Eleven-weeks old Caylee LaTanya Burgess-Allen coos as her father holds her. “Little missy doesn’t care that I have an interview to do. You gotta work with me a minute,” Oliver says, laughing. It’s clear that he loves every minute of his new station in life: fatherhood. The Burgess-Allens have no specific examples or true design on which to base their family construct. Nor do they have immediate mentors on which to mirror their professional choices. But when you do it anyway, it is revolutionary. Bishop Oliver Clyde Allen III and Rashad Burgess are ardent innovators.
Oliver, from Los Angeles, met Rashad at a conference in 1999. While he was initially struck by Rashad’s beauty, they didn’t become a couple until 2002.
Rashad came out to his family between the ages of 18 and 21; he was six years into his liberation when he met his mate. Through his relationship with Rashad, Oliver came out to his own family. Oliver’s family wasn’t immediately accepting.
“My family is close,” Oliver says. “My mother initially didn’t know how to embrace it. After getting to know Rashad, and seeing that he was a responsible man who not only loved me but was willing to take care of me and build a life with me, she developed respect for him.”
As a pastor and, notably, bishop, Oliver says, “I am responsible for a lot of people and their spirituality.” Aware of the weight and honor of his sacred contracts, he didn’t take what he didn’t know for granted. Neither arrogance nor ignorance shall taint Bishop Oliver’s pulpit or his congregation’s integrity.
“Pastors make the assumption that they understand all of the dynamics of people, and they don’t,” he says. “I felt like I’d be a better pastor if I studied the complexities of gender. I learned that even though I experience oppression, if you will, because of my sexual orientation, I’m still an oppressor due to the history of my gender and gender politics. I understood how women embrace oppression to exist in certain structures.” Such as the church, filled with women and run by men.
Oliver created The Mother’s Board “because it is in our tradition to have mothers present,” he says. He knew he needed “mothers” whether they had children or not, to play a significant role in the Vision Church. “There are LGBT members who have no relationship with their parents, who have no family; severely rejected by not only society but their maternal structure. The Mother’s Board, predominately straight women, has become a psychologically enriching entity.”
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