The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and homosexuality
1987 to 1998-JUN:
SBC statements & actions about homosexuality:
SBC positions on sexual orientation:
The SBC's Christian Life Commission (now the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission) published a pamphlet called Critical
Issues: Homosexuality. It states that:
The many Bible passages that are commonly quoted as condemning homosexuality are valid.
||People can change their sexual orientation.|
||Homosexual orientation is not "caused" by hormonal imbalance or genetic
factors, but by an unhealthy relationship with one's parents.|
||People cannot be pigeonholed into two classifications: homosexual or heterosexual. A
continuum exists which includes various degrees of bisexuality.
Although homosexual activity is a sin, it is not the unpardonable sin, or
terrible of sins."
||Homosexuals can only lead moral lives by remaining celibate.|
||Discrimination against gays and lesbians is proper, in the areas of:|
||to protect the family. [They are presumably referring to families headed
||to protect other social institutions.
Rev. William Merrell, the SBC's vice president for convention relations said in
"It is a fundamental contradiction, to say 'gay minister,'...The
teachings of scripture are plain; that one is called to live a life that is
in keeping with the principles the Lord has given us. Homosexuality is a
fundamental denial of those principles."
Within the SBC, Merrell said members always have affirmed the same
position: homosexuality is a sin, homosexual ministers should be removed, and gay and
lesbian people must renounce the lifestyle if they want to become members, or to continue as members, of the
Although the above relate to beliefs up to 2.5 decades ago, the SBC has apparently not changed their position since that time.
SBC statements and actions involving homosexuality
1987: Their convention condemned homosexual behavior as a "manifestation
of a depraved nature and a perversion of divine standards." They viewed
homosexual behavior as being linked to a general "moral decline" in America.
1991: Their convention passed a resolution saying that
homosexual behavior is "outside the will of God." and that "it is the
responsibility and privilege of the church to minister to homosexuals".
1992: One of the traditional, identifying characteristics of Baptist churches had
always been the freedom of the individual congregation in matters of doctrine and
morality. This had been the defining factor among Baptists for centuries,
worldwide. Congregational freedom had existed in the SBC ever since the founding of the
This came to a crashing halt in 1992. First, the North Carolina State
Baptist Convention "disfellowshipped" (expelled) two of its congregations.
They acted against the recommendations of their own executive committee. Olin T.
Binkley Memorial Baptist Church in Chapel Hill NC had approved the ordination of a
known homosexual. Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh NC had blessed the
relationship of two loving, committed gay men. The disfellowship decisions were later ratified by
the SBC, who warned that other churches would be expelled if they demonstrated "unfriendly
cooperation". The SBC amended their constitution to bar from membership any
congregation that would "affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior."
This convention was the one at which the then:
"then-Vice President Dan Quayle
made his famous "Murphy Brown" speech condemning unwed motherhood. Thus the
major media mostly missed what may ultimately turn out to be a much more significant
story: that the issue of homosexuality caused the largest American Protestant denomination
to violate its own founding principles in the antigay measures approved by the Convention."
1993: The SBC condemned President Clinton and Vice-President Gore for their support for ending discrimination against
1995: The Convention acknowledged that human slavery was wrong, that they had sinned in the
past on this issue, and that the sin of racism still
existed within the church. Slavery and racism have nothing directly to do with sexual
orientation, but it indicates that the SBC is capable of reversing a well entrenched,
ethical position, and apologizing for past sins.
1996 At their convention, almost all of the approximately
13,000 delegates voted in favor of implementing a boycott of Walt Disney movies, products and theme parks unless
Disney changes its policies concerning how they treat treatment of religious topics and
their extension of equal rights to their gay and lesbian employees.
1997: At their annual convention in Dallas, TX, Rev. Richard Land, president of the SBC Christian Life Commission,
addressed the messengers (delegates), saying "Disney is going to find out just how
many regiments and just how many divisions of godly people Southern Baptists have."
Referring to negotiations over the previous year between the SBC and Disney, Land reported
"On good days, the Disney corporation ignored us. On bad days, they contemptuously
gave us the back of their hands." The 12,000 delegates implemented the boycott that had been
threatened in the previous year. The vote was overwhelmingly in favor.
1997-OCT: Oliver Thomas of the National Council of Churches
and Herbert Valentine of the Presbyterian Church (USA) were scheduled to
talk in support of the
Employment Non-discrimination Act (ENDA) before the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee.
2 This bill would have
prohibited discrimination against persons on the basis of their sexual
orientation. A procedural move prevented them from being heard. Will
Dodson, director of public policy for the SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty
Commission said that he "walked away from the hearing both sad and angry."
He was not distressed that the fellow Protestants had been muzzled, and not permitted to
speak. Rather, he commented:
As of 2011-NOV, the "ENDA" bill still has not progressed.
"I walked away angry because there were actually
church leaders who were there to support the bill. As Christians, our response to this
issue should be to love the sinner and hate the sin. It is infuriating to hear church
leaders suggest that we are showing love for the sinner by accepting his sinful behavior.
Christians ought to be helping them to escape a sinful, harmful lifestyle. I can
understand how those without Christ would defend their lifestyle. However, it is
inexcusable that Christians would defend lifestyles which are contrary to Scripture."
||1998-JUN: At their annual
convention in Salt Lake City,
UT delegates passed a resolution opposing any attempt by the
government to provide "endorsement, sanction, recognition, acceptance or
civil rights advantage on the basis of homosexuality." This resolution is
confusing on four levels:|
They opposed legislation which would give recognition to homosexuality. This is
surprising, because the only legislation on the books at that time that mention homosexual
behavior are those (commonly called sodomy or crimes against nature) are laws which
criminalized homosexual behavior.
We are unaware of any attempts to create laws which would extend to gays
and lesbians any civil rights advantage. The
programs of gay-positive advocacy groups appear to
be directed towards obtaining equal rights -- those that already been extended to
||the resolution talks about "homosexuality", but does not indicate
whether it is attacking homosexual orientation or homosexual
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
James C. Waller, "In the Middle of Sodom and Gomorrah": Raleigh-Area
Churches and the Homosexuality Issue, at http://www.uts.columbia.edu/
This essay describes a gradual evolution of belief within two SBC congregations on the
Tom Strode, "Church leaders endorse ENDA; SBC rep decries their defense"
Copyright 1997 to 2011 Ontario Consultants on Religious
Latest update: 2011-NOV-11
Author: B.A. Robinson