According to TMZ, Lauren Morelli, one of the head writers for Netflix series Orange is The New Black has divorced her husband of 2 years. Lauren explained that after writing for the series she began to come to grips with her own sexuality, realizing she was gay. Morelli is now dating Samira Wiley who plays the character Poussey on the show.
Samira Wiley is a 27 year old African American actress who is from the Washington DC metropolitan area. Her parents, Dennis and Christine Wiley co-pastor Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ. At first glance it may seem problematic that Samira’s parents are pastors. Surely this would be a problematic family and ministry situation, right? Not quite.
Dennis and Christine Wiley lead a progressive church that has lead the way for marriage equality in the Washington DC area. In fact in 2007, after deciding to marry a gay couple in the sanctuary the church lost half of its members. This radical decision to perform a union ceremony before marriage equality had been passed in DC was so heated, one of Covenant’s former members even tried to sue the church for back tithes and offering. The church had always been radical in the social justice arena. The church baptized someone who was HIV positive in the 80’s and in 2004 called Christine Wiley to be Dennis Wiley’s co-equal partner in ministry. Both showed steps towards radical inclusivity.
Brooke and I were members of Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ from 2010 to 2013 and became licensed ministers of the church in April of 2011. During the 3 year period in which we were members, Pastors Wiley’s children’s sexuality was never a part of the narrative of the radically inclusive story of the church. It was explained to us that after taking a stance on equality for women, they prayed to God asking what direction they should be led in as it related to social justice and equality. In prayer, they explained that it was revealed to them to pursue social justice for the LGBT community. Because we are no longer members of Covenant Baptist UCC, we cannot be sure whether Samira Wiley’s sexuality influenced the Pastor Dennis and Pastor Christine’s decision to support marriage equality. If Samira’s sexuality led the pastors to re-examine their theology, they weren’t the only pastors to find themselves in the same boat.
In 2013 Frank Schaefer, a United Methodist pastor was defrocked by the United Methodist Church for marrying his gay son to another man in 2007. Conducting same sex marriages or unions is against the laws of the United Methodist Church. Despite knowing this Schaefer decided to break the rules of the church because of the love he had for his son. In June of 2014 Frank Schaefer was reinstated by the church. Leaders of the United Methodist Church concluded that he served the proper suspension and could not be suspended for potential future decisions to continue to marry same sex couples.
Both of these situations might allude to Pastor parents having to examine their theology and faith because of the sexuality of their children. In many cases, we witness church leaders condemn their children because of their sexuality. This condemnation can lead to a rift in the family or, in extreme cases, to the child deciding to take his/her life. These Pastors chose to love their children as they were and then deal with the ramifications and condemnation of the conservative beliefs of their church and denomination.