- (Photo: Reuters / Shannon Stapleton)
A growing number of black congregations are accepting and welcoming gays through church doors.
According to Lina Ocasio of NJ.com, while black pastors generally still oppose same sex marriage, they are accepting gay congregants.
“I think anyone who is gay or lesbian or whatever should be welcome in all of our churches. That shouldn’t be a question," said Rev. Reginald T. Jackson of St. Matthew AME Church in Orange, N.J.
“I don’t see the church’s stand on gay marriage changing in my lifetime,” Jackson added.
Although critics might interpret Jackson's stance as contradictory, the pastor also pointed out that most churches have gays but not all gays are open about their sexuality.
According to reports, a significant number of black ministers in the Newark area are aware that there are homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals, or transgender (LGBT) members within their church.
One pastor estimated up to 70 percent of churches have LGBT congregants, with young people said to be more likely to embrace them than their older counterparts.
Some Christians are angered at the decision for pastors to embrace gays arguing that it goes against teachings of the bible.
In response to critics, The Rev. M. William Howard of Bethany Baptist in Newark said that while he would never promote homosexuality it is not in his interest to express political views on behalf of the church.
“My ministry is not defined by advocacy of gay people...Church - not just the black church - is still wrestling with how it addresses sexuality," he said.
For years, AIDS advocates have urged African American church leaders to help fight the disease.
After a 2009 Pew study revealed African Americans accounted for 44 percent of new HIV infections, despite accounting for only 14 percent of the entire U.S. population, many were searching for answers.
A recent report by GLAAD shows an increasing number of black churches are implementing HIV and AIDS prevention strategies to help reduce rates of new infection.