This past week, the Southern Baptist Convention held its annual meeting in Phoenix, AZ. During this time, the presidents of each of the SBC’s seminaries gives an annual report to the messengers present from Southern Baptist churches who chose to send representatives.
After Dr. Al Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, gave the annual report for his institution, a question was asked from the floor by a Mr. Peter Lumpkins, who identified himself as a messenger from a church in Waco, GA. The question from Mr. Lumpkins and Dr. Mohler’s answer can be seen here, beginning at the 14 minute mark in the video clip.
Since that time, Mr. Lumpkins has continued to post articles and discuss in a heated manner Dr. Mohler’s commentary concerning how the Southern Baptist Convention has traditionally responded to homosexuals. While Mr. Lumpkins vocally and, at times, disrespectfully, disagrees with Dr. Mohler’s observations, I’m certain that in a casual poll of people across the South, people from all walks of life, would show that most would mock the idea that the phrases “Churches in the South” and “compassionate towards homosexuals” should ever be in the same sentence without “are not” being inserted between the two.
Whether we like it or not, Dr. Mohler’s commentary on the church is dead on: through both naive ignorance and outright hatred, the church has miserably failed to show the grace and love of Christ to those in the homosexual community. While few would come right out and say it, through omission, isolation, quiet condemnation and a lack of proactive ministry, the church has essentially told “those people” that they can go somewhere else til they get cleaned up and get their acts together.
Throughout the weekend, I have been involved in a series of conversations on various posts throughout the blogosphere, and I would encourage you to read them and participate in the dialogue (Peter Lumpkins post #1, Peter Lumpkins post #2, Jared Moore post #1).
Below you will find some of my thoughts on Dr. Mohler’s response to Mr. Lumpkin’s question.
As a third generation Southern Baptist who experienced firsthand the ignorance, jokes, condemnation and “clobber verses” discussed in previous articles and blog posts while silently suffering with the shame of unwanted same-sex attraction, I am thankful for Dr. Mohler’s statements and his stance. When I finally confessed to a friend the struggle I was having with SSA, I had to seek discipleship and counseling outside of our denomination because there was nothing available at the time for people who were gay, let alone someone who was gay-identified but desiring to leave the lifestyle. The general response was “Pray more, read your Bible more, and don’t tell anyone.” That, my friends, is homophobia.
As a general rule, SBC’ers may not stand at Pride parades spewing hate, but the culture of silence and rejection is a more dangerous form of homophobia in some ways because it not only causes shame within the person struggling with SSA, it makes the church (and therefore God) an unsafe place to ever share their struggle. It also give the incorrect and unbiblical appearance that good Christian boys and girls would never struggle with a sin like that. We have “clobbered” people with verses like 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God, and told people that sinners “such as these” will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. But we have failed to share the hope found in verse 11 of the same book and chapter: And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
I wholeheartedly believe that 1 Corinthians 6:11 is one of the most freeing verses in all of the Bible. The “lying” to which Dr. Mohler is referring is the fact that most Baptists only share with people verses 9-10. We condemn without sharing the grace that frees us from that condemnation: “And such were some of you. But you were washed…”
“But” and “were” are two of the most grace-filled words in the Bible because they always show up when God steps in and makes us new creations in Christ. Dr. Mohler is right: the Gospel message will not be complete until church pews are filled with people who were washed of the sins listed in verses 9-10. Thankfully, at least one seat at my church is filled weekly by one who can say, “Such was I, but…”
Perhaps our pews are already filled with people who “once were” but choose to keep their testimonies of redemption silent out of fear of rejection. Perhaps we as a church are robbing ourselves of useful servants who could minister to the hurting and the brokenhearted if only they felt safe sharing that the Lord has done a healing work in their own sexual brokenness. Perhaps this conversation will give those who have been washed of myriad sexual sins the courage to speak up and speak out in their churches and tell of the great and mighty things the Lord has done for and in and through them. Perhaps this simple Q&A time at a business meeting that most Baptists never even knew was taking place will spark a revolution of grace AND truth in the church. We’ve done an excellent job declaring Truth over the years; perhaps it’s time we followed in the steps of Jesus, remembering that it’s His kindness that leads us to repentance, and temper that Truth with His grace.
As a side note, I’ve always found it interesting that most tend to overlook the first two sexual sins listed in those verses, sexual immorality (any sexual behavior outside of a marriage covenant) and adultery (sexual relations with someone other than your spouse), and skip right to the “really bad” sin of homosexuality. Again, a subtle form of homophobia; overlook the heterosexual sin and condemn the sin we collectively find the most disgusting. I loved that one commenter on an above mentioned post declared that it was good for the church that we didn’t treat those who engage in premarital heterosexual sex or adultery the same way we treat homosexuals because if we did, churches would be nearly empty every week.