Mega-church minister Delman Coates' inclusive approach includes support of legal same-sex marriage.
"Gays and lesbians are part of our communities, they are part of our families, they are part of our church families; I believe that the church ought to be a place where all people ... ought to be welcome," the Rev. Delman Coates told the Washington Pos t in February 2012. The senior pastor of an 8,000-member mega-church in Clinton, Md., thus took position in a divisive cultural battle. For Coates, it's personal. He once discovered that a cousin was gay and had contracted HIV. The pastor apologized to his cousin for what he called his part in "this conspiracy of silence." It was a stand he has amplified on in calls for acceptance of gay marriage. For Coates, a married father of four with degrees from Morehouse College and Harvard Divinity School, his position doesn't deviate from Scripture so much as it underscores biblical principles -- and those of civil rights. "We have fought for inclusion, for freedom of religion," he said, "so that means if I want to be free to exercise my own religious beliefs, I have to extend that same courtesy and right to others, regardless of what I may think they do in private."