted homosexual spirit” in a controversial sermon clip that led to the gospel singer getting pulled from a performance on “Ellen” and facing ongoing backlash from LGBT advocates.

Burrell was scheduled to perform a song from the “Hidden Figures” soundtrack with Pharrell on “Ellen” this week, but the host canceled Burrell’s invitation. Pharrell called her a “fantastic singer,” but said, “There’s no space, there’s no room for any kind of prejudice in 2017.”

She had been named a co-honoree at next weekend’s BMI Trailblazers of Gospel Music Awards, but the organization uninvited her due to the recent remarks. Also, her radio show — airing out of Texas Southern University — has been canceled.

For many viewers, it was jarring to hear the crowd cheer as Burrell warned her Love and Liberty Fellowship Church that “if you play with [homosexual sin] in 2017, you’ll die from it.” But for some raised in black churches, her message didn’t come as a surprise.

“As someone who has spent countless years in counseling because of the hurtful things said to me in the black church, I must admit that I wasn’t surprised when I saw the video,” wrote Jonathan Higgins on The Root. “What surprises me is that there are still people who are shocked that there are still folks in the black church who continue to feel this way.”

African Americans’ views on same-sex marriage have not changed as much as those of other racial groups over the past several years, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center report. One-third of black Protestants and 41 percent of black Americans overall support same-sex marriage.

As Burrell restated on Facebook this week, she directed her Sunday sermon at LGBT people within her church, a Pentecostal congregation she founded in Houston in 2010. A two-minute clip of the message, filmed on a phone and posted on YouTube, shows Burrell describing sex acts and saying, “The spirit of delusion and confusion, it has deceived many men and women, and it’s caused a stain on the body of Christ.”

She also called out prosperity pastor Eddie Long, who was accused of sexual misconduct by multiple young men in his ministry before settling the cases out of court in 2011.

“Watching Bishop Eddie Long go down to nothing is an embarrassment to the church,” she shouted.

Fellow black Christians spoke up among Burrell’s critics, using the incident as a wake-up call over the rhetoric against gay Christians.

“Burrell has the right to preach whatever she wants to her church members but as black folks in general we have got to do better. We have the right to expect more from our spiritual leaders,” wrote Charles Easley at the Huffington Post, encouraging fellow members of the LGBT community to seek out congregations that reflect their values.

Some Christians who share Burrell’s belief that homosexuality is a sin took issue with her tone and the way she preached about it in the clip, telling her church to “beg God to free you” from homosexuality and calling it “a spirit of confusion and delusion.”

Rayshawn Graves, a pastoral assistant at an evangelical church in Virginia, described the tendency for Christians to attribute same-sex attraction to a spirit, a force that “causes or influences sinful behavior” and that “people can be delivered from through various means.”

“This sort of labeling of ‘spirits’ and classifying people with worse sins than others is more harmful than helpful because it puts up a barrier of hostility,” he wrote in a post about Burrell on the Reformed African American Network site. “This enables those who wrestle with and willfully persist in certain sins to hide in fear or reject the good news that is offered to all sinners.”

At a revival service Wednesday at a Baptist megachurch in Maryland, Grammy award-winning Gospel singer Shirley Caesar came to Burrell’s defense. “You should’ve said something four years ago when our president made that stuff all right,” she said.

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SOURCE: The Washington Post
Kate Shellnutt

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