Hush Now, Don’t Explain: The POTUS Does Not Owe the Black Church an Apology

I know. It’s been two years. I’ve been busy.

I  dusted off my blog this evening because Twitter only allows 140 characters and Facebook is not suited for long, rambling remarks.

Especially when it comes to talk about the black church and gay marriage.

President Obama declared for the first time on May 9, 2012 in a White House interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts that he supports same-sex marriage, after nearly two years of saying that his views on same-sex marriage were “evolving.” Reactions to the president’s remarks have been swift, predictable, and for the most partisan. obama

At least one well-known black minister has not hesitated to voice his disappointment with the president’s comments. Says Rev. Jamal Bryant of Baltimore, Maryland, the president has some explaining to do to his black church constituency.

I disagree. Obama doesn’t have any explaining to do to the black church about his position on same-sex marriage. I co-sign my colleague’s, Leslie Callahan, comment on her Facebook page reminding us that Obama is the president of the United States and not the pastor of the United States.

While I am proud there’s a black man in the White House I am not one of more than fourteen thousand fans of the “I love it when I wake up in the morning and Barack Obama is President” Facebook Fan page.  Can’t do it. But neither do I want to wake up in the morning with the public thinking Jamal Bryant’s comments represent the best (or only thing) response black clergy have to Obama’s comments on same-sex marriages. (In fairness, I should disclose that I know Jamal Bryant personally and I am disappointed with his comments, though no entirely surprised.)

I’ve already stated on this blog  that I do not think being gay is an abomination. I’m sure I did once. But I don’t anymore. And while I’m still evolving  on the issue of gay marriages, I don’t oppose it enough to clobber its supporters nor do I support it enough to blast its opponents.  Not trying to be coy or clever. It’s just that I am fierce about what matters to me and not easily baited by topics that don’t strike a match in me.

Until now I’ve been content to stay out of the gay marriage fray. Until I read Jamal Bryant’s claim that the POTUS has some explaining to do to his black Christian constituency.

Same sex marriage, in my opinion, is not a biblical or theological issue; it’s a social and political one.  Traditional and conservative Christianity is going to lose on this issue.

I disagree with those who see legalizing same sex marriage as a threat to the bible, Christianity, or the institution of marriage. I agree that legalizing same sex marriage is a threat to thousands of years of tradition. But that isn’t a bad thing, mind you. I would be a slave, and a barefoot and pregnant one at that, if tradition hadn’t been questioned or challenged. Not to mention that lots of other important scientific knowledge we now embrace would not be known to us if we’d stayed tied to the biblical cosmos.

jamal bryantThe Bible meant well in its edicts on human sexuality. But not many of us, including Rev. Bryant, would not want to live in biblical times. And not just because there was no running water back then. We wouldn’t want to live in the moral and social universe it advocates where wearing glasses disqualifies you from serving at God’s altar, contact with a menstruating woman makes you unclean, and adulterers must be stoned to death.  Yet I understand what made our biblical ancestors want to contain this powerful, chaotic force known as human sexuality. But biblical teachings on human sexuality (if teachings are what we can call the inchoate biblical passages that deal with sexual issues) don’t serve us well today. We know too much. (The same laws probably didn’t serve people well back then either.) Gay love is as old and tenacious as heterosexual love. And love and sexual desire have a tendency to make a mockery of rules.  Human sexuality is powerful, confusing, dangerous, many times beautiful, most often messy. Laws are good, but laws are limited.

Is marriage ordained by God? On those days when the marriage is going well, I like to think that God brought me and Martin together.  But on those days when it’s a hot mess and we’re both looking for the exit sign, well, we will both probably say that we should have ceded to the many signs (and friends) that said  a marriage between the two of us was doomed. In other words, marriage is ordained by God when it’s a good marriage. But when it’s a hell hole you have every reason and right to exit when it’s wrong for everyone involved. Here’s what those of us who support same sex unions have got to get across to our Christian friends who think of same sex unions only in sexual terms, and that is that same-sex unions are not simply about sex and power, but love and commitment. Why are we so quick to to tell LGBTQ individuals seeking the rights and recognition of their unions that marriage is ordained by God when many of us don’t honor our own marriage vows or turn a blind eye to the indiscretions of our friends?

Those of us who are products of the 60s and 70s never thought we’d live long enough to see the day when “liberal” would be a bad word. Many of the rights and privileges women and minorities enjoy today are the results of the tenacious agitation of liberal-minded people over the centuries.  But now “liberal” has been replaced by “progressive.” So, I guess I’m a progressive Christian if progressive means I am willing to question tradition, even my own cherished tradition and refuse to embrace any part of tradition that flies in the face of what Jesus ultimately lived and died for: unselfish concern for the other; honesty, integrity, equality, and fidelity; and sacrificial love.

What I’m sure of is that I’m no libertarian nor am I a sex positive feminist. I don’t believe “anything goes.”  Civilized societies have a duty to protect its citizens from the violent impulses of other citizens.  Even if the laws prove imperfect and don’t put an end to the acts they criminalize. Victimized sex can not be tolerated.  Rape is unacceptable. Pedophilia is indefensible. (Even though the Bible often soft-pedals rape and is downright silent about pedophilia, something Christians never talk about.) 

Speaking as a former Pentecostal who remains Pentecostal in her heart, I say this in sum to my fellow conservative Christians: the train has already left the station. The POTUS does not owe all of us in the black church an explanation for changing his mind on gay marriages. The president is a politician and a Christian. And the politician knows that the momentum is on the side of legalizing same sex marriage. Even if it doesn’t happen in this latest round of state votes. Same sex marriages will be legalized in my life time (and I’m a cancer survivor so you know I’m on slippery ground here).  Social change has always preceded legal and religious change: women’s suffrage, reproductive rights, interracial marriage, and black civil rights movement.

