- Written by Dr. Sybill C. Mitchell
If everybody tried to legislate her or his faith, the result would be "a conundrum of confusion," said Dr. Stacey Spencer, pastor of New Directions Ministry.
"Civil matters must be kept separate from religious beliefs. As a Christian pastor, I am compelled to uphold the Biblical definition of marriage, which is a monogamous union between a man and a woman."
Add Spencer to the mix of those expressing pros and cons in the wake of President Barack Obama's stunning endorsement of gay marriage earlier this month (May 9). The debate has been intense, particularly among the president's must stalwart supporters – African Americans. Memphians who weighed in earlier on the issue include The Rev. Dr. William Owens and the Coalition of African American Pastors (CAAP), who insist that the president is undermining the institution of marriage and will lose African-American voters as a result.
Spencer told The New Tri-State Defender that as a Christian pastor he is compelled to uphold the Biblical definition of marriage, which he said is a monogamous union between a man and a woman.
"But everyone is entitled to civil freedom. We cannot be restricted by law in practicing our religious rites. Others must not be denied their civil right," said Spencer.
"There are more critical issues President Obama is dealing with: universal health care, high unemployment, education reform, and improving America's infrastructure. Issues where he has done an outstanding job. And black people are ready to throw him off the train because he expressed a personal opinion? This is ludicrous."
On Saturday (May 19), President Obama got a boost when the national board of the NAACP passed a resolution backing what it termed "marriage equality." Dr. Warner Dickerson, president of the Memphis Chapter NAACP, amplified the NAACP's official position.
"The NAACP has been protecting the rights of gays for decades. President Obama supports 'marriage equality.' Others are entitled to equal protection under the law," said Dickerson.
"We're not a black supremacist organization. Based on the law of the land, we fight against prejudice and bigotry in political, social, religious and racial inequality. We uphold the legal position, and that is equality for everyone."
Emphasizing that marriage is "between a man and woman," Dr. William M. Young Sr., founding Bishop of The Memphis Healing Center, said, "We must not compromise the precepts God has set for us. But our community must continue to present a united front behind our president. Who agrees with everything someone else believes?"
Righteousness cannot be legislated, said Young.
"Each of us has the right to choose what kind of lifestyle we will lead. None of us is free until all of us are free, someone said. We must continue to stand with President Obama in his re-election campaign. It's the right thing to do."
Dr. Edward Parker, pastor Berean Baptist Church, said the church is called to exemplify love, not to condemn a persons of a different persuasion.
"This does not mean that Christians don't uphold God's definition of marriage. Our president simply expressed an opinion that others have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," said Parker.
"The fact that pastors are telling their members to stay at home or vote for the other candidate shows poor academics in rightly dividing the Word of God. It's an irresponsible position to take and seeks to violate a person's free choice – a gift that God, Himself, gave to each of us. The Bible was used to maintain and justify slavery. Can we now use it to treat others unfairly?"
The Rev. Larry S. Lewis, pastor of Wisdom, Knowledge and Understanding Ministries, noted that President Obama is a politician and not his pastor.
"Daniel worked under a ruler with pagan beliefs. Joseph served under pharaoh, an idol worshipper. When it comes down to choosing Obama or Romney, I choose Obama," said Lewis.
"He is wrong about gay rights, and his pastor should explain that to him."