Faith leaders have joined together to support same-sex marriage in Michigan. They gathered at press conference May 22 in Detroit to call on media to include their message of love and acceptance of LGBT people and their right to marry. BTL Photo: Paulette Niemiec

Michigan Faith Leaders Forge Coalition To Support Same-Sex Marriage, Educate Public And Media

Group Calls On Press To Expand Christian Message As One Of Acceptance

By Paulette Niemiec

DETROIT - Over 40 clergy from several faith traditions gathered on May 22 at Salem Memorial Church in support of same-sex marriage. The press conference was sponsored by the Michigan for Marriage coalition and featured churches, pastors, ministers and people of many faiths who are in support of same-sex marriage.

Those gathered asked the press to address years of the media portraying Christians as a group of people who fight against those who are lesbian, gay and transgender.

"We demand the press stop portraying hateful voices as the mainstream Christian voice," said Rev. Matthew Bode. He summarized the theme of the conference and the reason for having the event. "We call on all members of the media to pause before uplifting those who are hateful church groups. To pause before showing Christians as being those who hate. If you want stories, if you want quotes from the Christian community, we will give them to you," he said.

Recently, a group comprised mostly of African-American pastors made remarks against same-sex marriage and homosexuality. Throughout the last three decades, the popular view portrayed in the media has been mostly negative. Christian leaders have often been heard quoting from the Bible and speaking out against homosexuality in general and same-sex marriage in particular.

"We are here as Christian leaders to say, 'This is NOT our voice,'" said the Rev. Lindsey Anderson, who opened the ceremony. The theme of the press conference was, "God is Love," with these words projected on screens on both sides of the assembly.

"We are here to say we are on the side of the God of compassion," Anderson continued. "We believe in a God who is not on the side of division."

As a sign of Christian unity, five other ministers spoke at the conference from a variety of Christian denominations including Lutheran, Episcopal, Baptist, Metropolitan Community Church, United Church of Christ and several others. The most visible of these were two African-American pastors who stated they were opposed to the portrayal in the media of Christians who represent hate and mistrust of the LGBT community.

"I am an African-American Reverend Minister, and I am a leader of a community that has endured slavery and I stand behind those who are lesbian, gay and transgender," said Pastor Michael Johnson of Salem Lutheran Church. "Our Christian tradition supports love and same-sex marriage is about love."

Anderson made an emotionally charged speech for several minutes describing how Christians have used scripture passages to support acts of discrimination, hate and even violence towards those who are lesbian, gay or transgender. He explained how the Bible has been used to support such acts as slavery, the holocaust, abuse of women and many other forms of hate and acts of violence. "The black community needs to stand up and fight for the rights of all people, because God is a God who is for all," he said.

Another African-American preacher, Michael Nabors, a Baptist pastor from Detroit, echoed his sentiments. "If we don't learn from history we are doomed to repeat it," he explained after the conference. "We don't want people to think the Church is on the wrong side of the issue."

There were some surprises at the conference as well. The Rev. Donald Kreiss, Bishop of the Southeast Michigan Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Christian Association, was possibly the biggest of them all. He addressed all in attendance by making several references to how the Christian Church is supposed to be a place where people can go to feel safe. He also made a clear statement of support for same-sex marriage. "When a loving couple comes together to make a commitment as a couple, opposite-sex or same-sex, it strengthens our community and it strengthens our Churches," he exclaimed.

The most impassioned speech came from openly gay Pastor Matthew Bode, an Evangelical Lutheran pastor from Detroit. "We are Christian leaders who support gay, lesbian and transgender people who have been abused and beaten down by Christians for a long time. The LGBT community has been fighting against those who may be here to fight... but we are here to love and embrace."

Michigan for Marriage, the campaign that sponsored the event, said in a press release, "Our faith traditions and our values have taught us to love God, not to judge and to treat others the way we want to be treated. Our values - love, welcoming, justice, commitment and family, lead us to affirm the freedom to marry for all loving and committed couples. Granting the freedom to marry in Michigan will change nothing. Some faith traditions will choose to marry same-sex couples, while others choose not to. Passing marriage equality in Michigan would not affect religious marriages, religious institutions or clergy in any way... Religious freedom will remain protected."

Anderson summarized the message towards the end: "We Christians believe in a God of love and justice. We stand with all our Christian brothers and sisters who are lesbian, gay or transgender. That's how it should be."

For more information on Michigan for Marriage visit http://www.michiganformarriage.org.
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