james cleveland & singers*The New York Times is reporting on a new book out by gospel music historian Anthony Heilbut, who says it’s time for hypocrisy over gays in the church to stop.

Timing is everything and now that the issue of same sex marriage is in the spotlight aain, Heilbut  is releasing “The Fan Who Knew Too Much,” which he says will give voice to voiceless gay churchgoers in the African American community.

Now, amid the volatile national debate about same-sex marriage, Mr. Heilbut has thrown the doors open to what he calls the “secret closet” of gays in gospel. In a lengthy chapter of his forthcoming book, “The Fan Who Knew Too Much,” he not only pays homage to the artistic role of gays and bisexuals, but also accuses black Christians, clergy and laity alike, of hypocrisy in opposing same-sex marriage while relying on gay people for much of the sacred music of the black church.

The timing of Mr. Heilbut’s book, and the intensity of his argument, has thrust it from the dusty corners of arts criticism into the heat and light of the political arena in a presidential election year. Same-sex marriage, more than any other issue, has forced the black church as an institution to try to reconcile its dueling strains of ideological liberalism and theological conservatism. At the congregational level, it has meant the awkward coexistence of gay musicians and antigay preaching and casual ridicule.

“The family secret has become public knowledge,” Mr. Heilbut writes in his book, “and the black church, once the very model of civil rights, has acquired a new image, as the citadel of intolerance.” Left unchecked, he continues, the trend “would introduce an ugly but not uninformed term, ‘black redneck.’ ”

Whoa, very interesting.

Read/learn more at NY Times.