Equality Forward: Rev. Darlene Garner
August 8, 2009
A National Conversation about Race, Sexuality and Gender The Equality Forward essays are a collection of stories about race, sexuality and gender from some of today’s most distinct voices in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-rights movement. Read their essays. Share your own story. Join us for a national conversation on August 13. And read more about Equality Forward.
This essay in the series is submitted by Rev. Darlene Garner, a longtime leader in the Metropolitan Community Churches. It is wonderful that HRC has produced such an excellent report on the particular reality faced by same-gender-loving people of color in the United States. As evidenced by the report, any pursuit of justice requires a focus on all forms of oppression. This study is a great tool in pinpointing the weak links between the oppressions. As a lesbian woman of African descent nearing retirement with four children, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, I am one who lives at the intersection of race, class, gender and sexual orientation. I experienced the “stuff” (oppression) sometimes coming at me from all sides at once. The responses around how African Americans experience violence and hurt from their family strikes my concerns the most because I lived it! I recall the time in my life of raising four young children and needing my family’s support. I was an out lesbian. I was told by my great aunt that I couldn’t possibly think of raising my children. I had just moved myself and my kids back into her home because she had welcomed me there. She then said that I was not fit because I was a lesbian. My great aunt threatened to call Social Services and have me turned in as an “unfit” mother. We had a huge fight and I realized that I couldn’t depend on the woman who had helped to raise me. It was so painful to face my children and tell them we had to leave her home. God made a way for me and I found an apartment where I raised my kids with lots of love. I was scared every time the doorbell rang for six months (thinking she had called Social Services). We were never able to reconcile that relationship before her death, and I lost the woman that had raised me. This was all over my being an out lesbian. I have often felt that African-American LGBT people pay a huge “heart” price to just be open about who they are. They risk family violence and lose a connection to traditions. With understanding comes the knowledge to change the paradigm. Darlene Garner has been a long-time leader in the Metropolitan Community Churches, the first Christian denomination created to serve the spiritual needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered community. Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, Darlene was baptized into the National Baptist Church at the age of seven and joined the Episcopal Church as a young adult. She came out as a lesbian in 1973 and joined MCC Washington, D.C., in 1976. She served MCC DC as Church Treasurer and Lay Delegate and later served the Mid-Atlantic District as Assistant District Coordinator. Garner received her clergy credentials in 1988. She has served as Associate Pastor of MCC in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Pastor of MCC in Baltimore, Maryland; and Senior Pastor of MCC of Northern Virginia. She also convenes the biannual MCC Conference for People of African Descent. Before entering the professional ministry, Garner worked as a legal secretary, office manager, and Girl Scout Executive. She also worked as the Executive Director of the Philadelphia Mayor’s Commission on Sexual Minorities. Garner is a founding co-chair of the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays, and chaired the first International Conference for Gay and Lesbian People of Color. She has served as the chaplain for an AIDS hospice and as President of the Board of Northern Virginia AIDS Ministry. Garner has also served as a member of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (hearing complaints of discrimination based on sexual orientation, race, gender, and national origin) and of the West Hollywood Business License Commission. Garner has received numerous awards and citations for her service to the community. Garner was elected a member of the Board of Elders of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1993. She served as Clerk of the Board of Elders from 1993 until 2003. During that time, she was also the Liaison Elder for MCC in Western Canadian, Australia, Aotearoa/New Zealand, Europe, and various parts of the United States. She also served for two years as the Global Outreach representative and resource person for Africa. Currently, Garner oversees MCC congregations and leaders in Arizona, southern California, Nevada, New Mexico, southern Texas, Mexico, Central America, and South America. In addition, she manages professional risk management issues, is the Clergy Judicial Officer, and coordinates MCC’s efforts to address homophobia in the traditional Black church and race relations within MCC. Darlene Garner has attended Ohio State University, Samaritan College, and Lancaster Theological Seminary. She is the mother of four children and has seven grandchildren. She and her partner Leticia García live in Monterrey, Mexico.
Issues: Religion & Faith
May 2, 2013