Bishop Willard E. Saunders Jr. quieted his Cherry Hill sanctuary Sunday morning, signaling for the music and the hallelujahs to stop so his words would come across clearly.
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"If something is perfect, it does not need changing," Saunders said, his image beaming from two screens on either side of the pulpit. "You can't redefine what God has already called perfect.
"Marriage, the institution, is perfect," he continued. "It is the people who are imperfect."
The Hour of Power sermon was repeated in black churches across Maryland Sunday and will keep going all month, part of a coordinated effort by opponents of same-sex marriage to spread their message from the pulpit leading up to the referendum on Nov. 6. The Archdiocese of Baltimore, though technically not part of the "Marriage Sundays" effort, encouraged its priests to talk about the coming same-sex marriage referendum Sunday since the set scripture focused on marriage.
The churches are placing a particular emphasis on African-American voters because many are becoming open to same-sex marriage after President Barack Obama and the NAACP's board of directors announced their support for it. Black communities have long been seen as critical to both sides of the marriage question in Maryland -- they made up about a quarter of the electorate four years ago and are expected to come out to vote in similar numbers this fall.
Polls, including a recent survey by The Baltimore Sun, show the demographic is moving in favor of same-sex marriage, though the support is soft.
Faith communities are not monolithic, and some prominent black pastors and Catholics are rooting for passage of Question 6, which would legalize gay unions, even if they wouldn't perform those weddings in their own sanctuaries.
"This is about whether we will live in a society where everyone is treated equally under the law, or whether we will have one standard for some and another standard for others," said the Rev. Donte L. Hickman Sr., pastor of Southern Baptist Church, in a recent email.
"I will uphold the rights of all people, regardless of their religious beliefs and personal choices," he said.
Other powerful ministers are staying on the sidelines. The Rev. Jamal Bryant, of the Empowerment Temple, personally opposes same-sex marriage but will not be active in the campaign to defeat it at the ballot box, according to a spokeswoman. He did not return calls seeking comment.
Those churches that are participating in the campaign have a full schedule planned: They are registering voters ahead of the Oct. 16 deadline. And with one early voting day falling on a Sunday this year, some plan to drive parishioners directly to their polling places after services.
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SOURCE: The Baltimore Sun