Minnesota pastor could lose church over support for marriage equality

Rev. Oliver White

Rev. Oliver White

ST. PAUL, Minn. — A Minnesota pastor is at risk of losing his church after most of his congregation abandoned him because he voiced his support for same-sex marriage.

The Rev. Oliver White, 69, who runs Grace Community United Church of Christ in St. Paul, Minn., now needs to collect enough donations to keep the doors open — White needs to raise $200,000 by June 30 to pay off a loan the his church took out in 2007 to stay afloat.

Rev. Oliver White

As a black leader at the helm of a predominantly African-American church, White has faced heavy pushback from his own community over his decision to stand up for gay rights, reported the Pioneer Press.

White, who spent seven years as president of the St. Paul Black Ministerial Alliance, said his 22-year-old church’s financial hurdles started in 2005 after he flew to Atlanta and cast a vote in support of same-sex marriage during the United Church of Christ’s national synod.

A resolution in favor of gay marriage passed the synod, but after he explained his decision to his skeptical flock that Sunday, he saw attendance in the pews drop off immediately the next week.

The trickle of departures became a flood, and soon nearly three-fourths of the congregation had walked out the door and refused to return.

White said that most Sundays draw about 20 people or fewer to the pews.

“I believe it is important to live out our highest ideal, to love our neighbors as ourselves, to receive and accept each other unconditionally, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, economic status, or sexual orientation, and we do this without shoving religious dogma and creeds down anyone’s throat,” White said, in a statement.

“To be sure, it will hurt me dearly to lose our church building, but if I have managed to change one person’s mind or erased one negative stereotypical attitude toward same-sex marriages or gay and lesbian relationships, then my work will not end in futility,” he added.

Most of White’s fundraising efforts have entailed asking supporters to each mail in $1.

While the odds are steep, supporters and gay rights advocates from around the country have taken up White’s cause.

With the help of Nick Warshaw, a San Francisco entrepreneur, and Joseph Ward of “Believe Out Loud,” an online forum based in New York and Washington, D.C., White has raised $20,000, or about 10 percent of what’s needed.

To donate to Grace Community United Church of Christ, click here.

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