#11 – Pastor Donnie McClurkin’s Gay Church

(The Rev Irene Monroe in November of 2009 wrote this story which remains a frequently read story and would become a pattern in several black churches across the US. -Ed)

The Church of God in Christ (COGIC) is the largest African American and largest Pentecostal church in the United States.

And as the largest denominational black church in the country it is also the loudest in rebuking homosexuality.

With many of the gospel music industry mega-stars from COGIC, the church’s charismatic worship style shouts to a black gay male queer gospel aesthetic every Sunday. And the church is conflicted with itself.

Unfortuantely, these black gay male mega-stars are always forced to go back into the closet denouncing publicly their sexual orientation at the church’s annual convocation.

Case in point: Speaking at the COGIC’s 102nd Holy Convocation International Youth Department Worship Service on November 7 held at the Memphis Cook Convention Center, Pastor Donnie McClurkin, the poster boy for African American ex-gay ministries, was one of them.

“God did not call you to such perversions. Your only hope is Jesus Christ.  Were it not for this Jesus I would be a homosexual today. This God is a deliverer,” McClurkin told his audience.

McClurkin attributed his homosexuality to being raped twice as a child, first at age eight at his brother’s funeral by his uncle, and then at age thirteen by his cousin, his uncle’s son.

Confusing same-gender sexual violence as homosexuality, McClurkin misinterpreted the molestation as the reason for his gay sexual orientation. McClurkin  “testi-lies” that his cure was done by a deliverance from God and a restoration of his manhood by becoming the biological father of a child

In his book “Eternal Victim, Eternal Victor,” McClurkin writes, “”The abnormal use of my sexuality continued until I came to realize that I was broken and that homosexuality was not God’s intention…for my masculinity.”

At the Convocation McClurkin espoused his ex-gay rhetoric by castigating former gospel industry worker Tonéx (Anthony Charles Williams II) who unapologetically stated that he  “didn’t struggle with his sexual attraction to men.”

A talented singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, rapper, dancer, producer, and preacher, Tonéx has won six Stellar Awards, a GMA Award, and received a Grammy nomination for Best Soul Gospel Album for his 2004 gold album “Out The Box.”

Known for his outlandish multi-colored hairstyles and flamboyant garbs with feather boas, fur coats,Tonéx’s image caused consternation in the black gospel and contemporary Christian music communities.

“It wasn’t me trying to make a statement; I’ve always been different,” he topastor-donnield George Varga of the San Diego Union-Tribune. “And it really worked. Out of church, people are always asking me what my tattoos mean.”

According to McClurkin black males, like Tonéx, are gay because of sexual molestation, an absentee father, or they didn’t have strong male images around them. Tonéx is the son of the revered late, Dr. Anthony Williams, Senior Pastor and District Elder in the Truth Apostolic Community Church in suburban Spring Valley.

In an open letter to the Convocation, Bishop Yvette Flunder, an out lesbian who is  a third generation preacher with roots in the Church of God in Christ, licensed in the COGIC, and is now the Presiding Bishop of The Fellowship and Senior Pastor, City of Refuge United Church of Christ, wrote the following:

“I watched a clip of Pastor Donnie McClurkin at the COGIC Convocation Nov11, 2009 where he used the words perversion and vampirism in reference to feminine young men and ‘evil’ butch young ladies. He suggested that the church had failed them and not been active enough in helping these young people find deliverance. He ranted against gospel artist and pastor Tonéx with regard to Tonéx’s recent affirmation of his own same gender orientation.”

Pastor Donnie knows like I know that Tonéx is more the ‘rule’ than the exception to the rule. What makes Tonéx unique is not that he is a Gay gospel music artist and Pastor but that he told the truth about his sexuality, while not claiming to be delivered,” Gay males continue to find ways of being supported in the COGIC.

For example, “blaquebigayministers” is a Yahoo gay ministers group, boasting 787 members since July 2000 and was founded by COGIC Elder Ronald Kimbrew.  Kimbrew served as the Arkansas 1st Jurisdiction as the Assistant Secretary of the Pastors & Elders Council of COGIC from December 1996 to March 19, 2005 and his now the Public Relations Director at Greater Trinity, a COGIC congregation in Arkansas.

The “blaquebigayministers” website states the following:

“WELCOME. This fellowship is for support and encouragement especially of black Christian ministers and friends who are “family” (bi or same-gender loving) and need a place of refuge. Enjoy the “fellowship.”

Kimbrew organized meetings of  bisexual and   same-gender loving COGIC ministers for most of the national meetings like Memphis Holy Convocation that McClurkin  now denounces but use to take part in.

A reported following the Convocation asked “Is COGIC going to be silent while an organized culture of homosexual ministers and bishops populate its pulpits?

And the answer is yes.

COGIC shouts to a black gay male queer gospel aesthetic every Sunday and no one knows it better than McClurkin himself.

COGIC was formed in 1897 by a group of disfellowshipped Baptists. I wonder if the guys were disfellowshipped because they were gay.

