Baptist pastor Allyson Abrams resigns after marrying a woman, launches new church

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When Bishop Allyson Abrams wed in March, she officially made her commitment to her new life partner, Bishop Diana Williams.

For Abrams, it was her first same-sex relationship. She was previously married to a man but when that ended in divorce, Abrams re-married after she fell in love with her spouse.

At the time, Abrams presided over the Zion Progress Baptist Church in Detroit, Mich. She and Williams made the decision to withhold the news from the church and waited to tell close family members and friends first.

“It was a spiritual connection from the beginning and we talked and continued to talk,” Abrams told theGrio in a phone interview. “Our paths had crossed before many years ago and many times before. But we talked a lot and discussed scripture a lot and decided where we both were and what our relationship would be.”

The two wed in Iowa, where gay marriage is legal. For several months, they managed to keep their relationship under wraps, but Abrams ultimately decided to share the news with her congregation in early October.

Immediately after doing so, she also submitted her resignation from the church.

“It was a pastoral decision, it was in the best interest of keeping the church together,” Abrams said.  “The church was embarking on its 60-year anniversary and it was my desire to make sure the church remained together.”

“Some people did want me to stay and did show their support and love.  Naturally, there were a few that did not, so the best thing to do would be to resign and move on to whatever God has in store,” she added.

In doing so, Abrams recently decided to build her own church in Detroit that will address topics and issues she believes most traditional churches and their sermons fail to deliver. While the name of the church has not been released, it is expected to launch in the next 30-45 days.

“A lot of churches still have to deal with old doctrines and the old mindset,” she said. “You have to do lots of teaching and some digesting of scripture and understand it on another level.”

Abrams says her new church will be built on a foundation concentrated on welcoming, transforming and liberating all those who attend. Meanwhile, her orations and activities will focus more on social justice and civil rights issues.

“All will be welcome, we’re not going to bash people or turn people away,” she said. “It’s not going to be an only gay church, it’s going to be God’s church.”

Thus far, she has received an outpouring of positive feedback from members of her former congregation who have encouraged her latest venture and promised their continued support.

“I’ve had people tell me to let them know if I’m preaching anywhere else. I’ve gotten so many responses from people on the internet and they have been so positive,” Abrams said.

However, while the majority of the responses have been helpful, Abram’s overall journey has not been an easy one.

When news of her marriage first became public, Abrams faced criticism and scrutiny from some members of the clergy and the community. These reactions only fueled the negative backlash, but Abrams admitted that she didn’t care to address them.

“I don’t read the negative comments, my spouse does – but I won’t,” she said. “She’s told me there [were] right-wing evangelistic type of people who had most of the bad things to say and I didn’t want to read the comments they were posting.”

Instead, it is the discrimination she says she felt from members of the ministry, and the males in particular, which has been more bothersome for her.

“There is a discrimination against the leadership that I don’t think should be there. Discrimination from some in the church,” Abrams said.

“I want to see the discrimination go down. It‘s a male-dominated group, you have lots of male pastors in the Baptist church. Women are discriminated against often by the church when it comes to being a pastor and besides the heterosexism you have to deal with, there’s the sexist piece and the homosexual piece.”

As a way to reduce this, Abrams proposes that certain public policies be put in place to help end what she refers to as “biblical bullying.”

“The church really needs to be overhauled in its thinking,” she said. “A lot of it deals with culture, especially the black culture, which has termed certain things taboo. We don’t talk about sexuality and homophobia.”

“The church is supposed to be a place of healing and experience the love of Christ and the love of God,” she added.

For now, Abrams – who also formerly served as Vice President of her local NAACP chapter – continues to preside as bishop over the Pneuma Christian Fellowship, an organization she founded to train, teach and empower pastors in their work.

Abrams’ spouse has retired from being a pastor at Imani Temple African-American Catholic Congregation in Washington, D.C.  but she currently serves as the general secretary of Abram’s fellowship.

As for her family and friends, Abrams – who has three children from her previous marriage — says they have all been supportive and only wish her the best.

“My family has shown love to me and [Diana] and they are a loving family,” Abrams said. “In general, they said they love me and they support me in my happiness.”

Follow Lilly Workneh on Twitter @Lilly_Works