Bishop Allyson Abrams is not your ordinary bishop. She asks members of the congregation to take selfies with their iPhones during services and hashtag each photo with #WoshipwithElC. She hosts Bible studies through conferences calls so people around the country can participate. She also allows people to be a virtual member in her church — anyone can watch services live on Youtube or ibroadcast.tv — where she says it is just another way to spread the word of God. And she’s in a same-sex marriage.
“God is much bigger than so many people have heard about,” Abrams said.
Abrams is now the leader and founder of the Empowerment Liberation Cathedral in Silver Spring. The church had a special welcoming and affirming fellowship on Friday at the Episcopal Anglican Church of Ascension in Silver Spring. Membership numbers for the congregation were not immediately available Wednesday.
“It was so much fun... we are about doing things differently,” said Abrams.
The service brought together pastors and members from other churches across the D.C. area.
The bishop moved from Detroit after revealing to her former congregation- The Zion Progress Baptist Church- that she was in a same-sex relationship with Bishop Diana Williams, today her wife.
“It was one Sunday morning for my sermon that I shared the information about love, what the Bible says about love, and that I was in a same gender marriage,” said Abrams.
After the announcement, other churches of all types of denominations across the city discussed Abrams’ story. But the bishop did not want to have a split congregation so “I decided it was better for me to leave than to split the church” and Silver Spring was the place she chose to continue her religious work.
Abrams said she felt God telling her that Silver Spring should be her new home, and home to her new church where the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community could worship without hesitation.
“I just felt the Lord telling me to go to Silver Spring ... That was all wholly God revelation ... It had nothing to do with demographics ... the Lord spoke to me,” said Abrams.
Abrams, 43, was married to a man with whom she had three children, all now attending college.
At age 8, Abrams said she felt a calling to ministry, but growing up in Birmingham, Ala. women were not allowed to be called a preacher in the 1970s. So, she studied mechanical engineering at Howard University and after graduation she decided to go to law school.
But she said the Lord spoke to her about preaching God’s word.
“I believe back in 1996 I began to hear God speak to me again about ministry ... I wasn’t sure about that but I knew what God was saying,” she said.
Abrams holds a doctorate in theology, and a master in divinity from the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio.
At the Zion Progress Baptist Church, she served for five years and was the first female pastor of the congregation.
Some at the church supported her decision to reveal her homosexuality while others opposed, but Abrams has some very important people supporting her sexual orientation and career choice: her family.
“Most of my family is supportive of my career and love me and support my decision to be happy,” she said.
The bishop not only supports gay marriage; she also believes the conversation must continue among members of the African-American Christian community.
“Everybody is much bigger than their sexual orientation ... we are not bashing heterosexuals ... we are affirming people and celebrating everybody,” Abrams said.
In Silver Spring, she wants to build a gifted and energetic congregation where the whole community is welcome to participate.
She also wants to work on projects to help seniors in the community, and bring awareness to HIV testing.
“Knowledge and education is key as well as testing,” Abrams said.
The Empowerment Liberation Cathedral has plans to eventually have their own place with parking and classroom space, but for now the church will hold its services at the Ascension Episcopal Church at 633 Sligo Ave. in Silver Spring. May 4 will be its official opening worship service.