Rev. Irene Monroe View more

Rev. Irene Monroe
Rev. Irene Monroe is a Ford Fellow and doctoral candidate at Harvard Divinity School. One of Monroe’s outreach ministries is the several religion columns she writes - “The Religion Thang,” for In Newsweekly, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender newspaper that circulates widely throughout New England, “Faith Matters” for The Advocate Magazine, a national gay & lesbian magazine, and “Queer Take,” for The Witness, a progressive Episcopalian journal. Her writings have also appeared in Boston Herald and in the Boston Globe. Her award-winning essay, “Louis Farrakhan’s Ministry of Misogyny and Homophobia”, was greeted with critical acclaim. Monroe states that her “columns are an interdisciplinary approach drawing on critical race theory, African American , queer and religious studies. As an religion columnist I try to inform the public of the role religion plays in discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. Because homophobia is both a hatred of the “other ” and it’s usually acted upon ‘in the name of religion,” by reporting religion in the news I aim to highlight how religious intolerance and fundamentalism not only shatters the goal of American democracy, but also aids in perpetuating other forms of oppression such as racism, sexism, classism and anti-Semitism.”


  1. It’s irrelevant if I once upon a time knew Donnie. Fact: I know too many pulpit pastors with same sex secrets(SSS) . And yes, I’ve dated a few pastors, slept with a few and been in a few long-term monogamous relationships too. I was once a sang’n choir boy turned professional who traveled continents.

    Donnie, Rev. DL Foster and others who are professed ex-gays are fooling no one! Black church folks know God doesn’t really change sexual orientation. I know first hand these pastors will hoodwink you and your mama as long as the invites and checks keeps coming.

    I told a gay COGIC pastor to simply give it up, if he’s so unhappy. He said, “I can’t – that’s all I know.” I eventually relinquished the relationship because he knew all about church but very little about himself. Today, he remains behind the pulpit – tormented. That’s why Donnie’s message was useless; it caused more harm by pushing gay, lesbian, bi and questioning congregants and officials deeper undercover (DL).

    Saints, I know what I’m talking about!!! This ain’t speculation, or pontification – it’s conclusive, creditable, and confirmed. After I began the road of self actualization, I kept singing and taking your money but eventually let it all go. I stopped fooling you and me.

    Because I’m self-actualized: have realistic perceptions of myself, others and the world around me ( that same something Bishop Carlton Pearson discovered). I let it ALL go! I’m a Humanist! I didn’t believe in what I was sing anymore. Yes, I miss all the stage, show, fun and parties, but I’ll gladly hand it over for my total self awareness.

    I wish more gay church folk would take the first step toward self-actualization. That’s when life really begins.

  2. It is always a bit dubious for me when black-identified persons write under the cover of European cosmpolitanism (eg. hegemony), using white privilege to bash black institutions that are homophobic.

    Simply put, as one who is HDS “mis”educated as well, Irene should be a bit more precise with the facts, and a little more charitable of those she outs.

    This means, a) Donnie McClurkin is not COGIC. He is one of many people who gets invited to COGIC meetings. And gay bashing is Donnie’s thing. It got him invited to the Republican National Convention in 2004. It’s his trademark since his biography came out. b) Bishop Yvette Flunder knows her church of origin. She has never disowned it, and by and large it has never disowned her. Her uncle, Bishop W.W. Hamilton, is a member of the highest governing body, the 12-member general board. And when her mother died, a general board member preached a local funeral and the presiding bishop preached the national funeral and six general board members attended. c) Why follow the mean-spirited tactics of self-hating gay bashers like D.L. Foster and again out this COGIC minister who founded this webgroup for SGL black Pentecostal preachers? That’s pretty meanspirited for someone who would purport to be progressive? I’m a heterosexual, 3rd generation minister, who has spent some time in COGIC, and more in Apostolic traditions, who now works in the mainline for many reasons. But it’s counterproductive to simply get into shouting matches and name calling contests with the opposition. It’s not like Tonex is going to become Episcopalian or UCC — they probably couldn’t handle who he is (since he’s more than SGL!) either. And that’s the point. At least Flunder is sensitve to knowing that SGL is not the end all, be all, and hence The Fellowship organization she has created creates space for SGL persons to be all of who they are, including being Pentecostal. COGIC, like ALL historically black denominations are homophobic in their institutional rhetoric. Perhaps one reason they are more so than other groups is because they as a denomination have driven Gospel music culture more than Baptist and Methodist denominations. Regardless, homophobic preaching is a part of black culture, and the critique of most preaching, from voices like Cornel West and Mike Dyson is not of the Pentecostal church, because they have spent so little time in that tradition. They are Baptist, and that’s what they know. So, at least be consistent. The AME church passed a resolution against gay marriage too, not just COGIC. I don’t know any openly SGL AME preachers. And when Victory Church in Atlanta became ONA, they left the National Baptist Convention and joined the UCC. So let’s be balanced here, because none of this provocative rhetoric gets heard in the black community. Yes, I’m reading this blog here, but what other black church folks are reading it, really???? This does nothing to push forward Bishop Flunder’s basic proposal for a non-punitive conversation on human sexuality in the black church.

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