From our sister site The Auburn Examiner:
By Scott and Theresa Schaefer
Auburn City Council Position No. 5 candidate Clinton Taylor – who won in the August 2023 Primary election by 763 votes over incumbent Robyn Mulenga – received negative backlash recently after posting a controversial video on Facebook (see below) where he called homosexuality an “abomination” while citing Old Testament biblical scripture.
Taylor is on the Nov. 7 ballot, and will face off against Mulenga in the General election.
The ensuing controversy could seem simple; however, on further examination this is a nuanced and complex series of events, which has lead to Taylor’s loss of several important endorsements in this race. Under the surface run themes of discord among Christian denominations with regard to same-sex love and marriage, the role of women in authority and how Christians and the LGBTQ+ community should interact. In addition, broader implications of the intersection of politics and religion in the current socio-political climate of 2023, where polarizing “culture wars” and the threat of Christian Nationalism lead many voters to seek clarity and specificity from candidates regarding their views on homosexuality and religion.
Here’s a quote that was considered offensive to many viewers (Taylor later deleted the video after discussing it with his wife):
“Ain’t no way in the world, you gonna have no preacher gonna go to no gay wedding. Because ain’t no way in the world you gonna tell me that you Holy Ghost filled, that you a child of God and that you gonna go walk up into a gay church with gay folks getting married and confirm that…when the Bible said that homosexuality is an abomination.”
Taylor’s Controversial Facebook Video
Below is the full, raw footage of Taylor’s Facebook video, a bible study session which he said was live-streamed for parishioners who would not be able to attend in person. The portion which sparked concern and outrage begins at the 4:13 timestamp (which is cued up in the video below).
When he spoke with us, Taylor encouraged everyone to watch the full lesson and cautioned viewers:
“…don’t get caught up in my delivery and how I say stuff, because I’m very passionate about when I teach and I preach the word of God. I preach with vigor. I preach with zeal, and I preach with passion and I don’t make no bones about that.”
Endorsements Rescinded, Mayor Responds
Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus and former Federal Way councilmember and former state representative Jesse Johnson have both rescinded their endorsements of Taylor due to the controversial video, and local LGBTQ leaders and residents have expressed severe disappointment.
“Auburn has a policy of inclusion,” Mayor Backus told The Auburn Examiner. “About three years ago I hired an equity manager of Diversity, Equity and inclusion, and last year promoted that position to a full Director. So the goal in Auburn is to be inclusive, to make everyone feel welcome.”
Johnson – who also identifies as a Christian – had this to say about his decision to pull back his endorsement:
“I choose to believe … the part of the Bible in the New Testament that supports all individuals. I know in the Old Testament there are some things that Clinton mentioned that maybe a version of the Bible that now that we’ve matured in our thinking, I just don’t agree with anymore. So that’s that’s where I’m at on it.“
“I think brother to brother, I gave him some advice on running for office. You’re going to have to bear witness to your beliefs and, so he’s like, that’s a good point,” Johnson added. “He did say to me that he kind of wishes he wouldn’t have said it on Facebook live, but that’s what he believes and that’s what he teaches in his congregation as a Pastor. And so I said, I respect you, but I don’t agree with your opinion,’ and we kind of left it at that.”
Backus added the following – as a private citizen – about her initial reaction to watching Taylor’s video:
“As I watched it, my heart was hurting for my understanding of what was being said because I am all for inclusivity. I don’t agree with any, any type of hate or putting down of other groups and so my interpretation of what I heard was that’s what was being said…”
Taylor said he had a conversation with Backus about his comments; she accepted his apology and the two ended on respectful terms, but she ultimately rescinded her endorsement of him, which he removed from his website (however, as of Oct. 2, 2023, Backus’ endorsement is still included in a graphic on the website’s front page). Other endorsements, like Johnson’s, have not yet been removed.
The City of Auburn’s policies reflect the more modern view of LGBTQ residents and allies, and the city recently created an Office of Equity, hiring Brenda Goodson-Moore as its Chief Equity Officer.
In her official capacity, Mayor Backus added:
“I believe in diversity. I believe in inclusion and I hope that we always have a Council that will be supportive of inclusion and belonging in our city, regardless of who that person is.
“Inclusion in our city leadership should be eligible for everyone regardless of race, color, sexual preference, sexual gender, any any of those things, if you have a desire to lead and you have the skills to lead, there should be an opening for you and an ability to do so.”