Black Christians will have to find another sign to point to as proof that despite the fact that there’s a black man in the White House, the world is still coming to an end.

108 Responses to “Hush Now, Don’t Explain: The POTUS Does Not Owe the Black Church an Apology”

  1. Faith Harris Says:

    Love this blog and love your work.

  2. Marjorie Scott Says:

    I am so glad you are back! This is the best response I have read so far. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and challenging all of us to question tradition.

  3. Wilma Johnson Says:

    Thank you.

  4. AH Says:

    Thanks Doc, I’ve missed this blog. I have checked back several times to see if you had anything to say, glad that your back. God Bless

  5. Andriette Jordan-Fields Says:

    Dr. Weems, Thank you for daring to say what so many are unwilling, afraid and uncomfortable to say, although they probably have a family member that’s in a same sex relationship. THank you for your willingness to share and your honesty and frankness!

  6. Judi Says:

    Rev. Renita,
    Thank u once again for breaking it D. O.W.N. your words are powerful and onto me.
    Someone needed to go right there.

  7. Ralph Watkins Says:

    Well said…Amen
    Thanks for making us think

  8. Karen Denise Says:

    While homosexuality may be a abomination, so is lying, cheating and backbiting…. They are all matters of choice allowed by our free will… All that OBAMA is saying is that Gay people should be allowed to marry if they choose… Let God judge them as if any other behaviour..

  9. wisdomteachesme Says:

    Thank You for clarity and love.
    Glad to see you are back and doing well sister Weems,

  10. Mark Henderson Says:

    As a black gay man, I so thank you for this piece. Well said.

    I will follow you forever now.

  11. Melva Says:

    RJW, thank you for this! Sometimes I become numb to specific types of holy chatter wherein I am unable and often unwilling to engage. Your reflections are on point, “unbought” and “unbossed”. How does the POTUS owe the Black Church an explanation over and above the many pastors of the same institution who have come out against or remain silent on far worse? It is time for black denominational churches to grow with the time and remember that the many dights for justice in which it was a staunch proponent were not for just us!

  12. Joshua A. Holiday Says:

    Very well said. Appreciate your candor and honesty. President Obama said when he fis everyone took office that he is everyones president.

  13. Paige Says:

    Well said Dr. Weems….well said. Thank you for elevating the discussion.

  14. Rev. Daniel W. Brettell Says:

    Well said. Thank you. President Obama is President of “We the people” of the United States of America. Despite what is said and done by those whose sole goal and agenda is to disparage him on every issue and malign him out of office, I believe he remains focused on that one fact–he is President of all the people, not a particular party, group, or faction. I pray for God’s continued blessings on him and his whole family.

  15. Jacqueline L. Dupree-Pugh Says:

    Absolutely wonderful! Powerful! Thank you!

  16. Chenda Says:

    Oh how I have missed your blog posts! Thank you for this very insightful theological reflection!

  17. Emma Jordan-Simpson Says:

    Dr. Renita - I know you didn’t “go” anywhere, but SURE GLAD YOU ARE BACK!!!

  18. Tanya Says:

    Thank you Rev!!! This is a soft spot for me & I am evolving too. I keep thinking those without sin cast the 1st stone, I could never. I am not a judge GOD is. #TryingEverydauToTreatPeopleLikeIWantToBeTreated.

  19. Thelma craig Says:

    Well said

  20. Matthew Watley Says:

    After reading the article and your blog. I don’t see where Pastor Bryant ever said that the President should “explain” or “apologize.” However, in addition to explanations offered on the White House weekly conference call with African American clergy this past Thursday - a special call has been set up for today, which I suspect will also include some explaining. Obviously I don’t think that the White House is doing this in response to Pastor Byrant’s statement, but because in Washington this is how things are done when dealing with key constituents. The accountability of elected officials is key to the democratic enterprise, and this I believe was the political reality that Pastor Byrant was addressing and he’s correct. When the president makes controversial decisions about Israel or financial policy, the same process occurs.
    I don’t believe in gay marriage as a Christian because it is sin throughout scripture, and as a citizen because Civil Unions provide every legal protection and freedom to LGTBQ under the forteenth amendment while maintaining 1st amendment protections.
    I’ll end with a question. Shouldn’t “sin” be included in the list of issues that you denote for which Jesus died?
    Thanks for the dialogue.

  21. reeq Says:

    Am just short of words! America is on a fast decline.. So sad! Have ur forgotten were we coming from(america roots). A Godly background, and ya”ll saying this.. I weep for america. My prayer is this: Father forgive them for they don’t know what they saying. LORD HAVE MERCY!

  22. cynthia Says:

    glad to hear your comments. it’s right on point

  23. Carlton Worthen Says:

    Marriage was created for one man & one woma
    n. God took from the rib of Adam and created him a help mete.

  24. Sayaunda Casey Says:

    Praise God!

  25. Sayaunda Casey Says:

    Praise God!

  26. AdaRenee Says:

    THANK YOU Rev. DR.!!! So glad you dusted the blog off!!! HALLELUJAH!!!!

