Tiffany Adams said she feared what would happen if her little-known West Columbia church – where gays and lesbians and all others are welcome – “came out,” in a sense, by being featured in a newspaper article.
But Adams agreed to an interview, and last Sunday, she explained why to about 100 of her congregants, who went to Kingdom Outreach Fellowship to celebrate the church’s four-year anniversary.
“I have kept this ministry in my bosom, right here under my arm, and right here in the background for protection,” said Adams – called “Pastor Tiffany” by her congregation.
She added: “But how will you fulfill your mission if people don't know you're here?”
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The LGBT community celebrated a big step forward in gaining acceptance in South Carolina this month, when the federal courts overturned the state’s same-sex marriage ban, opening the door for couples in Adams' church and elsewhere across the state to get married.
But the obstacles that keep members of the LGBT community from coming out still exist: in spiritual and other forms, Adams says.
Adams’ own struggles with those obstacles led her to the ministry, where she is the senior pastor and co-founder of Kingdom Outreach Fellowship, one of about a dozen Columbia-area churches that are “affirming” – or welcoming – of the LGBT (lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender) community. “Affirming” means they believe that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality.
Her church started in 2010, growing out of a Bible study. For two years, she held services at a local park, then in 2012, the church moved into a rental space in a small strip mall off Platt Springs Road.
As the only black, female, bisexual pastor of an LGBT-affirming church in the Columbia area, Adams says her church has provided sanctuary for a veiled corner of a community she says is difficult to access. It’s also a community in need of an outlet, she said.
“Homosexuality in the black community, it is so prevalent,” Adams said. “It's out there. You just don't talk about it. We had ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell’ in the black community long before the military had it.”
But while “Kingdom,” as Adams and congregants affectionately call it, is a predominantly black, LGBT church, the congregation has grown more diverse in recent years, attracting Hispanics, whites and straight people. Adams resists being called a “black church” or a “gay church,” pushing her congregants to “diversify on purpose.”
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