American black churches are ambivalent and in many cases opposed to the prospect of gay marriage– a reality that is likely to forestall wider, ecumenical church support for this measure.
An article in Baptists Today (June) reports that aside from the conservative Church of God in Christ and a few activists on the left, “most black denominations have not come out of the closet with their views on the controversy.” Polls have shown differences across racial and religious lines concerning gay marriage.
A Pew survey last year showed that while opposition to gay marriage dropped in the overall population, it has remained stable among blacks (at about 65 percent). A recent poll released by Religion & Ethics Newsweeklyfound that 65 percent of blacks opposed gay marriage while 77 percent of black evangelicals opposed the measure. Black pastors are generally more liberal than their congregations, “so staying quiet about their support of gay marriage may be a form of job protection,” writes Adelle M. Banks.
Atlanta-area pastor Woodrow Walker II says that the “jury is still out on the issue in the African-American church.” But Walker is among a number of black pastors who have protested against same-sex marriage measures. Such opposition has been intensified by the attempt to link the gay marriage cause to the civil rights struggle, even bringing such liberal activists as Jesse Jackson to speak out in protest. The Chicago Tribune (May 27) quotes one black church leader as saying that the gay rights issue may cause black communities to become more diversified in politics and think twice about their traditional vote for Democratic candidates.
Meanwhile, the division and ambivalence on the issue among black denominations has prompted the liberal National Council of Church — which has seven black church bodies among its 36 member communions — to remain silent as well.
(Baptists Today, P.O. Box 6318, Macon, GA 31208-6318)