  27. Katie Says:

    I am a white UM seminarian (only for a few more weeks, I graduate in June!!!!) and pastor, and your blog post just sings to me. I think I fall where you do, definitely in favor of removing limits of LGBTQ people and full inclusiveness, but I do honestly have some catches in my spirit about it. But as a woman called to ordained ministry I can not in good conscience not stand with them, when it is only because people in the past who were willing to stand for women clergy that I am able to follow my call. So to honor those whose shoulders I stand on, I can do no different. I am also not a huge fan of Obama (mainly because I swing more toward the conservative/libertarian end of the political spectrum than anything else, and right now, I am not particularly thrilled with those politicians, either…) I think it was Barth in his criticism of the SGM who pointed out that you do not want to entangle politics with religion, because then what happens when eventually your religion is no longer the one in the majority? It seems that all the voices that I see or hear are either rabidly pro- or anti-, or occasionally slightly right of center on this issue. Rarely do I see voices that are slightly left of center and do so with the honestly that this is not as black and white (sorry…) as people want to make it out to be. So thank you. I will now be a faithful reader of your blog, so keep writing! Blessings!

  28. Katie Says:

    I am off to finish two final papers for school, but I hope to be archive diving in you blog, soon. It looks like you have some great stuff here!

  29. kamal hassan Says:

    Jamal Bryant? Isn’t he the one who got in alot of trouble a few years ago for having extramarital affairs, including one that produced a child? Well his respect for the “institution of marriage” is really what is at issue here. Negro please!

  30. Johnnie William Skinner Says:

    Thank you for your insightful comments. I discussed this issue with some of my daecons this morning.
    We have no official position on this issue.

    In Christ,
    Johnnie William Skinner (Tom Skinner’s brother)
    Mount Zion Baptist Church
    Knoxville, TN

  31. Rev MD Says:

    Thank you very much Dr. Renita! This is BRILLIANT! Thank you for coming back and sharing your voice … we’ve missed you!

  32. Tracey Says:

    Not really sure that marriage is ordained by God. Adam and Eve were in COVENANT with one another and with God. There are many married people who are neither in COVENANT with one another or God, and yet the “church” recognizes their union as something God recognizes…

  33. Tonya Says:

    Thank you. President Obama doesn’t owe the Black church an apology for anything.

  34. Vermell Blanding Says:

    With all due respect, and much respect is due and given, I think you miss the point.

    My many years of political work confirms that when an elected official is about to make an announcement that might be negatively received by a constituency important to his past or future election, it is standard practice to give this constituency a “heads-up” with a few well-placed phone calls.

    When the United States decides to change its Israel policy, do you think the President announces it without calling the Prime Minister of Israel first? Same principle.

    Conversely, you do not give advance notice to a constituency for which you have no use or respect. Because you make a calculated decision that they don’t matter, that your announcement will have no impact, or that they will follow you regardless.

  35. Carol Bustard-Burnside Says:

    Thank you, Dr. Weems for your well considered words of wisdom. You give clarity in a confusing time.

  36. Maisha Handy Says:

    I have tears in my eyes. This is the best response that I’ve read. Thank you for an honest and passionate response, that reminds some and reveals to others, accurate biblical perspectives…and the reasons we can’t appeal to them. Glad you’re back too!

  37. Lys Rose Says:

    Amen! Very well said!

  38. Brandon A. A. J. Davis Says:

    Revrun, Revrun love it, well spoken I hold to my convictions that say homosexualilty is wrong, but not to the point were I fail in showing Christ love for me in my dispense of that love towards everyone. Christ saw us all as not what we were, but what we could become through him. It’s whens we all learn that its about choices, and we must live with our choices, life will be sweeter Well said, well written.

  39. Robbe Portman Says:

    If Obama had not lied about his beliefs on same sex marriage I wld agree with you that he owed the black church no explanation. However, since he did lie and was a supporter of same sex marriage in 1996 he does owe an explanation to the people who believed him in 2008 and voted for him. Why is it that the only people that he does not have to be accountable to is black folks who without he wldnt be and wont be president in 2013? Obama has ignored his black supporters since the day he moved into the White House and unfortunately to many blacks in the media are so happy to have a black president they wont challenge him on it.

  40. Priscilla Dowden-White, Phd Says:

    Dr. Weems, I’d like to share with you a FB status update I wrote on yesterday, 5/11: “For those African Americans who say President Obama’s affirmative statement on the legalized same-sex marriage issue, ‘caught you by surprise’, please consider that there are many African Americans (like me) who have left their thoughts on the issue ‘in the closet’ for fear of being misunderstood, alienated, or ostracized in our community, especially in our religious community. For nearly a decade now, (although I’ve always been in support of civil unions), I have been quietly ambivalent on the same-sex marriage issue. In recent years, I’ve felt a sense of urgency to become reconciled in my beliefs. President Obama’s statement has added to that sense of urgency for me. But, I seriously question whether the ‘black church’ has the capacity to serve as a forum of open discussion on this issue.” Rev. Weems, I share this with you as additional proof that there are countless African Americans (and others) who find your articulation of the issues on this subject, LIBERATING! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  41. linda Says:

    barack obama is my president and not my pastor.. i never thought to look at it in this light. thank u for helping me with this topic….still evolving tho.

  42. Jackie Holness Says:

    Rev. Dr., you’ve simply been away too long…are you back? I certainly hope so:)

  43. Sherri Says:

    Thank you for such insightful words. I was hoping wee would soon hear
    the voice of a woman scholar and profound teacher. Blessings and again thank you. Sherri

  44. Shannon Reid Says:

    THANK… Thank, thank for so eloquently stating what was on my mind. 【ツ】

  45. Carmen Says:

    Awesome! and a great read.

