Why Are Boston’s Black Ministers Standing Behind Ex-Gay (And Anti-Gay) Gospel Singer Donnie McClurkin?

Boston GospelFest is the annual event put on by the mayor’s Office of Arts, Tourism, and Special Events. But since Mayor Tom Menino isn’t the one calling all the shots in the city, somehow organizers ended up inviting Pastor Donnie McClurkin, the proud proselytizing ex-gay, to headline the event. Which means you’re not about to see the mayor’s face there this year.

McClurkin, who blames his (former) homosexuality on being raped by male relatives as a young boy, was invited by the Arts and Tourism office weeks or months ago, but its director Julie Burns says she only found out about McClurkin’s anti-gay past late last month after reading a newspaper article: “I am embarrassed to say that I was not aware of this and we obviously should have vetted him further. Gospel Fest is in its 10th year and is arguably the largest Gospel event in New England. Minister McClurkin was recommended to us by a number of people and we were swayed by his artistic honors. Of course, this does not excuse the situation that we now find ourselves in! Please rest assured that Mayor Menino did not know anything about this and would never condone ’hate speech’ of any kind.”

As for Mayor Menino, purposefully not attending the event because of McClurkin (who’s had the president as an audience) is an obvious call, but not an easy one, explains the Rev. Irene Monroe, a black lesbian who’s previously gone after McClurkin:

Menino ranks among the most pro-LGBTQ mayors across the country. He refused to participate in Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade when organizers barred an LGBTQ group from marching. And he was always an advocate for equal marriage. Menino has thrown his weight around and has used his power on behalf of LGBTQ civil rights, and have succeeded in doing so. However, when it comes to moving Boston’s black ministers on LGBTQ civil rights, Menino’s struggle has been and is like that of other elected officials and queer activists — immovable. Sadly many of Boston’s black ministers are in lock step with black homophobic ministers across the country. Menino’s absence from this year’s Gospelfest is another sad example of how Boston’s black ministers, an influential and powerful political voting bloc of the mayor’s, would rather compromise its decade-long friendship with City Hall than denounce McClurkin’s appearance.

Sing it, sister.