A predominantly African-American megachurch in Chicago with a strong history of civil rights activism is now facing backlash from left-leaning social justice activists after it reportedly expelled a woman from the congregation because she married her lesbian partner.
LGBT supporters gathered outside The Apostolic Church of God on the South Side of the Windy City this past Sunday to protest after a lesbian parishioner was reportedly kicked out of the church and criticized publicly by the pastor in a sermon last month.
"We are the church," demonstrators shouted in a CBS 2 video of their protest as they held up pro-LGBT signs, one of which read "Who Would Jesus Turn Away?"
"Her grandmother was a member, her mother was a member and she was a member for 30 years. All of this ended last week because she made the decision to marry her partner," Pastor Jamie Frazier, a community activist, said over a loudspeaker during the protest.
The unnamed lesbian woman told the local CBS affiliate that "Pastor Byron Brazier publicly shamed and humiliated" her during last Sunday's sermon. Although the pastor's sermon was originally posted to Facebook, it has since been removed, according to CBS 2.
The Christian Post reached out to The Apostolic Church of God seeking to interview Brazier and to confirm the claims that the woman was expelled and publicly criticized in front of the entire church in a sermon. However, no response was received by press time. According to the church's website, it has over 20,000 members.
The Windy City Times, a pro-LGBT media outlet, quoted Brazier as saying in the sermon:
"So it's not that everybody's perfect, we're all imperfect. But what we must realize is that we can not institutionalize that which the Lord has already condemned. And we can not make exceptions. It is the word of the Lord, that is the critical point, and no man, no man, has the capability, or the right, to add to, or take away, from the word of God.
"To that end, a prominent member of this church married a woman of the same sex. Her grandmother was a member here. Her mother was a member here. She was a member here along with her family. Her marriage was posted on Facebook, and I was informed by several members of the congregation concerning this matter. I spoke to her earlier, late last week, and explained the church's position on gay marriage, which she knew. She understood, and she accepted that [she] could no longer be a member of the Apostolic Church of God."
Sunday's protest organizers, a group called Chic Chic's Social, described the protest outside the church as being a gathering of black LGBTQ community members demonstrating "against religious bigotry and in protection of ideals which embrace the diversity of the black family."
In addition to the church having a history of civil rights activism, former President Barack Obama gave a campaign speech at the church on Father's Day 2008, when he first ran for the nation's highest office.
In the speech, Obama spoke about the importance of fatherhood and expressed concern that half of all black children live in single-parent houses, "a number that has doubled since we were children."
"We know the statistics that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime. They are nine times more likely to drop out of school, 20 times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems or run away from home or become teen parents because the father wasn't in the home," Obama said in his speech. "The foundations of our community and the country are weaker because of this."
Conservative opponents of same-sex marriage have argued that legalizing same-sex marriage could have negative effects on children because it destroys one of the key purposes of marriage "to be father and mother to any children their union produces."
Although Obama originally stated during his 2008 campaign that he believed that marriage was a union between only one man and one woman, his views on marriage seemingly shifted throughout the years of his presidency. His administration was very friendly toward LGBT activists and their causes. During his administration, same-sex marriage was legalized by the U.S. Supreme Court and a host of LGBT rights mandates and regulations were enacted that caused religious liberty concerns for Christian conservatives.