    Good to hear from you again, Dr. Weems!

  46. Fallon Says:

    @ Matthew Watley and Vermell Blanding,

    First and Foremost, I would venture to say that Dr. Weems understands the contours political accountability given her astute analysis of the changing political times concerning same sex unions and the electability of President Barack Obama.
    However, both of your comments make reductionist generalizations about African Americans. Let me just say, we are not a monolithic group. Meaning we are not all Christians or Christian Fundamentalists.

    Secondly, Black churches are also not monolithic meaning every Black church does not espouse the same theologies. Meaning, President Barack Obama does not need to receive the “thumbs up,” from the African American clergy concerning his support of same sex marriages because we are not a monolithic group of homophobes.
    Furthermore, in the black community because we are not monolithic in our sexuality or sexual identities, we are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer, polyamorous (i.e. we love many), heterosexually unmarried having sex, asexual but heterosexual (i.e. celibacy), heterosexually married and having sex with non-spouses, etc. Meaning, a few prized clergy like Rev. Jamal Bryant and others who get to have private phone calls with the President does not represent the diversity of sexual identities we have in the black community.
    And, let me just say this: Yes, there are some things that “negatively” directly effect a large number of African-Americans that President Obama should speak too such as the unemployment rate among African-Americans, the privatizing of urban schools where many black and brown children attend.

    And, since you Mr. Watley seem to be privy to be able to be on call with the President, do you discuss these things . . . these things that are negatively affecting many black and brown people?
    But, yet, you and Rev. Jamal Bryant find it oh so important that he give an accounting of his support for same sex unions which will have a positive effect on many black people in our diverse community, I don’t understand that. That seems illogical and “not Christ like.”

    @ Robbe Portman,

    Let’s be a little more critical here, many black people voted for President Barack Obama not because of his stance on same sex unions, they voted for him because he was a black man who after beating now Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, looked like a viable candidate.

  47. Mija Says:

    First let me express that I am so very happy you wrote this because it was the perspective I needed to at least begin trying to understand my own reaction and my true beliefs and what they are founded on or should be or not be founded on. My initial response to the President was as if this was going to effect me personally either way. I mean I was angry, disappointed and hurt but it wasn’t due to the culmination of his journey with this. It was President Obama’s reasoning. I probably wouldn’t have given it much thought accept that something about it felt so manipulative via his interjection of the Word over what i feel the only publically expressed reasoning by our POTUS should have been; the rights as citizen of the United States. What was that about? Why did he not limit to the only reason he ever needed to give which I reiterate; that as a citizen of the United States, it should be anyones right to marry whom they please. I’m having a problem with him bringing Jesus into the mix and I feel it was about politics but why. Thank you again for a “buffet” of thought.

  48. C Holmes Says:

    Thank you Dr. Weems for your honest commentary and for speaking to the divisive words of Rev. Bryant. As an African American clergyperson who is lesbian with a Pentecostal background — the journey has been long on so many levels. President Obama’s support and your words are balm to a sometimes weary spirit. But I have hope that indeed equality will be in my life time as well.

  49. Lea Says:

    I agree with Karen! I can’t judge anyone, but I don’t agree with homosexuality, but what you do in your life is between you & God. I have friends who are homosexual & I love them dearly, but they know my position on the subject. The President doesn’t owe anyone an apology. I still support him & will be voting for him in November.

  50. Ciretose 10 Says:

    I wonder if the President’s position would be the same if Romney practiced a traditional religion. I think not.

  51. Tina Says:

    It’s humorous how Jamal Bryant can scoff at gay marriage and it’s participants, but isn’t hesitant to step outside his own marriage. Church folk are a mess! President owes the black church apology, but has he apologized to his parishioners or the black church?!?! While I’m not one for judgement, it furiates me to no end that “Christians” aka church folk sprint for the first stone, while safeguarding their glass house. So, I agree TOTALLY with Rev. Weems…President Obama owes none. We as people should work on relieving ourselves of the judgmental and hypocritical thorn that has become a fixture in our sides. Now that’s the apology owed to the black church!

  52. Kenyatta Bush Says:

    This is simply the best reflection I’ve read thus far and trust me, I’ve read a ton, both conservative and progressive.

  53. Rev Linda Mootry Dodd Says:

    Thank God for thinking women. Your response was God ordain and touched my heart. I respect your scholarship, honesty and your journey. Why we spend so much time trying to prove God hates this love community I will never know. Church folks need to be careful as they call themselves followers of Jesus,,,yet trying to prove that there is limited room at the cross for some folks. My pastor emeritus use to say we confuse the truth with tradition and the Christ with our culture. Thank you Dr Weem, for taking the time to lay it out. I am not a part of the Gay community, but I am a follower of Jesus Christ. If I am wrong I will error on the side of love,
    When are you coming to Chicago? Are you teaching in Memphis? Send a shout out, I will come, to learn some more..

  54. Carlos A. Howard Says:

    Thank You for your expression.While I understood the President to say that those who choose to marry
    of the same sex should be allowed to do so under the law not under the Church or the Bible.He also
    stated that he had evoled to this position after considering many facts and details.I’m concerned
    about those who hold themselves as religious leaders and turn a blind eye to the same concerns
    that prevail in congregations.The Gay Minister of Music,The Womanizing Deacon or the Child molesting
    Sunday School Teacher or maybe the theiving Trustee.Until the Church and its Pastors began to take the beam out its own eyes…then they can aid in removing the speck out of others.Last time I checked…its Gods Church not the Black Church or White Church and it is clear to me that those who lead today institutions lack the asset that Jesus died for.LOVE.Jesus died for sin and the sinner.While I beleive that according to the Word of God …a male and female constitutes a marriage for procreation but we live in a world that consist
    of a diverse population and I’m not a Judge or God and the truth of the matter is that God is not exclusive ,but inclusive and the choice is ours.Compassion Mercy, and Understanding is the key
    element not judgement.One more thing… before you pass judgement on the President…He made no mention of marriage in the Kingdom of God ,but under the law.LISTEN!SELAH!


