Oliver White of the Grace Community United Church of Christ first began losing members when he voted in favor of homosexual “marriage” at a national UCC meeting in 2005. The once 320-member church has now dwindled down to a reported 18-50 attendees a week, and White says he cannot keep the facility afloat financially. A number of those in attendance are visitors.
He recently explained to 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.”
White took out a loan in 2007 to make up for a loss of support, but now must pay back $200,000 by the end of this month to avoid foreclosure. He states that the likelihood that he will be able to raise the funds is slim, especially due to the fact that the majority of area churches seem unwilling to help.
“The black churches in Minnesota have not supported me,” stated the 69-year-old. “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.”
Instead, White explains that the majority of financial contributions have come from other states, such as the $15,000 donation he received from a homosexual congregation in Dallas, Texas. He also received a substantial donation from Believe Out Loud, an organization based in New York City, whose website states, “We believe Jesus’ message compels us to welcome all, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.”
At last report, White has raised over $22,000 of the $200,000 needed by the end of the month to keep the doors open.
He has also lost funds from a Seventh Day Adventist group that rented building space for meetings, which decided to move to another facility when they found out about White’s advocacy of homosexual “marriage.”
“We knew our rental money was supporting the church,” Donald Keith explained. “We didn’t want to support him at all if that’s the way he believed.”
One anonymous donor offered to pay off the amount in full — with one stipulation — White must renounce his support of homosexuality. He refused.
White says that he has no regrets about his position on homosexual “marriage,” and will vote in favor of a state initiative slated to be on the ballot this November that will permit homosexual couples to wed.
“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.”
United Church of Christ congregations have autonomy in deciding their own doctrines and beliefs.