Detroit pastor steps down, ponders future after announcing same-gender marriage




by Donald James
This article is part two in a series exploring sexual relationships in the African American clergy.

Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013 was not a typical day of worship for Bishop Allyson D. Nelson Abrams.

For the first time in more than five years, she no longer stood in the pulpit as pastor of Zion Progress Baptist Church, near downtown Detroit, to preach one of her patented fiery sermons that the congregation had become accustom to hearing.  

Abrams officially stepped down as pastor on Friday, Oct. 18, after telling her congregation on the previous Sunday that she was married to a same-gender spouse.  

In an exclusive interview with the Michigan Chronicle just two days before she resigned, Abrams told her story. “With some buzz going around about my same-sex marriage, I wanted my church to hear from me before members heard it from other sources; I had already talked with my deacons.” said Abrams.  

“I knew that it would eventually get to my congregation.  So I stood in my pulpit on Sunday, Oct. 6 and openly talked about love, Christ, and that I was married and it was a same-gender marriage.”

Abrams, 43, said some members of Zion Progress supported her announcement and wanted her to stay on as pastor; other members were adamant about her stepping down and moving on. She also found similar sentiments in local Christian circles of pastors.  

After a nine-year stint as secretary of the Detroit Council of Baptist Pastors, Abrams decided to resign rather than be subjected to proposed meetings to discuss her same-sex marriage.  She also removed Zion Progress from its membership with the Baptist Missionary and Education State Convention, as well as the Progressive National Baptist Convention.

For Abrams, it was important to be honest with her congregation, self and spouse, but more importantly, with God. Therefore, Abrams identified her new spouse as Bishop Emeritus Diana Williams of the Imani Temple of the African-American Catholic Congregation in Washington, D.C.  

Abrams and Williams married in March, 2013 in Iowa, one of 13 states, as well as Washington, D.C., that allow same-gender marriage.   

“I am a person of integrity and didn’t want to be a hypocrite on this issue,” said Abrams.  “There are other members of the clergy that speak out on this subject in public, but do just the opposite behind closed doors. I refuse to be a hypocrite. I felt that I needed to be married because I was pastoring a church and leading people.”

Abrams said that her same-gender marriage represented a first-time love experience involving another woman.  Abrams, a divorced mother of three children, said about a year before she married Williams, she asked God to send love her way, and not necessarily love based on a certain gender.  

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