  55. Akazia Says:

    Kudos to you sister. Welcome back.

  56. AdaRenee Says:

    @ Fallon. Excellent reply.

  57. Natasha M Says:

    This is tremendous! I really appreciate your treatment of this topic as you
    captured my own sentiments. Welcome back!!!

  58. Ronald Says:

    Rev. Dr. Weem,as an African American same gender loving man who was raised in the church but as I have gotten older has continued to wrestle with my place in a church and with some people who neither supports or values me (all of who I am). Rev. Bryant’s duplicity and hypocrisy is the very thing that continues to keep us from believing that the black church is where we should be on Sunday morning. Rev. Bryant has a rather “tabloid” riddled past and should be the last to speak about answering to the black church. My emotional orientation is something that I value and the day that President Obama endorsed marriage equality I was elated. While it did not change the legality in Illinois it did touch my heart knowing that the support was there. I thank you for your POWERFUL words and your genuine honesty.

  59. Diane Says:

    Very well said!!!!!!

  60. Pastor George B. Merrill Says:

    Interestingly, there is no Biblical record of Jesus saying anything about same sex marriage or, for that matter, homosexuality - either pro or con. He did quote the Old Testament in saying that marriage is between man and woman, but that was in the context of a sermon against divorce - not dealing with the question of same sex marriage. Indeed, the idea of two people of the same sex living in long-term, committed relationships was totally unheard of in His day, so it would never occur to Him or His listeners to address the question of same-sex marriage.
    What is fascinating is that Jesus was quite strong in His preaching against divorce, yet divorce has become quite acceptable today, even among so-called conservative Christians. The point is that one’s personal beliefs do not always have to be in sync with society’s laws. One can be opposed to divorce, for example, and still live peaceably in a society that allows divorce. The same holds true for same sex marriage - you can be against it, but still live in a country that allows it. The question is, is it acceptable for the beliefs of one group to result in the denial of equal rights to another group, whose beliefs are different?

  61. Mihcael Says:

    Only totally disagreed with one of ur comments and that is we can go against the Bible because we know to much.

  62. Angela Hill Says:


  63. Judy Gould Says:

    I just love it when I hear (read) people actually thinking! Wow!

  64. Maria D Says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful post. While I have many things to say in its favor, I will sum it up in one word: Amen!

  65. Bren Says:

    Thank you for saying what I have been trying to say to those who think homosexuality is an abomination. If that is so, what about how people with mental illnesses are treated, the homeless, young girls having children without the benefit of the father of these kids, what about those who are hungry, those living in the dark because they cannot pay power bill. The only thing I am trying to say is there are more issues other than who people choose to love and make a commitment to. They can probably pay their bills!

  66. Toni Belin Ingram Says:

    Thanks so much. I was with a group of men last night saying that after so many disparaging remarks from black clergy that they were through with the church again. One man shared your blog and it provided a major source of healing. For them and for so many others thank you
    Love and appreciate you!

  67. Debra Says:

    Finally a site with christians, theologians and biblical scholars to ask my questions. I believe that the greatest gift from God is our mind; the ability to think and process information. I am constantly asking the question, where in the bible does it say that homosexuality is a sin. I have seen in some recent versions, people have (re)interpreted scripture to promote their own personal beliefs and agendas, which then makes me question, is that not all versions of the Bible? How have learned scholars reduced homosexuality to a sexual behavior? When I read scripture that I am referred to (Genesis, Romans, Leviticus, etc.) the behaviors described sound so heterosexual. Why does the church oppose free and open discussion of its’ teachings?

  68. Matthew Watley Says:


    After Obama’s Decision on Marriage, a Call to Pastors
    Published: May 13, 2012

    WASHINGTON — About two hours after declaring his support for same-sex marriage last week, President Obama gathered eight or so African-American ministers on a conference call to explain himself. He had struggled with the decision, he said, but had come to believe it was the right one.
    The ministers, though, were not all as enthusiastic. A vocal few made it clear that the president’s stand on gay marriage might make it difficult for them to support his re-election.
    “They were wrestling with their ability to get over his theological position,” said the Rev. Delman Coates, the pastor of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Md., who was on the call.
    In the end, Mr. Coates, who supports civil marriages for gay men and lesbians, said that most of the pastors, regardless of their views on this issue, agreed to “work aggressively” on behalf of the president’s campaign. But not everyone. “Gay marriage is contrary to their understanding of Scripture,” Mr. Coates said. “There are people who are really wrestling with this.”
    In the hours following Mr. Obama’s politically charged announcement on Wednesday, the president and his team embarked on a quiet campaign to contain the possible damage among religious leaders and voters. He also reached out to one or more of the five spiritual leaders he calls regularly for religious guidance, and his aides contacted other religious figures who have been supportive in the past.

  69. Eva Stokes Wood Says:

    Thank you Dr. Reems for an insightful and educating post. Your post makes you think and not just come off as some crazy, religious, not spiritual, person.

  70. Fallon Says:

    Once again, Rev. Watley you do not see the problem of President Obama having to pay deference to a small group of pastors about his decision to include all people in the rights, entitlements, and privileges of marriage?

