The Coalition of African American Pastors demanded on Monday that President Obama meet with the group to address his stance on same-sex marriage. So far, the White House has refused to acknowledge the group’s request but leaders say they plan to “turn up the heat” by asking Black Christians to sit on the sidelines for the time being.
“We have requested a meeting with President Obama and until he meets with us, we are going to ask Black Christians to withhold their support until he personally hears our concerns,” the group’s spokesperson, the Rev. Bill Owens said on Tuesday after Monday’s press conference in Nashville.
“More than anything, this is an issue of biblical principles and President Obama is carrying our nation down a dangerous road. Many African Americans were once proud of our president but now many are ashamed of his actions.”
Owens said the group hasn’t received a response from the White House and they are growing frustrated with each passing day.
“We can’t compete with the Hollywood folks who are raising the big bucks for the president,” Owens said. “But it was Black folks who rallied around him in 2008 and for him to ignore our request with a group of clergy who represents tens of thousands of Black Christians of many denominations is an insult.”
The press conference took place just miles from the convention site of the African Methodist Episcopal Church General Conference in Nashville where First Lady Michelle Obama told the group last week that their participation in this year’s election was critical for an Obama second term.
“So I want you to talk to your friends and your family, your neighbors,” the First Lady told the conference attendees. “Talk to them. Talk to folks in the beauty salons, the barber shops, the parking lot at church. Tell them what’s happening on the city council and out in Washington. Let them know. Find that nephew who has never voted – get him registered.”
And Owens agrees. But until President Obama agrees to meet with the pastors to hear their concerns, he is asking them to withhold their support.
“Let me be clear about this,” Owens said. “Our group does not speak for any denomination – not the AME nor COGIC (Church of God In Christ) or anyone else. But many of our pastors represent a number of African-American Christians who are tired of being taken for granted. One foolish move could ruin the president’s chances for a second term and I believe he is dangerously close to making such a mistake by ignoring us.”
The AME church issued a response on Monday in an effort to distance themselves from the Coalition of African American Pastors and in fact is encouraging the church to actively register voters for the upcoming election.
“As a denomination, we do not endorse candidates for any political office. As such, we cannot “withdraw” support from President Obama because we cannot endorse any candidate for political office and did not endorse the president,” said Bishop Samuel L. Green, Sr., president of the AME Church Council of Bishops, in a written statement.
“We call upon each of our congregants to become registered and vote on Election Day and urge all of our churches to conduct voter registration drives.”Bishop John R. Bryant, senior bishop of the AME Church, said, “We shall continue to advocate for the well-being of all humankind, so that they can freely hear the liberating Gospel of Jesus the Christ.”
Owens says he is perplexed why the White House is ignoring the group’s request to meet, citing that they play host to others groups such as the recent reception the president held for gay activists, some of whom were photographed making obscene gestures under the portraits of President Ronald Reagan.
Nonetheless, Owens says the meeting would be granted out of common courtesy and to discuss biblical principles he believes in.
“You have to stand on the Word of God regardless of your race or political affiliation. If the president is serious about his faith then why would he not meet with men of faith of his own race?”The Coalition of African American pastors is calling to supporters to visit www.100000signatures4marriage.com to sign their petition.