2 preachers; 2 views on Amendment One
Bishop Phillip Davis of Nations Ford Community Church has been outspoken in his support for Amendment One, which would change the N.C. Constitution to define "mariage" as a state-sanctioned institution between one man and one woman. (Photo: Glenn H. Burkins for Qcitymetro.com)
As N.C. voters prepare to decide the fate of a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage, perhaps no one in Charlotte’s black community has been more outspoken in support of the amendment than Bishop Phillip Davis, senior pastor of Nations Ford Community Church.
While some faith leaders have sidestepped the topic, Davis has waded in, encouraging his congregation from the pulpit to support Amendment One. He says he is compelled by his Christian faith and personal convictions to speak out.
|Rev. Ricky A. Woods|
On the opposite end is the Rev. Ricky A. Woods, senior pastor of First Baptist Church-West. Woods has been equally outspoken in his opposition to Amendment One. While he labels homosexuality a biblical sin, he says he does not believe that his Christian values should be codified into secular law.
Qcitymetro.com met with both preachers last week to discuss their respective views. We begin today with a Q&A with Pastor Davis. His answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Up Next: Pastor Woods explains his position.
Qcitymetro: It would have been easy to keep silent on Amendment One, as so many other pastors have done. What made you decide to speak out?
Davis: This is a round-about answer, but I’ll try to keep it short. About three years ago, I think it was on New Years, I shared with our congregation that this entire decade was going to be a decade of great opportunities and great challenges for us, particularly as a church, to influence the culture. We coined the word “occupy” even before the Occupy Wall Street movement. We talked about the fact that occupying means that we give ourselves in service to the community, and we committed 25,000 volunteer hours per year for those three years, and we’ve completed that. But I also shared with them that we’d have the opportunity to impact the culture in other ways. One of the things I shared with them was that one of the most pressing issues of the next 10 years or so was going to be the issue of how we define ‘family.’ What will marriage be like? I shared with them that we would have an opportunity to talk about that and to impact and influence people to understand that marriage, in and of itself, is a God-ordained and sacred institution. And so when this thing came about with Amendment One, I wasn’t caught off guard and really felt that it was an opening to be able to share what I thought was going to happen anyway. So rather than just sit on the sideline and let it fall where it may, I thought that was just really an opportunity to be involved.
Qcitymetro: What’s been the reaction in your church? Any opposition?
Davis: Oh, no. Our church has been solidly in favor of our position. And so it’s been a real good situation. Obviously, some folk want more information. You’ve got all these messages coming at people about the amendment itself, so what people have been asking for is information in terms of why someone said this is going to happen or this is going to take place (if Amendment One passes). So we’ve been having to sort through things of that nature, but we’ve had great support from our congregation.
Qcitymetro: What do you make of religious leaders who read the same Bible that you read yet disagree with your position?
Davis: When we read the Bible, we all look at it from different angles, different perspectives. We read it from an historical perspective; we read it from a cultural perspective; we read it from a scientific perspective; and you can go on and on and on. And so we have different take-aways and different applications. But I think that the reality is that when you read the scriptures, you’re reading God’s story of himself to man. However, I think we sometimes read more about man when we should be reading more about God and his grace and his mercy and his love that is revealed in scripture. So we take away different things. When different people and different pastors read the Bible, we all read it from our perspectives of our lives and our life journeys.
Qcitymetro: In a Democratic, pluralistic society, which includes people of many faiths, or no faith at all, why should Christian values – or the values of any religion – be written into law?
Davis: That is a very valid question, and it’s an important question, but I think that when you look back over history, the fact of the matter is, no matter what culture you’re in, no matter what nation you’re in, no matter what family you’re in, somebody’s values are going to rule.
For example, let’s say you live in a family that has no belief in God. However, even then in that social setting of the family, there will be some rules based on someone’s values and morals that are dominate and that govern the rest of the family. No one gets to just do anything and everything they want to do, period, because we live in a society, or we live as social people. And when we live as social people, somebody’s agenda, somebody’s values, or morals, are going to have greater influence and set the cultural tone and even laws for that society.
So from the perspective of the Christian, the Bible teaches us to be the salt and the light, and Romans teaches us ‘Don’t be conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.’ Literally, we are to go and we are to make a difference in the culture because that is what Christ did. As Christ presented the Kingdom of God, he came to make moral, ethical and value changes, and that’s what upset the religious establishment. Jesus came to put forth a different moral code and called it the Kingdom of God.
Here is another example: If I were in a room with a group of businessmen and we were talking about how to do something or ways to make money or impact our community, I would certainly want my values to influence that discussion. And so it is with anything else. I just believe that the Bible that I read and the God that I believe in and the Christ that I have accepted would want me to influence the culture in which we live, whether that is in our laws or whether that is in just the morals of the community.
Qcitymetro: The Bible speaks of many sins. As you interpret scripture, would you place homosexuality above other mentioned sins, such as lying, stealing, adultery, etc.?
Davis: Absolutely not. I think that when we look at the reality of scripture and when we look at the reality of our lives, when we look at the bottom line of who we are as human beings, we are all fallen creatures. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. So that being said, there are no big sins or little sins. You only have one God, and he is a God of holiness, and anything that falls short of His glory is sin.