    Once again, as I stated to you earlier in a comment, irrespective of how large the congregation each of the 8 pastors steward, Black people are not monolithic in our theologies and sexualitites meaning having to pay homage and deference to such a conservative group of pastors to oppress many within and outside of the black community is illogical and misguided.

    As an aside, I believe many black people will support President Obama for many reasons because the alternative is no jobs, no head start, no medicaid, etc. And, large amounts of black people are in need of these things irrespective of it their pastor is in support of the President’s decision on same sex unions are not.

  71. Samuel Green, Jr. Says:

    AMEN! We need more credible voices offering a different opinion. I agree, he does not owe an explanation to anyone. Obama reaching out to religious advisors was a courtesy and possibly a crisis management move. But, at the end of the day, he does not owe the black church another word on this issue. Marriage is not owned by the church.

  72. Breonus Says:

    This is simply brilliant!

  73. greta Says:

    well for a $15 million donation during an election year I’d be pro gay marriage too. After all, to get the 2008 vote the president dissed his onwn pastor after 20 years of membership. This issue is nothing more than a ploy to get votes and donations for a heated election and cause division among the people of God. I suppose Latino immigration reform,and Black issues about the criminal justice system or the New Jim Crow does not possess enough economic clout to cause an “evolution of thought” from the president.

  74. Cheryl Townsend Gilkes Says:

    Your words are sooooo on-target. Thank you for your wisdom!!!!!
    Now that you are back, keep the BLOG going!

  75. Irie L. Session Says:

    So glad you’re back and that you chimed in on this one.

  76. Wanda M. Coleman Says:

    You’ve given us something to think about! Glad to see you blogging.

  77. Rev. Dr. Fredericka Jackson Says:

    Thank you Rev. Dr. Weems! How well you articulated my sentiments. May God continue to shower you with blessings, you have been such a blessing and thought challenger to so many of us.

  78. Marsha Gordon Says:

    You are so on point!! Thanks for the timely ressurection of your blog!

  79. Veronica Says:

    AMEN!!!! Pres. Obama is not my God. He is a man with an opinion…and that opinion does not stop him from running America. Some heterosexuals have already made a mess of the institute of marriage…i.e - Rev. Bryant!!!! Rev. Bryant stop bashing folks and acting like you are “all that”…check yourself first!!
    As I live and learn it never ceases to amaze me how my thoughts and opinions change and evolve…when I hear statements from people like Rev. Bryant it makes me take a stand for the gays and lesbians, just like someone once did for the Black woman! They are still a child of God, just like I am!!

  80. vickie washington-nance Says:

    Rev. Dr. Renita!

    Has it been only two years???? Thanking God you are back! Hallelujah to JESUS!!! (that’s one cent) As for the current brouhaha regarding same sex marriage, one of your sermon titles comes to mind… “We’ve been around this mountain long enough!” (two cents) on and up y’all!

  81. Dollie Howell Pankey Says:

    Dr. Renita, I’m so glad you’re back! Thank you for such a cogent post. I’m passing it along for others to read. Keep writing! We need to hear from you.

  82. Yvette Says:

    Thank You Dr. Weems, you have provided a level of insight that no one else has done, or should I say had the courage to do. While the “church” me feels almost obligated to to disagree with gay marriage, the “real” me wrestles with the POTUS’ remarks, because as a Christian, I have no right to Judge or determine if Gays have the right to marry. Thank You for sharing!

    As a side note - Rev. Bryant needs to sit down and be a little more humble considering his own indiscretions and remember that a sin is a sin. Don’t get amnesia!

  83. Repenzla Simms Says:

    Thank you so much for your blog. Wonderfully said!!!

  84. Lisa K. Hill Says:

    Thank you for helping to calm my nerves tonight. As I was driving home tonight I heard a syndicated radio show host (gospel station) say that the POTUS has opened the door to sin in America and trying to get listeners riled up against President Obama. I felt a psychological tantrum coming on. Thanks to you and others here for reminding me that there are others who believe that the President is not our Pastor.

  85. Ruby Sales Says:

    Speak truth to us all! Great message and analysis!

  86. Gail Says:

    I am going to take a risk here and support Rev. Jamal Bryant. I agree, Dr. Weems that the president doesn’t owe us an explanation. As another astute observer pointed out, if he has not given us an explanation for the high employment rates, rising poverty, mass incarceration, and not ever fighting for a single payor health care system (as he campaigned), for our people, then by all means, no explanation needed about support for gay marriage. I support Jamal Bryant after listening to his mother’s day sermon (which was brilliant) because I think it took such courage (and even more because of his own moral failures). As any observer knows, questioning gay marriage or being perceived as insensitive is opening oneself to publication vilification as a homophobe and bigot. Ask Roland Martin or Kirk Cameron (who was baited). Jamal Bryant has forced black clergy to take a stand on this issue, which is a good thing. It is forcing all of us to sift between our prejudices and convictions. It is forcing us to listen to our gay friends, family member and fellow congregants (many of whom we enjoy far more than the straight-laced, pious, always-know-exactly-what-is-right saints, spare me!). For Obama, the question is legal and political for Christians it is moral and ethical. I am wrestling with this issue myself and I have not reached any easy conclusions. We need more discussions not less. I have no stake in denying love to anyone. But…if the sense of the Scriptures is saying something else…if the Scriptures mean anything…then I have to pause. What are the ramifications for the culture 50 years from now if we change such a long standing tradition? What are the rights of the minority in a civil society? These are very difficult questions for me and unfortunately I have not had the opportunity to discuss them in church (I’ve tried, but the discussions become personal and ugly. “How could a Christian?”…well you know the rest). I am grateful for thinking people of faith and very happy to have Dr. Weems, weigh in whether I fully agree or not.

