For nearly 15 years, Old Brown, Lead Pastor of Impact Church, located in what was once an abandoned warehouse in East Point after small beginnings in the auditorium of Brown Middle School, has quickly become one of the fastest-growing United Methodist Churches in the country by “doing church differently.”
A native Texan, LGBTQ+ ally, and divorced father of two, Brown leads a 21st-century congregation that is diverse and inclusive—two buzzwords that often serve as signals to LGBTQ+ Christians that a house of worship is safe and welcoming. But unlike many African-American ministers who embrace Black liberation theology concerning the oppression of Black people—but take a literal approach to the Biblical condemnation of queer people—Brown is explicit about the evolution of his theological position and why his support for the LGBTQ+ community, along with conversations with conservative clergy about LGBTQ+ issues is not only the right thing to do but is also a social justice issue.
“Those in the African-American experience understand that this really is not about theology. It's about social justice. And if you're not careful, you run the risk of being an oppressed oppressor,” Brown says.
“If you're going to fight for Black Lives Matter and say that you got to get your foot off my neck, and then in the next breath you tell your own brother and sister that they can't get married because they're in a same-sex relationship—that's an injustice. If you're going to fight for justice for one, you've got to fight for justice for all.”
It’s a lesson Brown says he learned years ago after having a human experience with a queer person on the receiving end of what he describes as a “regrettable sermon against same-sex relationships.”
“One of the persons in the relationship talked to me about it,” Brown says. “And so it's been through conversations like that where I'm looking across from somebody who is a real human being like me, who is saying what the F, essentially. ‘I’m a human being, I'm a person, and you judge me because of who I love. And that's not right.’”
For many LGBTQ+ people, the judgment has frequently been rooted in scripture. Brown tells The Reckoning that the “isms” have the same tactics, whether it's sexism, racism, classism, they all use the same tactics of oppression, but we hide it in theology and the Bible.”
“You can just about infer or find anything in the Bible that you would like,” he says. “And unfortunately, people do what we call proof-texting—where you can find the isolated verse or a word, but if you're not careful, it's like anything else. You don't get the full context around it. And unfortunately, that is what has been done as it relates to theologies that people would use to go against LGBTQ+ [people].”
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