Baptists, Boy Scouts, and Blogging

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

Sojourner’s

Al Mohler

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2 thoughts on “Baptists, Boy Scouts, and Blogging

  1. I am not Gay . I am also a born again Christian from the 70s. I left the church I was involved in because of the rigid viewpoints like you have addressed in your blog here. I have to say that I am surprised to hear you say that if your church stays rigid on the gay scouts issue then basically it will hurt the SBC. Let me just say that this world does not need SBC or organizations like the the SBC. What they spread is nothing but fear , hate and damnation. I do not believe that this is the kind of religious teaching Christ has in mind. Fire and brimstone? We’re talking about children who are gay. The churches (all denominations) need to take the tree out of their own eyes before they condemn children for being born a certain way . This whole mess is so offensive it makes me feel ill. Seriously, God is bigger than this mess these right wing extremists have created. It sickens me that in this day and age we still have so called good ‘Christians’ making such judgements against homosexuality and now onto the children ! I will no longer attend any church that follows such beliefs. This is NOT of God!! It’s so clear to me that Satan is working hard and the harder he works the more rigid these churches are becoming more cult like! It is even more disheartening to hear you kind of pleading with those to basically lighten up or the church will continue to go away in the future. I personally would like to see every church who believes and encourages the belief that a person is not worthy of equal rights and to be a part of groups like the Boy Scouts to be driven out of business. In my opinion , they are breeders of continuing hate and discrimination in this world. You are brave to stand up and voice your opinion but you need to do more than that. Christians who are truly Christ like should refuse to be a part of such churches who continue to spread such poison. No one will ever convince anyone with half a brain and common sense that this is of GOD. It is not. The focus they have is all negative fire and brimstone. There is nothing uplifting about that at all! To take a segment of our population and single them out as sinners and actually accusing them of choosing to be gay is ignorant to say the least! It is wrong and those in the church who take part in that kind of bullying behavior and shunning as if they’ve done something wrong from just being born is disgusting and so offensive ! Our world needs God but it sure as heck does NOT NEED churches like the SBC. I find nothing redeeming or uplifting in their brand of religion PERIOD. They can dress up their postings of loving the sinner but hate the sin… as much as they want but the message to those who are born different is that they are not as good or deserving as those who are actually spreading the seeds of fear and hate. I believe that with my whole heart and I pray that God will weed out those who spread such hateful messages and poison. I mean.. you have vulnerable people out there being murdered for being gay and then you have those who feel hurt and so confused from the condemnation to the point that they commit suicide to stop their personal pain. It is wrong!! This crap needs to stop! I am sorry, but this disturbs me to the core.

    • Joan, thanks for reading and for the comment (I don’t get many!). I’m not sure if your frustration is directed at me, the system, or perhaps a little of both?
      I have chosen to stay within the community of the church–and on the outer fringes of the Southern Baptist version of that. I have experienced much frustration at times with the church over this and multiple other issues. But I do believe that there are many good things and redeeming qualities to even those churches with whom I disagree. Although I find the SBC to be a bit of a “lost cause” to me, there are still good churches doing great work. And then there is the small church where I serve. It’s not going to make anyone’s radar, but we are a community where we can at least discuss, talk, accept different points of view and work towards community. We have a long way to go, but it’s the first time in a while that I’ve felt the ability to be intellectually honest.

      So, I choose to stay and work from the “inside” of the problem. My preference would be for people and churches to change rather than just go away. I also have to acknowledge that there is a ton of social/moral/cultural/theological/biblical “baggage” that people carry on this issue, and I would be naive to think that they’ll be able to drop it so easily. Also, I feel that if I totally alienate those who disagree with ME, then I’ll become what I have beheld and lose my own sense of credibility. For now, and as long as my wonderful folks at Augusta Heights will let me, I will continue to work on this from the inside out. I will continue to speak out where/when I can, and push the envelope when possible. I think we need to hear voices from both the inside and the fringes in order to become a more Christ-centered church.

      Again, thanks for sharing and I hope that you will find a place where you can worship and feel at peace while continuing to be an advocate. But I hope that you will also find patience with those who have a different perspective–they do not all have the anger, fear or contempt that sometimes comes across from the religious establishment.

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