  87. Monique Says:

    Dr. Weems! Our paths have crossed, but never connected. I attended Vanderbilt Divinity School while you still had an office there, attended your women bible studies with a PhD student who was a member at your church and heard you preach at my home church in Fort Washington, MD. I said all that to say, I went to Divinity school wanting to pursue a calling but I had an internal conflict - I’m queer and I couldn’t reconcile my queerness within the walls of the church – particularly the Black church. Perhaps, if I would have encountered your insightful and scholarly teaching at VDS from a black woman’s perspective on human sexuality I might pressed beyond to finish. Thank you for this blog - your thoughts were liberating for me…

  88. Sue Says:

    Dr. Weems, thank you for being the kind of Christian that truly exemplifies Christ!

  89. Overseer Cheryl Tibbs Says:

    Dr Weems this is so like you- so eloquent. I believe there are many who share your stand on this issue but do not have the balls to make a public stand.
    It bothers me how Dr Bryant has come out and become so outspoken on this issue as if his sin is one that can be covered. (We all know his story). He certainly does not voice the opinion of this black pastor.

  90. Renita Says:

    I appreciate the many supportive comments that have been left here on the blog. I also appreciate the comments left by those of you who disagree. I urge those of you who fall in the latter group to read and reflect more. If nothing more than to strengthen your position. In the public square of competing opinions and thoughtful dialogue “Because the bible says so…” is not going to cut it. You’re gonna have to address why “slaves obey your masters” and other such texts get left behind.

    The bible is as important and authoritative to me (and others who share my position) as it is to you. So important and authoritative that we love it enough to try to explain how and why we interpret the way we do, what sections we think we think cause more harm than good and what sections we think apply today.

    But as I have said here and elsewhere, as a conservative of sorts myself, this is not about what “the bible says… We all operate with a canon within the canon, and pick and choose which teachings apply to the ancient world and which ones should be observed forever. The bible is silent about pedophilia, but most of us are convinced that pedophilia is wrong in the eyes of God. Stop hiding behind God and the bible, and just admit that you find homosexuality morally repugnant. Until that happens, we will continue to talk at each other instead of to each other.

  91. Marsha Foster Boyd Says:

    Sister Renita, Thank you for returning to your blog, and as always, putting pen to paper in such a powerful and insightful way. Keep writing, please!

  92. Vivian Says:

    Welcome back!! You’ve been missed. Insightful, on point piece and one with which I totally agree. Again, welcome back!!

  93. Rev. Phil Jackson Says:

    Thank You, for having a decent dialogue that allow individuals to reflect before reacting out of their preconceive notion. It was Rev Dr Martin Luther King who said that some truths are meant to be wrestle with before coming to any conclusion.

  94. Suezy B. Says:

    I love you Dr. Weems and I agree that if Rev. Bryant said that Obama “had explaining to do,” he absolutely has none to do to me. President Obama is a man who professes Christianity and a sitting President of the United States in a vigorous battle for reelection. That’s explanation enough. But as I read the article and listened to the CNN interview, I did not find such a comment. You say that “same sex marriage, in my opinion, is not a biblical or theological issue; it’s a social and political one. Traditional and conservative Christianity is going to lose on this issue.” I agree. If the very elect of God do not wake up, we will yet again be the causality of the great tsunami, the Social thought. I know its not popular, but for me, every issue whether social or political, runs through my spiritual eye. And by that I am led. While some see the preeminent requirement for the biblical fulfillment for a marriage as commitment, unions between men and women prove differently. These issues of the heart are seriouly difficult for all involved. I also beg to differ with You and others who liken the subugation of slaves and women and trying to make this matter a civil rights issue. Yes, the whole church (whether we call it liberal or conserv) will lose, and the world will lose also. Clergy and lay alike, and others of those who hold to “their” convictions, will be scandalized and thrusted into courts and possibly even prison because they do not conform to the various transformations of the law. In a time where civil unions provide every legal protection and freedom to LGTBQ under the fourteenth amendment while maintaining 1st amendment protections, they argue over this “church” matter. There seems to me to be an end-time agenda here.

  95. Jay Says:

    Amen sista! As a hetero black male its simple, if you dont like gay marriage, don’t marry a gay person. In addition, discrimination of any kind is wrong; racial, gender, sexual orientation, it’s all defined as the same thing. People of color should never discriminate considering what the history of America is, African American should never discriminate agaisnt anyone. As a spiritual person, I also wonder why some Christians pick & choose which tenents of the bible they are going to follow & which they will use to judge others. There are many positive lessons in the bible but also many contridictions as you point out.

  96. Tara Says:

    Well said Dr. Weems! Well said!

  97. LaRita L. Says:

    Thank you for your post, and 5/15 response to comments. As always, your comments are well-thought, well-grounded and thought provoking. I agree with your comments, especially the way you so adeptly keyed in on the nature of the issue - social/political, not biblical/theological. The last paragraph of your 5/15 comment sums it all up!

    Keep writing and thinking about writing!

  98. Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt Says:

    Blessings and thank you from the liberal religious side of the aisle, sister Renita! So glad you wrote this piece. For me it’s pastoral–I minister to so many LGBT couples and families of all races. I do their weddings and memorial services and dedicate their kids. Their love and commitment is no different than Bob and me; their families deserve the same protection as my family. Continue to be well, dear friend! Much love to you.

