Has Barack Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage undermined his support among black churches?

When he announced his new support for homosexual marriage, a number of black pastors and Christian leaders were caught off guard – and even embarrassed. On the one hand, they supported the first black president, but on the other hand could not endorse his flip-flop on what they consider one of the most important moral issues of our day — an issue that threatens the very foundations of the traditional family.

Black churches are perhaps the strongest supporters of African-American families

Some leaders remained silent. Others took issue with Obama’s startling switch and stated that they could not vote for a president who endorsed a view that they believe is contrary to God’s Word. Some expressed disappointment and shock in the President who previously claimed that he believed marriage was a “sacred union” between a man and a woman.

On the other hand, the new pastor at Obama’s home church in Chicago, Trinity United Church of Christ, the Rev. Otis Moss III, wrote a public letter expressing his view that black churches should still support the president in the November election – no matter how they feel on moral and scriptural issues. He released a video of himself reading that letter – accusing other black clergy of hiding “from true dialogue with quick dismissive claims devised from poor biblical scholarship.”

He urges ministers to stand behind Obama despite any disagreements with his policies.

He was not alone. The Rev. Wallace Charles Smith, pastor of Washington, D.C.’s large Shiloh Baptist Church supported the President with the caveat that “we preferred that he had not weighed in on the issue.”

However, Baltimore clergyman and state legislator Rev. Emmett Burns said “People have come up to me saying they don’t support this, they don’t like this. They are disappointed with the president, and they plan to stay home” on election day. He said those he had spoken with could not support Romney, so would just not vote this time around.

Marvin Randolph, Senior Vice President of Campaigns for the NAACP, expressed concern to CNN that such an attitude by key leaders in the black religious community could lead to fewer African-American voters engaged in this election. “We have to make sure that African Americans don’t stay home this year by reminding them what’s at stake,” he said.  

On the other hand, Daniel Whyte III, president of the Gospel Light Society, said he found Obama’s position “troubling in light of God’s Word.” Whyte encouraged fellow pastors to stay true to what Whyte

believes the Bible “clearly states about homosexuality.”

Dr, Otis Moss III

“President Obama did not exercise good judgment” when he made the endorsement of same-sex marriage, said Whyte. The church should “love all people who are engaged in any sin, including the abomination of homosexuality, but should not abandon God’s word and endorse their sin.”

“You accuse these preachers who say they cannot support President Obama of hiding ‘from true dialogue,’” says Whyte in an open letter to Moss. “No ‘dialogue’ is really necessary on this matter. As you know, and as many Bible scholars and seminary professors will tell you, the best way of studying and understanding Scripture is through plain, literal interpretation of the text. There is no need to have any ‘dialogue’ about the plain, clear teaching of what God said. There is no need to complicate something that the Bible makes plain. Yes, there are some prophetic passages in the Bible that are clearly meant to be taken symbolically, but the issue at hand is not one of those. The issue of homosexuality, not to mention homosexual marriage, is something on which the Bible speaks very clearly.”

Black religious leaders ”love President Barack Obama,” writes William Douglas for the McClatchy news service. “But when it comes to his support for same-sex marriage, some of the nation’s leading African-American clergy are divided, sometimes passionately.”