CHICAGO -- Demonstrators flocked to one of the South Side’s largest churches Sunday morning after its pastor removed a woman from the congregation because of her same-sex wedding.
The situation renewed a long-standing debate in churches around the country, pitting tolerance and acceptance against tradition and teaching. There has been a massive culture shift over the last decade on gay marriage, but the Apostolic Church of God is staying put, saying it’s defending faith and family.
Nearly two dozen people gathered outside the 20,000-member church at the corner of Doechester and 63rd Sunday to protest after a woman was kicked out or “disfellowshipped” from the church by Pastor Byron Brazier when it became public that a long-time member of the church married her partner in a same-sex ceremony last week.
“It was done with great grief, but it was in faithful observance to the scriptures and to the body of Christ," Pastor Brazier said from the pulpit Sunday.
Brazier argued that the parishioner was “disfellowshipped” because same-sex marriage violated church teachings.
“In this particular case, this member vowed to be in a marriage ‘until death do us part,’ and she made a permanent decision. When that takes place there must be an equally permanent remedy, and that remedy is that she can no longer be a member of the Apostolic Church of God,” Pastor Brazier said.
He said she would be welcomed back if she chose to "restore" her faith. Outside of the church service, a pastor from the Progressive Lighthouse Church on the North Side delivered an opposing message.
"The pulpit is not a weapon with which to silence, but rather it is a beacon from which to shine light," Pastor Jamie Frazier said. "How could we say two men or two women in a committed god honoring relationship are sinning? Show me how two men or two women loving one another diminishes their capacity to love god, to love themselves and to love other people," Frazier said.
Pastor Brazier ended his remarks about the controversy on a defiant note, saying neither he nor his congregation would be intimidated. He said, “this is not a place for protest, this is a place of worship."