The Rev. Oliver White of Grace Community United Church of Christ in St. Paul, Minnesota, has lost two-thirds of his congregation. The mass exodus from his pews started back in 2005 when he voted in favor of gay marriage at the national United Church of Christ assembly meeting. Following his support for the measure, the majority of his 320-member flock was flabbergasted and left the church.
“I was really in shock. I visited one member after another, who told me they weren’t coming back because of it,” White, who has pastored at the house of worship for 22 years, said in an interview with The Star Tribune. “The membership evaporated right before my eyes. Their fundamental belief was it’s wrong for a man and a man to marry or a woman and a woman to marry. A lot of them said if I change, they’d come back. But I told them, it is what it is. I am who I am. And this is what I fight for.”
In an interview with CNN, he reiterated these comments, claiming that his church members simply couldn’t rectify their personal beliefs with the acceptance of same-sex marriage.
“Categorically they said, I can not be a part of a church that accepts same-sex marriage,” White explained.
Watch the reverend explain his views on same-sex marriage and the controversy that has taken over his church, below:
Today, Grace Community has just 110 members and is struggling financially. In 2007, just two years after White’s decision to support gay marriage, he took out a high-interest loan to help keep the church afloat. He now regrets that decision, as financial troubles continue for the pastor and his congregation.
While the struggle has been difficult, White claims that he’s received financial support from pro-gay churches and organizations. However, his fellow black churches in Minnesota have categorically ignored the church’s needs in the wake of his decision to support same-sex marriage.
“The black churches in Minnesota have not supported me,” White continued in his Tribune interview. ”I don’t know if they’ve turned against me. But they certainly have not reached out to me in any way. And that hurts more than anything.”
According to City Pages, the Grace Community faces foreclosure if its $200,000 loan isn’t paid off by the end of June. So far, the church has collected thousands of dollars from supporters, but it is nowhere near its goal and time is running out. In the end, it seems the 69-year-old reverend has an uphill battle if he wishes to keep his doors open.