City of Auburn’s Equity Policies
The City of Auburn has raised a Pride Flag over City Hall for the past three years, and has participated in Pride Month. When asked if he would support the continued raising of a pride flag, Taylor stated: “I don’t care about people raising flags and all that. I don’t care about that. If they want to raise the flag, any flag they want to raise,” which is indicative of the duality with which he appears to operate – a secular set of statements, ideas and actions alongside a set of biblical principals from which he preaches and leads his congregation, which at times, may seem to be in conflict with each other.
Who is Clinton Taylor?
In addition to being a candidate, Taylor’s LinkedIn profile states:
“Clinton is the CEO and Founder of Your Money Matters a Financial Mentorship Program that provides individualized long-term, quality financial mentoring that supports, educates, and empowers economically vulnerable, low income, young people and adults at no-cost.“
Taylor has been active in the South King County business community, where he professes a desire to pursue racial and gender equity, uplift and empower all people and youth, with a special focus on individuals seeking to re-enter society following incarceration (Taylor is a felon who served in prison).
When discussing his secular life, Taylor is quick to point to his close personal relationships with LGBTQ individuals who are members of his family and with whom he works. Of one co-worker he states emphatically “I love her dearly. We get along. We vacation together, we do all kinds of stuff together” … “It was not my intention now, nor will it ever be to ever speak down or ill of anybody.” At one point in our conversation he elaborated further that, “there ought to be something about me that ought to be different, that you ought to be saying, ‘That’s a man of God.’ How do I know? Because I know how he carries himself and know what people say about him. I know. I see how he lives his life. There shouldn’t be any question when you meet me as a person and be like, well, I mean, (he) kind of acts like a Christian.”
Notably, along with his secular duties, Taylor is also Pastor of New Kingdom Christian Church, a non-denominational congregation in Auburn, where, during a Wednesday night bible study which was live-streamed to Facebook, he made the controversial statements. When asked about his religious beliefs, he responded:
“Well, I would say that I don’t have any religious beliefs because I don’t… I don’t teach religion. I preach what the Bible says and I teach what the Bible says … I believe in the Bible. I believe what the Bible says, and I believe that the Bible is true. And I believe that the Bible is the word of God. And so as a pastor who gets his information and everything that I teach and preach and the values that I have and hold as an individual, as a pastor, comes out of that book.”
When asked if he would consider himself a bible literalist, Taylor said:
“Yeah, I just preach what the Bible says. Okay, so I don’t really get into trying to explain the Bible in a way that is literal, is it? … What I do believe is that there’s no gray areas when it comes to the Bible. Okay? That’s what I do agree, because when you read it, it says what it says and God meant what it said … God himself, it says that he doesn’t … approve of lukewarm people. So that means when you’re dealing with God and his word, either you do it as it says or you don’t do it.”
Taylor explained that in this specific bible study he was not preaching about LGBTQ issues; rather, the topic came up tangentially, during his lesson series centered around “Either you are who you say you are, or you’re not. You can’t be no Christian in church on Sunday, and then the rest of the week live any kind of way you want to live.”
As just a segment of the lesson, Taylor took the opportunity to address a recent controversy within the Black Church community, in which national figure Dr. Jamal Bryant, Senior Pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Stonecrest, GA, apologized publicly to the LGBTQ community (see Bryant’s video here). According to reporting from Fox Soul, Bryant said “I’m here because the Black community owes this community an apology. I wanted to come for the Pastors who have hurt you for the Pastors who did not exercise Christ-like compassion.” These comments appear to have taken place while Bryant was participating as a guest speaker at the iElevate conference in Atlanta, hosted by Bishop O.C. Allen. Bishop Allen pastors Vision Cathedral ATL and is the Presiding Prelate over the United Progressive Pentecostal Churches. He is openly gay and has been married to Rashad Burgess for more than 20 years. The iElevate event took place in July 2023, and Bryant’s comments prompted subsequent debate and dissension within the Black Church community, particularly through social media.
Taylor states that he had received many questions from congregants and other friends and associates seeking his views on Bryant’s contentious statement, and initially he avoided the topic.
“Usually I don’t even respond to that stuff because people are, like I said, people are entitled to their opinion, Pastors, too,” Taylor said. “Many people are entitled to say what they want to say, and I don’t have to like it, and I don’t have to agree with it … it had been about a week since that statement was made where he specifically targeted -as a black pastor too, -he targeted black pastors and … black churches and he deliberately said that we’re responsible for the treatment of the LGBT community. And that we’ve been, you know, doing them wrong and treating them bad and, and how dare we say all this stuff.”
