Others expressed strong spiritual beliefs and evolving social views.
“This is not an easy issue. I believe gay people should have the same opportunities we have, but I also understand where the church is coming from,” said Germaine Leakey, 56, who was arranging flowers in the church. She said her daughter was planning to marry her boyfriend but has a close college friend who is marrying his. “They are both thrilled,” she said. “If this is something our children accept, how can we not do the same?”
Brenda Kibler, who attended a service at Refreshing Springs Church of God in Christ in Riverdale with her son, a Marine stationed in the Washington area, said she was not happy with the president’s move. “Politically, he is a good president, but I disagree with him in the case of same-sex marriage,” she said.
Kibler’s pastor, Elder James Jordan, voiced no doubts. After the service, he said he had quoted from the Bible and told his congregation: “Scriptures don’t evolve. They are settled in Heaven, and the word of God doesn’t change.” Jordan said he was “disappointed” in Obama’s statement on such a “vital issue” to young Americans. “The president is being political, but it has spiritual ramifications.”
In Baltimore, Pastor Jamal Bryant of Empowerment Temple, an independent African Methodist Episcopal Church, was even more forceful in his denunciation. In an interview before stepping into the pulpit of his 9,000-member church, Bryant said, “On this Mother’s Day, there is a call back to family values and the biblical model of how a family should be measured out.”
“I didn’t see it coming,” said Bryant, who called the president’s stance “unnecessary.”
Some African American churchgoers said they are worried about whether Obama might be becoming less concerned about issues of importance to them, including jobs and health care.
But the Rev. Al Sharpton, one of Obama’s strongest supporters on the same-sex marriage issue, said the president’s comments took courage. “ I intend to support him,” Sharpton said in a telephone interview from New York. “I intend to stand against the clergy that don’t support him. . . . I don’t think that you can have selective civil rights.”