NASHVILLE, Tenn. – On Monday, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is expected to fully endorse same-sex marriage, as well as the President's decision to do so.
But African American church pastors in Tennessee aren't jumping at the chance to support the nation's largest civil rights advocacy group.
"The Bible teaches that God has a design for men and women – and that a woman and a man are to be joined together and become husband and wife," said the Reverend Doctor Andrew Stephens, whose East Nashville church is known as The Village Church.
"And the Bible makes no provisions for two men doing that, or two women doing that," Stephens added.
Leaders of the Tennessee Equality Project, or TEP, on the other hand, are jubilant over the anticipated support from the NAACP.
"We're delighted! Of course, they're the major force in civil rights in this country and have been for years," said Chris Sanders with TEP. "It's wonderful to have that level of support," Sanders added.
Sanders and many gay rights advocates often draw a parallel between their modern-day struggle and the historic civil rights movement of the 1960s. But that metaphor isn't sitting well with roughly a dozen Memphis-area church pastors who, just this past week, publicly denounced the president's endorsement of same-sex marriage.
"I was in the Civil Rights movement. And I can tell you I did not march one inch, one foot, one yard, one mile for same-sex marriage," said the Rev. William Owens Sr., during a press conference.
As firmly planted as the Reverend Andrew Stephens is, he admits he, too, struggles with the divisive issue that is often not clear-cut.
Stephens admitted he has same-sex couples in his congregation, and the topic of Tuesday night Bible study has even become the issue of same-sex unions. But, Stephens admitted, he could never and would never preside over a same-sex marriage.
Chris Sanders with TEP pointed out that the concept of civil marriage the president is endorsing would entail a mere marriage license obtained at the county clerk's office; and that no church in any state would ever be forced to endorse the union of two people, to which it was fundamentally opposed.