Taylor also contended that Bryant was attending a gay wedding; however we did not find evidence to support that claim. We were able to confirm that the iElevate conference took place at The Whitley Hotel in Atlanta. Bryant was scheduled to speak on the evening of Wednesday, July 12, 2023. Bishop O.C. Allen and Rashad Burgess renewed their marriage vows on Sunday July 16, 2023 at The Whitley, as part of the conference.
“And I was like, man, you can say whatever you want to say … don’t feed into that,” Taylor said. “And then I so happened to address it in Bible study on a Wednesday night. And it wasn’t addressed at any LGBT communities where people are or anything and … that’s the part that’s frustrating is because it’s a touchy subject in the, in the country today all over the world …. and so when I said what I said, people jumped on the bandwagon and said ‘ohh he’s homophobic. Oh, he’s gay bashing people,’ and that’s a lie. That’s, that’s not what I did.”
Taylor shared additional thoughts on his preaching this way:
“I gotta stay consistent with what it says. I can’t pick and choose the things that I better not say this because if I say this, some people are going to get mad. Well, I would rather people get mad at me saying what the Bible say, than God get mad at me for not saying it.”
Taylor also sought to make clear that he does not use his position as a Pastor to blast anyone.
“We preach love. We teach our people to love. We don’t preach to keep that stuff in my church. I don’t tolerate it. I don’t associate with people, -other pastors that do that, any that, even pastors, I don’t associate with people that in any kind of way, shape or form belittle other people, putting other people down. Racism, sexism or any type of ‘ism,’ any type of phobias or any of that and anybody that knows me will tell you that.”
He contends that he was simply sharing scripture, and said that “if it is in the Bible it is truth.” He added:
“If anyone can tell me what did I say that was wrong, hateful, anti-gay or homophobic I’m still waiting to know. Instead people are calling me names, threatening me…as if I don’t have my rights to freedom of speech or that my values and beliefs don’t matter and that’s wrong.”
When the footage of Taylor’s comments began circulating, it piqued alarm and disappointment among many members of the community who perceived it as targeted and as indicating a deep disdain for LGBTQ individuals as well as a fundamental undermining of women’s ability to be involved in leadership. On both of those accounts, many people we spoke with about this video and Taylor’s response told us they think that his statements are contradictory – on one hand blasting LGBTQ residents as “an abomination,” while on the other hand stating that he is committed to lifting all people up. They expressed distrust that he can hold both views simultaneously.
Many questioned that if Taylor is indeed so strict in his Old Testament Biblical beliefs, especially of Leviticus, does he eat shellfish, does he ever mix fabrics in his clothing, or trim his beard…or one of over 70 other potential Levitical prohibitions?
Former Auburn Junior City Council Chair Responds
“It’s incredibly disappointing to see a candidate in a community like ours say such disparaging things,” said former Auburn Junior City Council Chair Waylon Menzia. “And as a former Christian myself, someone who has now decided to walk away from religion, I know that that’s not what Christians are taught and how Christians are supposed to, you know, believe.”
“The words that Clinton shared are the source for a lot of hate, discrimination and violence brought against people who are like me and their identity, and that is really difficult for me to hear. It (caused) an emotional response, but also a response as of like we don’t allow hate in Auburn and for someone to, to you know, try to cover up that hate is, is really disappointing to see.”
On his website, Taylor includes the hashtag #StrongerTogether, which he says:
“…signifies the profound strength that emerges when individuals, communities, or nations unite for a common purpose. It emphasizes the power of collaboration, empathy, and solidarity. By embracing diversity, fostering inclusivity, and respecting one another’s perspectives, we can overcome obstacles and achieve remarkable feats. Together, we can address global challenges, promote equality, and create a more harmonious world. #StrongerTogether encourages us to support and uplift each other, recognizing that our collective efforts far surpass what we can accomplish alone. It serves as a reminder that when we stand united, we become an unstoppable force for positive change and progress.”
In our conversation, he was adamant that women should hold all kinds of leadership positions, are equally talented, capable and worthy of respect as men, and should have equal pay. In addition, he believes that women can and should be able to preach.
It is only in the role as Pastor that Taylor finds scripture to prohibit women’s inclusion.
When questioned on his views regarding the separation of Church and State, Taylor responded:
”You know, I don’t really have a view on it … honestly, I just don’t and I’m not trying to avoid that question. I think that anytime we try to, it’s always a touchy subject. Anytime you talk about religion, you talk about politics, you talk about, you know, anything … that’s a really controversial, touchy subject. You know you’re going to have a thousand different opinions about what it is or what it shouldn’t be. I don’t. I don’t have a take on it one way or the other, okay?”
