By: Dontre L. Conerly
The Holy War between good and evil is one that has raged on for millennia, and it all may come to a head today at 2:00pm. No, I’m not predicting the end of the world or the return of Christ; but at least one battle in the celestial fight will be won. . . at a public auction for the ATLAH Church building at the corner of 123rd Street and Lenox Avenue, in Harlem. For years, ATLAH Worldwide Church has sparked controversy with its large sign, posting messages which routinely target gays, going so far as to assert “Jesus would stone homos.”
Following reports by DNAinfo which detailed a tax lien on the property to the tune of $1.2 million, city LBGT groups immediately began fundraising efforts to raise the necessary money to acquire the property.
“It would be divine justice for us . . .to replace what has been an epicenter of gay hate and transforming it into a place of love and light,” says Vanessa Brown, pastor of Rivers of Living Waters Ministry, an LGBT-led and affirming church which has operated in a temporary church home in the basement of the Saint Paul and Saint Andrew United Methodist Church (263 West 86th St.) for the past eight years.
In addition to securing their own church home, acquiring ATLAH would allow Rivers to expand their ministry by opening a drop-in center for LGBT youth; offering literacy and GED programs, as well as after school arts programs; and even setting up a transitional living space for those who face homelessness.
Rivers has set up a GoFundMe page to try and raise the $1.2 million necessary, and have raised $25,818 toward the purchase price.
Once the news spread that ATLAH was up for auction, other LGBT groups also began fundraising to acquire the property. The Ali Forney Center has raised $315K toward the purchase of ATLAH with its #HarlemNoHate campaign. Ironically enough, The Forney Center’s 24-hour drop-in center for LGBT youth is mere blocks from ATLAH and its “hateful rhetoric.”
“The biggest reason our youths are driven from their homes is because of homophobic and transphobic religious beliefs of their parents”, says Carl Siciliano, founder and executive director of AFC.
His sentiments are echoed by pastor Vanessa Brown who says it was necessary for Rivers of Living Waters to offer mental health services to its congregation to help combat the depression and “trauma” that’s caused by the traditional church.
Upon learning that LGBT groups were vying for his church’s property, ATLAH’s infamous pastor, David Manning, put voice to the words which usually adorn the church’s sign in a nearly two-minute long broadcast, blasting the “sodomites” who seek to purchase the church
“This is the Lord’s house!” he exclaims, pointedly. “This ain’t no d*amn bathouse! This ain’t no f*g house!”
Vowing to fight the foreclosure, he says it would be as impossible for any of the groups to own his church as it would be for them to “carry babies in their testicles and [give] birth to them through their anus.”