Prominent minister and former District mayoral candidate Willie F. Wilson technically declined to comment yesterday on his disparaging remarks about the lesbian community, but he communicated a response loudly and clearly.
In a sermon yesterday about the need for unity and the dangers of betrayal, Wilson told a crowd of several hundred at Scripture Cathedral church in Northwest Washington that it was important to defend against efforts to divide and weaken the community.
"I don't like being talked about, being lied on. It ain't easy," he said. "But the comfort is greater than the pain."
In a recorded July 3 sermon, Wilson warned that lesbianism is about "to take over our community" and asserted that one reason women become lesbians is because a "lot of the sisters [are] making more money than brothers." He went on to describe a gay sexual encounter in explicit and derogatory terms.
The comments by Wilson, pastor of Union Temple Baptist Church in Southeast and one of the city's prominent black ministers, stunned and angered many leaders of the gay community. Wilson's remarks were first reported Friday by the Washington Blade.
TV trucks were in front of the church and reporters were in the pews yesterday as Wilson made it clear there would be no tearful apology to the cameras.
"I've been called by radio and TV all day yesterday," Wilson said. "I said: 'I ain't got nothing to say to you. You don't know us. You don't care about us. Get off this phone. Don't call me no more.' "
The crowd erupted with cheers and encouragement. Wilson, in a more subtle turn, then spoke of examples in Christianity and in the African American experience in which divisions in the community set back progress. And he spoke of the motivations of those who betray, saying Judas sold out Jesus not for silver but out of jealousy.
Borrowing a Las Vegas tourism slogan, he seemed to chide those who related his comments to the media, saying, "Whatever goes on in this house stays in this house."
Wilson is national executive director of the Millions More Movement, which is organizing a march on Washington in October to mark the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March.
Several leaders in the gay community said Wilson's remarks might set back efforts to make the new march inclusive. But other march organizers appeared at the church to offer Wilson strong support. The rally was scheduled before the controversy over his remarks began.
The Rev. Candace R. Shultis, pastor at Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, said that if Wilson's call for community unity is to be heeded, "then we need to speak about each other with respect. That means black, white, straight and gay. Everyone deserves respect, especially from the pulpit.
"The divisions are coming from him, it seems to me," Shultis added. She also disagreed with keeping the subject of sermons somehow quiet or secret.
"We should expect that whatever we say in a sermon, that [the parishioners] will take it to their hearts and their life outside the church and promote love in workplaces, neighborhoods and relationships," she said. "It does not sound like that was his intent."