That’s what the Bible teaches, and that’s what we’ve got to understand about the fallen nature of man. But with that said, God does not want us to stay in our fallen state. And that is the transformation message that the church and the word of God have to offer. We may start in a fallen state, but we don’t have to stay there.
Qcitymetro: Would you say that homosexuality is different in any way?
Davis: There are obviously sins that have a greater impact socially, culturally and in other ways. For example, if I am overeating, the Bible speaks of gluttony as a sin. Well, I’m damaging me more so than anything or anyone else. But there are other repercussions. I’m also damaging the future relationship with my children and my spouse because I’m cutting my life short. I have to also look at the fact that I may be costing someone money…the company I work for that pays for my health insurance. So obviously different sins will have different degrees of impact on people, whether it’s adultery, whether it’s homosexuality, whether its fornication, whether it’s a lie, whether its greed or whatever. There are social impacts as well as individual impacts.
Qcitymetro: Then do you believe homosexuality has a wider impact?
Davis: I think homosexuality has a great impact, first within families and then within the broader community. However, not only homosexuality but all sexual sins have wide impact, from teen pregnancies to abortions to unwanted and neglected children to sexually transmitted diseases to divorce.
So it is not just homosexuality that has a wide impact but all sexual-related sins.
Now when we bring up the matter of those choosing to live a homosexual lifestyle and advocating for that lifestyle to be recognized as a legal form of family…then we get back to the question that you asked earlier about the values of a Christian being written into law versus the values of someone else being written into law. Now we have to reverse that very same question. When you put it in the public arena and in the public square and say, ‘This should be the morals of a culture,’ now we have to dialog about that whole process and the possibility of the impact it can have for future generations.
Qcitymetro: What would you say to those who believe God made them homosexual?
Davis: I would say that God loves them. God cares for them. I love them. However, I would not agree with them that God created them homosexual. God did not create individuals homosexual, not according to the Bible that I believe in. He created them male and female, and throughout the whole Bible that has never changed. I don’t subscribe to the notion that people are born homosexual.
Qcitymetro: Do you believe that in your lifetime you will see same-sex marriage widely practiced in the United States? In other words, are you fighting a losing battle?
Davis: Well, even if you’re fighting a losing battle, if you’re fighting for the right cause you’ve got to fight, and you’ve got to fight for your family and you’ve got to fight for the future. I don’t know if it will be in my lifetime or not, but I do believe our nation is heading in that direction, simply because of the activism of those individuals who support and promote the gay rights agenda. They have a lot of money, a lot of influence, a lot of power politically. So, we are moving in that direction.
Qcitymetro: Some have criticized the African American community, and especially the black church, for not recognizing this as a civil rights issue. What do you say to those people?
Davis: When you begin to put homosexuality and civil rights side by side…I personally do not see a comparison. The issue of civil rights is about the cause of basic human inalienability -- our God-given right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Black people were enslaved, oppressed and discriminated against…because of the color of our skin.
Homosexuality is not about the same issue. It is about the issue of someone’s behavior, not their being? I believe this is a behavior issue, not a being issue. Therefore, it is not an issue of discrimination and-or civil rights because it is not an issue of inherent being.
I am inherently black -- born that way; can’t change it. That is not my behavior; that is my being. Therefore, I can’t put the two in the same bucket and say this is a civil rights issue. And I really do object to that because, when you look at the price our forefathers paid for you and me and for us as black people to be here today – the lynching, the beatings, the dogs, the discrimination, the water hoses and on and on and on, the Jim Crow laws and all that black folks went through because of just being black; not behaving, just being black – to me, to equate the behavior choice of homosexuality with that…has never sat well with me.
Qcitymetro: How would you describe your theology?
Davis: My theology, like most, is born out of a mixture of social, family, educational, and personal experiences. So it is grounded in a hodge-podge of life experiences.
People sometimes ask, ‘Are you conservative or are you liberal or are you moderate?’ I would say it depends on the issue and on the situation at hand.
I try to resist being squeezed into boxes because, based on what the issue may be, my position may be conservative, moderate, or liberal. I believe we make a mistake when we try putting everyone into neat little boxes or buckets and use sound bite statements to describe them. That is when we stereotype and limit our understanding of individuals.
It’s sort of like saying, ‘Are you a black Christian or a white Christian?’ Well, anytime you put an adjective in front of a noun, you have modified the noun. So my response is that I’m not conservative, moderate or liberal. I am a Christian.
Jesus was conservative when it came to dealing with some issues and then He was liberal when it came to others and took a moderate position on some others.
It is a mistake to say the black community has to be monolithic in our theology or in our political or economic views.
Qcitymetro: Any final thoughts?
Davis: I think that it’s important for folks to really understand what Amendment One is all about. I think that we have, unfortunately, shaped this issue around opposition of gay marriage, when that is not the point of this amendment. The point of Amendment One is to define marriage as one man and one woman. It has no impact on what a committed homosexual couple wants to do. I think that’s important to remember, and that is why I support voting for Amendment One and encourage everyone else to do the same -- vote for Amendment One.
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