WASHINGTON — As the Supreme Court launched two days of oral arguments March 26 on a landmark same-sex marriage case, ministers and members of some Baptist churches in the Mid-Atlantic rallied with other faith groups at an early morning interfaith service and later on the court’s steps in support of marriage equality.
The high court today is scrutinizing California’s Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage, a case that could affect other states as well. Later this week it will look at the federal Defense of Marriage Act’s denial of government benefits to same-sex spouses.
A “Prayer for Love and Justice” interfaith service, hosted Tuesday morning by the Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Washington, drew a standing-room-only crowd as clergy and lay leaders prayed for marriage equality in the United States.
Baptists were encouraged to attend by the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists.
“It is critical that Welcoming and Affirming Baptists speak out in support of marriage equality since there is so much attention being paid to the non-affirming voices in the Baptist world,” said Robin Lunn, AWAB’s executive director.
Baptists from Maryland and the District led portions of the interfaith service, held to demonstrate broad-based support in the faith community for LGBT equality and the dignity of each person as religious values, said organizers.
Dennis Wiley, co-pastor of Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ in Washington, offered prayers focused on love, justice and marriage equality. Jill McCrory, pastor of Twinbrook Baptist Church in Rockville, Md., and an AWAB board member, participated in a blessing of couples, reminding them that it was a Baptist minister offering the blessing — and to remember that as they left the church to join the rally. The congregation responded with laughter and “amens.”
Also participating was Carol Blythe, president of the Alliance of Baptists and a member of Calvary Baptist Church in Washington.
“The Alliance of Baptists has been committed to inclusivity and marriage equality for many years,” said Blythe. “We are glad to add our voice to this interfaith prayer service in support of love and justice. By participating we want to make clear to the world that the broader Baptist family includes our group of justice-seeking Baptists.”
Following the prayer service, a group of drummers led the clergy in song, as they marched the two blocks from the church to the Supreme Court steps to join the United for Marriage Equality rally. Among the speakers there were Al Sharpton, an ordained American Baptist minister, and Allyson Robinson, also an ordained Baptist minister and executive director of OutServe, a support organization for gay members of the armed forces. Robinson is a member of Calvary Baptist Church in Washington.
Steve Hyde, pastor of Ravensworth Baptist Church in Annandale, Va., a suburban congregation represented at the rally by both members and ministers, noted the event coincided with Holy Week.
“On Tuesday of the first Holy Week, Jesus moved among the Temple courts, fielding questions intended to entrap and discredit him,” said Hyde. “On Tuesday of this Holy Week, it was a great privilege as a pastor to stand with so many people of faith in front of the highest court of our land, and to stand for justice and marriage equality.“
Marshall Marks, a Ravensworth member, said, “We’re happy to be out here and to serve as a light for justice so that all couples can be granted the same laws.”
Added AWAB’s Lunn: “Whether it’s Westboro Baptist Church or Richard Land from the Southern Baptist Convention, so often the only Baptist voices that people hear are the negative ones that the media lifts up. We need to stand up and be loud and proud as Welcoming and Affirming Baptists so people who are wounded and have left the church can find a place to call home.”
Leah Grundset Davis ([email protected]), associate pastor for congregational life at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, is a Religious Herald contributing writer.