  99. Donnie Says:

    Well, Renita., as always you are as feisty and prolific as ever. My Pastor To Young Adults me this link. You and Otis, move us to think and ponder. While I hold to a traditional view of marriage , I am hearing other sides of the issue . The POTUS forms Policy, not Theology….. I bet we could discus this with great fervor , as we debated “everything ” at Princeton!!! Like countless multitudes, I too thank God for your voice…. Right now , ” up in here”,as you would say…… I thank God for your Life!!!!!!!!God Bless YOU!!!!! Donnie

  100. Rev. Bridget L. Mitchell Says:

    God bless you for posting this! I blogged about this also. What needed to be said was put very eloquently by you. Thank you!

  101. Mina Says:

    What decision did you come to? We are clear as to what Pastor Bryant’s position is, what is yours? As a minister of the biblical word you’ve said that the bible is dated and basically said that it’s “tradition”. So are we to think that lying and stealing along with the other commandments be considered dated before long? Would this be considered extreme to you? What line would you NOT cross for the sake of being PC? There are no sins greater that any other. Just like sin is a sin, The Word is the Word is the Word….I’m sad that you gave up.

  102. Jaclyn Jones Says:

    I feel that African Americans have become selective religionist. What happened to denouncing Romeny because of his Mormon views. These people believe in a man-god; in a planet called Klob that sits next door to heaven; Jesus and Satan are brothers; Jesus’ reappearance was before the Native Americans in the Americas. Isn’t this heretic thinking! Obama who is President to all the people says this is not a religious matter, rather a Civil matter. African American have some of the worst communities in the country; live in fear of gang violence; fear the most macho men in their communities who wear red or blue; have a soaring crime rate; yet, they’ve become obsessed with gay rights as sinful. I don’t get it.

  103. Steve Martin Says:

    God bless you for you encouragement and your caring of others!

    For some good daily soul renewal, I also recommend this up and coming devotional site viewed in 64 countries around the world:

    Thank you.

  104. Rev. Cedric A. Harmon Says:

    Dr. Reems,
    It has been my joy to read your books and to hear you preach (in Washington, DC and especially at Howard Univ.) on many occasions. I’ve passed my appreciation for you on to many friends. However, in this moment I am eternally grateful to you for speaking into the fray on this matter. Your voice is clear and your words much needed. I pray the church and community will hear.
    Blessings & Peace

  105. Rev. Cedric A. Harmon Says:

    Please note my typo on in the first line, R. Dr. R. Weems is what I meant. Thank you.
    Rev. Cedric A. Harmon

  106. Jen Says:

    Well, let’s just throw the word of God away and have a love fest. Throw the book away and do whatever makes you feel good. It’s all about our feelings. The heck with God’s word. AMEN

    Last one in the room, turn the lights out!!!!!

  107. Rev.Michaele L. Moore Says:

    Dr. Weems, thank you for sharing your educated and insightful perspective. I am an African-American lesbian who is a former Elder in the AME Church I agrees with you that President Obama does not owe us any explaination at all he has clearly stated his stance it is the Black church that is not clear. In my opinion they want members of the LGBT community to be involved in the church as , Down low pastors, muscians, elders, deacon and other perspective offices as long as we are silent. The problem arises when people want to live authentically they have a problem. I stand on the scripture found in John 4:24 “God is a spirit and those that worship God must worship God in spirit and in truth.” The truth is love should be expressed in a commited and healthy relationship- same-sex marriage, is a definite positive institution for this truthful expression.
    It hurts me to my heart that those leaders in the AME church and other denominations are choosing to take on this negative theology and philosophy.I too know Rev. Dr. Jamal Bryant personally,actually since he was a child in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I continue to be dissapointed at his lack of progression and inclusivity. The AME church along with other mainstream denominations are dying, and need to dust off their liberation theology books and re-read them again, and again and again. Same-sex marriage is a commitment of love not of sex. Same- sex marriage is about vowing to honor, respect and support your respective life partner. Same- sex marriage is about standing for the one you love in all areas not just lying with them in the bedroom. Rev. Jamal ought to be more careful in asking for an explaination from our POTUS, since he my brother in ministry has some explaining to do of his own. The bible also says in Matt. 7:1 ” Judge not lest you be judge.” HELP US LORD JESUS. Thanks again Dr. Weems for your insightful leadership.

  108. Carol Estes Says:

    Thank you for your profound & very insightful response. Aw a woman of African heritage, & a United Methodist Church ordained elder, Rev. Bryant does not speak for me. As a servant leader, my role is to guide, to nurture, to motivate, to help make known some unknowns, to assist in the process of spiritual growth & to reflect God’s unconditional love of equality for everyone of us (despite our human condition). Black churches are full of gays & lesbians, and most often they are the folks giving the most money. Yet, we when it comes to being acknowledged as a full person, in loving healthy relationships, our brothers & sisters are woefully ignored. Maybe, just maybe, if Christian folks, particularly those of African heritage, lived into action Jesus’ teaching to love (see, tolerate, honor) each other, we might have a lower rate of newly diagnosed Black (young) women with HIV/AIDS, and young black men (& women, too) might be less preyed upon by sexually closeted church authority figures. And, maybe, Rev. Bryant’s comments will start a black clergy movement affirming same-sex marriages in black churches. I am continually praying for my beloved United Methodist brothers & sisters to really practice our universal church’s motto, “Open Minds, Open Hearts & Open Doors.”

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