When asked whether his role as Pastor would influence his role governing, he drew a line between the two, stating:
“I would be honored to represent this community and every citizen of this community in that role, and nothing (in) my personal life or personal stuff would impact or influence me being able to make decisions and on things and and try to, you know, implement policies and working on budgets and all this other stuff that we have to do. I’m going there as an elected official who’s been elected to represent the interests of every citizen in this community and that’s what I plan to do.”
New Kingdom Church Ironically Located Within Accepting Church
Taylor’s New Kingdom Church is ironically located in the Fellowship Hall of St. Matthew Episcopal Church in Auburn, which, as a denomination, and a parish are open and affirming of the LGBTQ+ community. They offer a Queer Compline Service and community supper on the First Friday of each month, according to signage at their entrance.
Local Religious Leader Responds
Former St. Matthew’s Pastor the Rev. Canon Carla Robinson, who is now the Canon for Multicultural Ministry and Community Transformation with the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia, which serves all Western Washington Episcopal parishes, shared some thoughts with The Auburn Examiner:
“I understand the views Pastor Taylor holds. I understand the theological ground from which those views grow.
“Still, I deeply disagree with those views. I and many other thinkers and preachers hold a very different set of views that grow out of very different theological ground.”
Both the question of homosexuality/same sex marriage and women’s authority to lead as Pastors are current issues under examination and debate within a host of denominations, including the Southern Baptist Convention, which recently voted to reaffirm their prohibition of female Pastors. Roman Catholic Pope Francis has convened a Synod on Synodality, which, according to the Catholic News Agency, uses a guiding document which “suggests discernment on questions regarding some hot-button topics, including women deacons, priestly celibacy, and LGBTQ outreach.”
While some Christian denominations, such as the Episcopal Church in America, The United Church of Christ and The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America long ago adopted open and affirming stances regarding LGBTQ members, and have affirmed women’s ability to be ordained as Pastors, a diversity of beliefs regarding these questions exists among Christians, and often hinge on any given denomination’s approach to scriptural authority.
“I would like to add that the Episcopal Church continues to be a church where all are welcome,” Robinson added. “Our church is enriched by the participation and leadership of those in the GLBTQIA+ community. We affirm our strong commitment to the leadership of women as lay leaders, deacons, priests and bishops.”
In researching this article, we also reached out to several other Auburn area churches whose denominations share views similar to Taylor’s, but none responded to our repeated requests for comment.
Taylor Apologizes and Defends Statements
Taylor responded to The Auburn Examiner’s inquiry regarding those who were offended by their perception of his comments, and both apologized and defended his statements, often in the same breath.
“What I would say to them, and I would say to anybody, not just the LGBT community, I would say to anybody who feels that I said something that they disagree with or that hurt their feelings,” Taylor said, “like I told the mayor, I apologize. That was not my intention to hurt anybody’s feelings, not at all.
“And if that’s how I make some people feel then from the bottom of my heart I sincerely apologize. But that doesn’t mean that I feel I was wrong with what I said.”
For some, such as lifelong Auburn resident Carol Jones, such an apology falls flat; she told us:
“I am appalled by his blatant and homophobic statements towards our beloved LGBTQ Community. He minimizes, rationalizes, justifies and plays the victim in regards to his extremely inappropriate comments. He teaches Jesus and says to love everyone, yet says gay people are an abomination. He has the right to say all this cause he has one gay friend?! When he makes the statement he is a Pastor first and foremost, he basically says his radical faith is more important than people. I am sorry, but City Council is not a church. He is incapable of representing a large percentage of our community and he shows no care, remorse or concern for that. We’re just wrong and he is right. He is dangerous and I will do everything I possibly can to keep him out of office.”
Taylor’s Final Statement
In a final statement emailed to us, Taylor sought again to bridge compromise, while remaining true to his Biblical convictions this way:
“I just don’t to want to be in the middle of your story and be put out front like I’m some kind of spokesperson against the LGBTQ community. I don’t want our city divided, I don’t want people feeling like their voice doesn’t matter or that we can’t disagree with each or agree and still be loving and kind and respectful of one another.
“What I said … comes straight from the Bible and I said as much and now people who disagree with the Bible and for the most part don’t believe in the Bible are saying I shouldn’t have said what I said and what I said was homophobic or hateful. Well, you read it for yourself, and then make sure you ask your reader:
‘What Did He Say That Was Wrong’?”
Taylor also wanted us to include his Biblical sources:
- Leviticus Chapter 18 verse 22: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.”
- Leviticus Chapter 20 verse 13: “If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.“
- 1st Corinthians Chapter 6 verses 9, 10 and 11: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.“