As Supreme Court considers DOMA and Prop 8, some black church leaders ponder change

While many across America are hopeful that the Supreme Court will react on the side of the LGBTQ community regarding the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Proposition 8, there are some African-American leaders who do not foresee much change occurring within the black church in terms of gay acceptance.

The Supreme Court has been hearing testimony this week regarding the constitutionality of DOMA, the federal law that identifies marriage as between a man and a woman, and California’s Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage in California. If the court decides in favor of gay marriage advocates, it is possible that equal access to marriage regardless of gender will become a law nationwide, impacting the administration of federally-controlled benefits.

Whatever the outcome, the rulings will not have an impact on the theological positions of black church leaders and clergy, many sources say.

The black church is not monolithic in its thinking

Yet, Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson, senior pastor of the historic Grace Baptist Church in Mount Vernon, NY, told theGrio that, because the black church is not monolithic, the response from clergy would be uneven.

“It is not a decision informed by the Supreme Court,” said Franklin, who is also chairman of the National Action Network. “There are certain people who, if the court comes in their favor, will celebrate. But those not influenced by the courts are not waiting around to see what the court will decide.”

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Earl C. Johnson, pastor of Martin Street Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC agrees. Not much will change among black clergy in his region, even if DOMA and Prop 8 are repealed. Same sex marriage is still unacceptable in many clergy corners and will continue to be for some time.

Talking to many clergy in North Carolina since the amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions passed there, Johnson came to this revelation: “There are some clergy out here, regardless of what anyone says, they have made up their mind. I don’t see that shifting. They will never marry anyone.”

Will the black church ever embrace gay marriage?

What will bring the shift in mindset? Johnson does not know. But he has some ideas.

One solution, he believes, is to get more of the leaders in black church pulpits trained in interpreting the Bible in a more modern fashion.

“We have so many in the pulpit with no theological training at all. They are preaching based off of an old mindset from thousand of years ago,” Johnson said. “We are living in a totally different time period today. You cannot govern in the same way as thousands of years ago.”