CNN profiles anti-gay minister's conversion to preaching tolerance
Reverend Dennis Meredith used to condemn homosexuality in his sermons, reports CNN's Dan Lothian in a video from CNN's Sunday morning broadcast, but had a change of heart due to a family secret.
Nothing is understated about Reverend Meredith of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Atlanta: not the bright yellow Harley he drives to work, not the music, and definitely not his message.
"If you can come down the aisle, holding your partners hand,” Rev. Meredith yells into a microphone as he pulls a church-goer to his feet, “I’m happy for you.”
Rev. Meredith says the majority of his congregation is made up of gays and lesbians – about 85 percent. He preaches about tolerance in nearly every sermon, and believes “if the Lord has set you free, you ought to be free indeed."
The Reverend has come full circle: he used to condemn homosexuality from the same pulpit.
"I was put in touch with the feelings of the pew,” he says. But there’s another reason for Rev. Meredith’s change of heart: his son, Michael Meredith.
Michael came out to his family on his 21st birthday. His mother was disturbed, but his father had a “change of heart,” and vowed to put as much energy into embracing homosexuality as he had in denouncing it.
Rev. Meredith has lost money, church members, and speaking engagement offers due to his turnaround.
"I did not want to follow in the way of a man who may lead to destruction,” Demarcus Hill, a former member of Tabernacle Baptist Church, told CNN.
The Reverend used to recieve offers to speak all around the country. “I don’t get those invitations no more,” he says with a smile.
Although Rev. Meredith’s alternative style faces opposition, the Tabernacle Church has become filled with new faces that would be unwelcome elsewhere. Michael Meredith acts as the church’s music director. Taylor Meredith, the Reverend’s other son, is also involved in the church.
“It’s about appreciating diversity and all the differences in the world,” says Taylor.