Several weeks ago, the Boy Scouts of America changed the language of their membership standards to allow gay members into scouting.
Last week, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution condemning the decision by Boy Scouts of America to allow gay members into the organization. This lit up the blogosphere among all types of Christians, from the most moderate to the most conservative, about whether or not this was an appropriate response by the SBC.
I wasn’t sure that it was even necessary for me to weigh in on this, considering the number of more popular bloggers that have already done so. But in light of other events this week, it just seems to fit.
Let me state this for any of the four people who actually read my blog: I am a pastor. I serve a church that remains connected to the Southern Baptist Convention and still donates to that organization. However, I’m more like a 3rd cousin, by marriage, 4 times removed. We don’t give much money to the Convention, and we also affiliate with the more moderate Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
Believe me when I tell you that I’m not on Al Mohler’s Christmas card list. My only personal connection to the SBC is through the church. But I grew up as the son of a Southern Baptist pastor. I have been a part of it to one degree or another since I first breathed air at a hospital in Lumberton, NC.
I say that to let you know that I am writing as one who has plenty of criticism of the SBC, but I haven’t completely left. I also haven’t abandoned the traditional church or given up on it or gotten so frustrated that I just decided to write blogs and get on the lecture circuit as a disenfranchised Christian. Many who are writing on this issue have done that, and I completely understand why they did so.
But I chose to stay. I still feel this irresistible compulsion to be in the church, to preach, to care for the people of the church and to battle for the faithful who remain in the traditional church, even when they disagree with its direction. Plus, I’m probably not good enough or nice enough to make a living any other way, outside the good graces of the people of Augusta Heights Baptist.
I consider myself fortunate to have found a church–in Greenville, SC of all places–where I can say what I’m about to say with limited fear of repercussion or outrage.
This SBC resolution on Boy Scouts points out the reason that I find it more and more difficult to maintain a personal connection to the SBC. This action also give a snapshot of why the SBC–and perhaps denominations in general–continue to move towards irrelevance in the 21st century.
First off, let’s be clear that a “resolution” has no binding power on Southern Baptist churches, and the convention surprisingly acknowledged that. While condemning the actions of the Scouts, they did not mandate that autonomous SBC churches sever their ties to the organization.
Still, the fact that they felt the need to comment at all carries more than enough weight. Already, churches are beginning to follow through on the tenor of the resolution. That may actually be in the best interest of Scout groups, if churches really feel that one decision outweighs all the good that Boy Scouts do. But it’s bad for Southern Baptists.
Please keep in mind that my comments are written in consideration of the Southern Baptist position on homosexuality. While not every church or Baptist agrees, the SBC is consistent in its belief that homosexuality is a sin.
In a ridiculous effort to maintain some image of “theological purity” and in their continual insistence on making homosexuality THE sin and THE issue that overwhelms all others, Southern Baptists once again look judgmental, naive and borderline foolish.
Keep in mind that the Boy Scouts have not yet admitted gay leaders, just members.
Let’s say that there are homosexuals in a Scout troop. How does it help for a church to say, “We are kicking out your group because of YOU”? I seriously doubt that these boys will suddenly fall to their knees and change their “sinful” ways. Does a young man’s sexuality mean that he doesn’t need the education, training and environment that Scouts provide?
As a friend of mine tweeted to me: shouldn’t their main focus be on reaching ppl for Christ and not condemning a fine organization? Scouts provide male role models that kids need esp, if one is absent in the home, why the SBC doesn’t see that is beyond me…
Once again, the SBC has made this THE sin, THE defining issue for all affiliations/memberships/partnerships. It has become the unforgivable sin in conservative Christian circles. This ignores the fact that there are most likely gay people in every church, including the youth group. But since we don’t know it, we just ignore it. It always makes us feel better to point out the “sins” of others, because it keeps us from taking care of our own house.
Believe me, I have been shocked over the years to find out “after the fact” how many gay members have sat in pews of churches where I worked, and how many students to whom I ministered that later came out. It’s not a huge number, but I’m betting it’s more than most Southern Baptists would want to think.
If we can’t work at all with people who disagree with us, then Southern Baptists (or any other church who follows a similar path) will find that their sphere of influence is shrinking. They will discover that they haven’t merely set themselves apart, but alienated themselves from the world. And in so doing, we will continue to lose opportunities to love and minister to all people, as the Gospel commands us to do.
I’m afraid this resolution is a new low for the SBC. The more the denomination tries to prop up this fraud of “theological purity” that no one can maintain, the more irrelevant they become. Oh, SBC leaders will beat their chests and congratulate themselves on not giving into the world.
But in their attempt to set themselves apart, they’ve accomplished little more than taking away yet one more opportunity to minister. That’s a sad state of affairs, and it’s one more reason why I probably won’t attend many SBC “family reunions” anymore. I’m afraid that I find myself identifying more and more with those outside bloggers and critics than with the convention itself.
For more blogs on this issue, here are a few you might want to check out:
Jonathan Merritt – an excellent piece on the SBC as a whole
Rachel Held Evans – extremely well-stated position on the issue of Gay Scouts