Coalition of black churches rebukes PCUSA over marriage redefinition

by James Bruce
Posted 3/31/15, 01:10 pm

In a stern public rebuke, the National Black Church Initiative (NBCI) has condemned the recent decision by the Presbyterian Church (USA) to define marriage as a “commitment between two people.” NBCI’s president, Anthony Evans, chastised the denomination, saying that “by voting to redefine marriage [the] PCUSA automatically forfeits Christ’s saving grace.”

Evans’ statement calls for a complete separation of NBCI churches—which, according to the press release, include tens of thousands of congregations across 15 denominations—from the PCUSA. Because the “PCUSA deliberately voted to change the Word of God and the interpretation of holy marriage between one man and one woman,” the NBCI “must break fellowship with them and urge … Christendom to do so as well.”

This separation need not be permanent, but the path to reconciliation can be paved only with the PCUSA’s repentance, according to Evans: “We urge our brother[s] and sisters of the PCUSA to repent and be restored to fellowship.”

The NBCI statement highlights a growing split in the African-American community over gay marriage, with some leaders calling it a civil rights issue and others saying it’s a biblical one. The coalition’s decision follows the trajectory of those within the African-American community who resist attempts to define marriage as anything other than a commitment between one man and one woman. In 2012, WORLD reported Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King Jr., campaigned against a proposed law to redefine marriage in Maryland. “It is possible to be tolerant of gay and lesbian rights without redefining marriage, God’s holy union,” King said in a radio commercial.

Though Evans’ statement places the NBCI at odds with President Barack Obama’s embrace of gay marriage, the coalition has supported the president’s work in other areas. Its member pastors encouraged full participation in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) under its Get on Board the ACA Train initiative. But over the issue of gay marriage, the NBCI breaks both with Obama and the PCUSA. 

Though some will see the NBCI’s decision as an abandonment of civil rights, Evans puts the matter differently: “NBCI and its membership base are simply standing on the Word of God within the mind of Christ.”

James Bruce

James, an associate professor of philosophy at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Ark., is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute's mid-career course. Follow him on Twitter @JamesEBruce.

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