Black churches are becoming more gay-friendly

For years, there has been an unspoken but deeply prevalent don’t ask, don’t tell policy in the black church. But today, Duke University released data that show those days may be coming to an end.

Their research has found:

 “Acceptance of homosexual members in black protestant churches has surged of late. The percentage of churches accepting of gay and lesbian members has risen from 44 percent in 2006 to 62 percent in 2012.

Further, 22 percent of black churches reported being accepting of gays in volunteer leadership roles, up from 6.5 percent six years prior.”

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a spike in gay acceptance in the church. Just last year, Pope Francis made international news when he called on the Catholic Church to love gays and lesbians, who “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.”

Many applauded Francis for being so inclusive, but black congregations have historically been a lot more resistant to such progressive ideals — especially where homosexuality is concerned. Which begs the question: why have African-American churchgoers suddenly become so gay friendly?

Filmmaker Yoruba Richen speculates:

“What’s happening within the black church — and in the black community as a whole — is reflective of what’s happening in the country as a whole in terms of an opening to talking about sexuality and to supporting same-sex marriage.

Barack Obama came out for same-sex marriage, which I think affected a lot of people’s willingness to be open to the idea. The NAACP came out after Barack Obama. Many black churches and leaders of black churches started to come out and support marriage equality, many of whom have a national presence.”

Richen may be on to something, because Duke’s data came from the National Congregations Study, which in 2012 interviewed the leaders of 1,331 American churches, mosques, temples, synagogues and other houses of worship. 2012 is also the year President Obama “came out” in support of same sex marriage.

Is that a coincidence? Perhaps not.

Either way, these findings confirm what many LGBT Christians have started noticing around the country; generations of anti-gay prejudices within the black church are being dismantled.