A group of black clergymen met at the Breath of Life Church in downtown Pine Bluff on Friday morning to begin a discussion centered on finding a way to push back against organized same-sex marriage supporters in Arkansas with a message that stresses loving the sinner but hating the sin.
“We have to look at the issue of gay marriage as it relates to what the Bible says,” Rev. Jesse Turner said. “As pastors we have to let people know that what they are doing is against the word of God. As pastors we cannot be silent about the issue of gay marriage. We are opposed to the advancement of same sex marriage in our community.
Rev. Kerry Price Sr. leads the Breath of Life congregation.
“We as pastors teach the word of God,” Price said. “It’s not about what we think but about what the word of God says. We must minister to the people of Pine Bluff. It is the word that sets people free. We must love the sinner but hate the sin. It’s not my opinion that matters; it’s God’s word. We don’t want people to think we are hating anybody because we are not. But we have to take a stand when we see people acting contrary to God’s word.”
Paschal Banks said that while he grew up in the Baptist church he is currently in a questioning phase.
“Now there are people that are referred to as intersex,” Banks said. “They are born with male and female parts. Now where in the Bible does it talk about them? I know it is not looked upon well to take issue with certain aspects of the Bible but I am not sure that everything we need to know is in there.”
Rev. Alvin Smith of St. John AME Church made the observation that other matters may be more pressing to the local community than same-sex marriage.
“Now I know what the Bible says about same-sex marriage,” Smith said. “That is settled and understood. But I feel that there are other issues that have a much greater impact on our community than same sex marriage does. Things like Trayvon Martin and the whole issue of racism. Same-sex marriage is used by conservative Republican groups to divide the black community. Trayvon Martin was the victim of no justice. The President in his remarks after the verdict said that we should continue to work on gun control. It’s not same-sex marriage that is killing our young men in the streets; it’s guns. What is oppressing our community right now? It’s guns.”
Rev. Henry Hellums of the Truth and Love Worship Center Church of God in Christ wanted to make sure that the group could fashion a unified stand against same-sex marriage that could be communicated to politicians who will have voting opportunities on the issue.
“My concern is that we figure out how to let the legislators know that we are against efforts to bring same-sex marriage to Arkansas,” Hellums said.
The pastors emphasized that while they disagreed with President Barack Obama’s position on same-sex marriage they remain strong supporters of his presidency.
“I may disagree with the President on the issue of same-sex marriage but I support him,” Smith said. “As the first African-American President he is strongly supported in the African-American community. We may have our disagreements from time to time but our support is solid.”
Price prepared an introductory letter for the morning’s discussion.
“In studying the prophets of the Bible I can see how God dealt with Israel when they obeyed or disobeyed his law and commandments,” Price said. “As Israel was chosen by God so it is with the United States of America. It appears that the good old U. S. A. is making every effort to leave God on the outside looking in. Our nation is reaping what it has sowed. Tornadoes, earthquakes, forest fires, hail storms, hurricanes, floods, high unemployment, violent crimes, terrorist attacks, the ground opening and swallowing an entire house with the occupants inside. Our nation is suffering from the judgment of God because of what we as a people have allowed. I’m asking that we remember II Chronicles 7:14.”
Price asked that the pastors pray about the issues of same-sex marriage; abortion; violence, the economy, high interest rates for students; unemployment; the President of the United States; Pine Bluff and elected officials; the school districts their leaders, staffs, other employees and students; and pastors, ministers and their congregations.