African-American pastors, Cardinal George unite against bill that would redefine marriage

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Sunday, April 14, 2013

(Karen Callaway / Catholic New World)

Marriage was created by God and is a union between a man and a woman. That was the message delivered by a group of seven African-American clergy and Cardinal George as they held a press conference on April 5 to express their opposition to legislation that would redefine marriage in Illinois. The press conference was held at the Archbishop Quigley Center, 835 N. Rush St., and was organized by the Catholic Conference of Illinois, the public-policy arm of the state’s bishops. Cardinal George chairs the conference.

At the center of concern is Senate Bill 10, which would change the state’s legal definition of marriage from “between a man and a woman” to “between two persons.” The Senate already passed the bill and it is under consideration in the House.

“Millions of people in our state believe that marriage should be continually defined as a union between one man and one woman,” said Bob Gilligan, director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, at the start of the press conference.

The seven pastors at the press conference are members of the African-American Clergy Coalition, which formed last month to show their opposition to this bill.

Contact your legislators

The Catholic Conference of Illinois urges Catholics to contact their legislators on this important issue. You can look up your legislators on their website www.ilcatholic. org and can also send them an email through the site.

“We’re not standing against something. We are standing for something,” said Byron Brazier, pastor of the Apostolic Church of God, 6320 S. Dorchester Ave. “We are standing for the Scriptures as they are written.”

Some people may say that the times have changed, Brazier said, but Scripture hasn’t changed. He said the clergy want their congregations to know that they don’t support the redefinition of marriage and aren’t part of the group of African-American clergy that does.

Bishop Lance Davis, senior pastor of New Zion Christian Fellowship Church in Dolton, said this issue threatens to polarize faith communities and label those against the redefinition of marriage as “bigots.” The pastors said they love all people and all are saved by grace through God.

“We are here merely to make sure that it is clear that we stand on the biblical precept of the institution of marriage and that precept is that marriage is between a man and a woman,” Davis said.

God called marriage into being and if we redefine marriage we “redefine what nature is,” Davis said.

“It is not our personal opinion about the lifestyles of any individual that comes in our church or is outside of our church. It is merely based upon the word of God,” Davis said.

The group said they are also concerned that their religious freedoms will be jeopardized if the law is changed. If they preach differently from the law will there be any legal recourse?

Gilligan referenced recent history, noting that when the state legalized same-sex unions, it stopped offering contracts for foster and adoption services to faith-based social service agencies like Catholic Charities because they refused to place children with samesex couples.

Asked why same-sex marriage is morally wrong, Cardinal George said, “Not every love, not every friendship is marital.”

Knowing that, you have to ask what is the nature of marriage, he said.

“That goes back to a sexual expression that is based upon the complementarity of men and women. And is the way in which the future of the human race is assured. Anything outside of that is morally wrong,” he said.

“The confrontation isn’t only with the word of God,” he said, “but it is also with nature itself.”

There are non-biblical peoples, like the Chinese, who also believe in marriage as defined between one man and one woman. The confrontation is focused on Scripture, “but you know as well as I that this is the history of the human race,” Cardinal George said.

There is nothing new about this way of life, the cardinal explained. The Catholic Church was born during a time where there was abortion on demand, infanticide, homosexual unions and divorce, he said. The church’s belief in marriage hasn’t changed.

“The church is clear in her teaching,” he said, “because she’s been through this before. ... She also knows what is the experience of man.”