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Gay And Worshipping in the Closet in Jamaica

September 24, 2009
The gay-friendly church, the Sunshine Cathedral, now has 147 active members organized into four branches around the island. (Gabrielle Weiss/Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting)

The gay-friendly church, the Sunshine Cathedral, now has 147 active members organized into four branches around the island. (Gabrielle Weiss/Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting)

A few months ago, Carrie wrote an article about a national boycott of Jamaica because of Jamaica being labeled as “the most homophobic place on earth.” Jamaica is not only unwelcoming to gay men and women, but in the most recent years it has become a harsh and violent environment for gays.

A safe (and private space) was created in Jamaica five years ago, called the Sunshine Cathedral, for the gay worshiping community. This church was started by an American minister named Rev. Robert Griffin, when he read the Human Rights Watch report on the hostile environment for gay men and women in Jamaica. Griffin now flies down from Florida once a month to hold services at Sunshine.

Ministers and church people alike have considered homosexuality a sin in Jamaica. He hopes to change this belief. He says that:

Ministers here are endorsing violent acts, calls for murder, to incite riots. I hear it being done here, I read it in the papers here, I have even heard it myself. They tell me: ‘We don’t believe in homosexuality and homosexuals should be killed because that’s what the scripture says.’ These beliefs also feed another equally pernicious notion about homosexuality. Since gayness is seen as an ungodly and unnatural act it is widely believed that the only way a young person becomes gay is by being coerced or raped by a gay man.

That’s a misuse of the pulpit to me. In this culture, sex and homosexuality seems to pack the churches on Sunday morning. And if a minister is perceived to have not preached against homosexuality on Sunday morning, then that minister has not actually preached, if you will.

While Sunshine Cathedral is not made public for several reasons, Griffin has seen a change in the gay men and women first came to worship there five years ago. At first, they came scared and often times neglected by their families because of their homosexuality. But after realizing that Sunshine Cathedral is a safe place for them to worship and pray without anyone judging them.

Griffin hopes to eventually take the Cathedral public but must first establish a safe and friendly way to do that. He hopes to reach out to other religious leaders, and tell them that the Bible does not have to be interpreted literally- and that they, too, can accept and open their arms for homosexuals in Jamaica.

For more information about the Sunshine Cathedral, check out this article from the Global Post. There’s also a great video funded by the Pulitzer Center on gays in Jamaica. Watch it here.

One Comment
  1. November 22, 2009 9:36 pm

    This was a melancholy read for me. I was at first happy that there was finally a space for us to worship in Jamaica and be ourselves. I was then brought to sadness due the space having to a secret. I a West Indian/American Lesbian and am often confronted by my own people who say that I can’t be West Indian and further more, can’t be Trinidadian because of my sexuality. This is hurtful! I feel as though I am forced to give up half of who I am just to live in peace. Then there is the notion that the LGBT community is welcomed in a heterosexual church as long as they are apologizing for “their” sin of being gay. FIRST! I WILL NOT!… apologize for that which I cannot change, nor will I apologize for being myself under any circumstances! Second! they wanna talk religion … Lets talk! When God made the new covenant he threw out the old one and said …”Love thy neighbor as you love yourself.” If someones idea of love is open violence and all out judgement =(which he also condemned); then they can keep it!
    I am happy and BLESSED at that I live in the United States (New Jersey) and have a choice of spaces in which I can love the lord and be myself. I pray for the day that we can all say the same.

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