The Rev. Oliver White, 69, who runs Grace Community United Church of Christ, needed to raise $200,000 by June 30 to pay off a loan the St. Paul church took out in 2007.
While the odds are steep, supporters from around the country have taken up his cause. Most of White's fundraising efforts have entailed asking supporters to each mail in $1, the St. Paul Pioneer Press
reported. As of last week he had raised $13,000, he said.
“I haven't allowed any of this to make me stop, because I feel that I have to continue in this journey,” White said. “But it's also a monumental task.”
A black leader at the helm of a predominantly black church, White, who marched for racial equality during the Civil Rights era, faced opposition from his community after he stood up for gay rights in 2005.
During a national synod of the United Church of Christ in Atlanta, he joined a majority of delegates from across the country in voting to adopt a resolution supporting gay marriage.
He returned to his congregation the following Sunday and explained his decision. Almost immediately he saw church membership plummet. Within weeks he lost two-thirds of his followers and now a Sunday sermon draws at most about 20 people.
White said he doesn't regret taking his stand, even if it ultimately means the church will be no more.
“If we are not successful, I am not going to feel that we are defeated,” White said. “I've often said if one person has been turned around, if their thinking has been turned around, and they are no longer homophobic, and they can reach out and love their brothers and their sisters as they love themselves, unconditionally, without labeling them in any way, then losing the church will not be in vain.”
Photo: Oliver White