Minnesota: Pastor who supports gay rights risks losing his church

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A pastor from Minnesota, who has been a vocal supporter of gay rights, and recently voiced support for equal marriage, now risks losing his church completely, unless he can collect enough donations to keep its doors open.

The Reverend Oliver White runs Grace Community United Church of Christ, and needs to raise $200,000 by the end of June to keep the Church open, local media reports say. He has asked supporters to each send in $1 by post, which has now accumulated to $13,000.

Rev White, who is now 69, marched for racial equality during the Civil Rights struggle, and leads a predominantly black congregation. Although black himself, he faced significant resistance from his church members when he began to voice support for gay rights in 2005.

Earlier this year, he joined the majority of delegates of the United Church of Christ in adopting a resolution at the national synod, in supporting equal marriage. However, this announcement cost him almost two-thirds of his congregation within weeks, with less than 20 attending his sermons each Sunday.

His plea for help has not gone unheard, however. One entrepreneur in San Francisco has set up a website for the Grace Community, and seeks to raise funds to keep the funds open. Similarly, Rev White went on ‘Believe Out Loud,’ a forum where faith leaders can express support for equal marriage, and soon raised $7,100.

He has also said that he doesn’t regret his stance, even if it cost him his entire congregation. Speaking to the Associated Press, he said: “If we are not successful, I am not going to feel that we are defeated,” adding, “I’ve often said if one person has been turned around, if their thinking has been turned around, and they are no longer homophobic, and they can reach out and love their brothers and their sisters as they love themselves, unconditionally, without labeling them in any way, then losing the church will not be in vain.”