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Gay pastor in Greensboro welcomes all people to his ministry

“I knew I was called to ministry before I knew I was gay,” said Marquis Hairston, 27, pastor of The City Church of Greensboro – a ministry with a mission to bring revival and Christian culture to the world, the Black church and the LGBTQ community. It is there that he learned his sexual orientation is not a sin, nor does it discredit the call of God on his life.

After studying the Bible for himself, he realized what he was taught in the traditional church is oppressive theology and untrue doctrines. Instead of distancing himself from ministry, church and religion altogether, Pastor Marquis found his ultimate life purpose: to spread the message of God’s love to all people regardless of sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity.

A native of Danville, Virginia, Pastor Marquis is the oldest of seven siblings and a product of a mixed family. Raised by his paternal grandparents, he knew that he was called by God into ministry since his childhood. Baptized for the first time at age 7, he was very active in church serving in various positions such as the youth choir, usher board, and praise dance team – just to name a few.

“As I grew older, my desire to be normal influenced me to connect with less-than-desirable people who led me down the wrong path,” said Pastor Marquis. However, his past mistakes have created a platform from which he stands to minister to the lives of all who can benefit from his testimony.

Today, Pastor Marquis identifies as a young, gay, black man of faith but that was not always the case. Due to his upbringing in church, he was often confronted with the Christian community’s disapproval of homosexuality. The result of this dissatisfaction caused him to face inward struggles with his sexual orientation, all the while trying to maintain his reputation and influence in ministry. The double life he lived often caused conflicts of interests, especially at times when he was forced to condemn members of the LGBTQ community. “When I was 22 I married a female and our union was blessed with a son who is now 4-years old,” he said. “The marriage lasted only as long as the pregnancy as I found myself confronted with the reality of being homosexual. At that moment I began my journey to authenticity and transparency. Meanwhile, my ministry was pretty much eradicated and I was forced to start all over again.”

Shortly after separating from his wife, Pastor Marquis connected with an inclusive and affirming ministry that is open to all people regardless of sexuality.

Pastor Marquis began The City Church in 2012 after realizing his call to the marginalized and religiously oppressed LGBTQ community. “My intention was not to start a ministry solely based on the issue of freedom of sexual expression, but to start a ministry that was truly for all people,” he said. “My desire was to create a culture of love that permeated any and all boundaries with the unconditional and uncompromising love of Jesus Christ.”

Since starting this ministry, Pastor Marquis has met people from all walks of life and sees a small piece of himself within every person he has ministered. And, whenever faced by those who are against his ministry, he does not acknowledge their oppressiveness. “I often say, ‘people’s problem with me is their problem.’ I refuse to waste valuable time, energy, and resources, responding to critics who obviously aren’t maximizing their potential, because they are too busy watching me maximize mine.”

As it relates to the traditional interpretation of scripture concerning homosexuality, Pastor Marquis believes that the Bible does not condemn homosexuals to Hell.

“Homosexuality is not a sin,” he said. “The biblical passage of Leviticus 18:22 was a specific law, for a specific people, time, and purpos e, none of which apply to us today. The entire book of Leviticus was God’s law to the Israelites prescribing for them the way in which they should conduct themselves, due to the largely idolatrous cultures that surrounded them on their trek through the wilderness of the Promised Land of Canaan. God never meant to prohibit two persons of the same sex from pursuing a love-based relationship with each other. He did, however prohibit men from using sex as a form of idol worship. This stance is heavily supported by the New Testament passage of Romans 1:21-23 that explicitly details how people refused to worship God as the one true God, but turned to idols. Because of their idolatry, God simply allowed them to express this idolatrous behaviors through sexual acts such as temple prostitution, and other sins that simply do not proclaim God as the one and only true God.”

Instead of searching scriptures for passages that condemn homosexuals, Pastor Marquis chooses to magnify scriptures that affirm the lives of all people such as John 3:16. Pastor Marquis is a believer in salvation through Jesus Christ, sanctification, and Hell. He also believes that sex can be sinful, but that sexual orientation in itself is not a sin. He equates religious individuals to the Pharisees during the days of Jesus Christ. “Being religious implies an outward expression of faith that has no inward substance,” he said. “It was the Pharisees that were largely responsible for preaching about the very Messiah they ended up crucifying. In modern terms, being religious is ‘talking the talk but failing to walk the walk.’” The City Church does more than conduct worship services. The church endeavors to be a vital and active representation in the community, and support causes such as healthcare equality, freedom of expression, marriage equality, immigration policy reform, and much more. Recently the church launched a community-based project called The Plus+ Project that seeks to educate and empower MSMs (men who have sex with men) who are living with HIV/AIDS, and eradicate stigma associated with HIV/AIDS in the faith community. The Plus+ Project will also launch an initiative that will support the rights and freedoms of Transgendered persons.

“My goal for the near future, with the help of God and the community, is to see The City Church become an established beacon of hope, education and resource for the community aiding people not only in social disparity but in spiritual enlightenment,” said Pastor Marquis. “I desire to be a trailblazer in building a bridge of unity, not division.”

The City Church of Greensboro host weekly life empowerment sessions every Wednesday from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Greensboro Cultural Center. Pastor Marquis and The City Church can be reached on social media outlets such as Facebook (facebook.com/amarquish and/or facebook.com/bcozministries). Inquiries can be submitted by email: bcozministries@gmail.com. !

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