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The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)  & homosexuality

1998-JUL to the year 2000:
SBC statements & actions about homosexuality


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SBC positions on sexual orientation:

bullet 1998-JUL: The Kansas City Star had reported in 1998-MAY that Marc Cadd, a German Professor at William Jewell College in Liberty, MO had planned to help students request formal recognition of a gay-lesbian group. Cadd is also the director of the college's Center for Educational Diversity. The college's president, Christian Sizemore, stated:

"I would emphasize that our policies clearly state that the college will not provide recognition, endorsement or funds for a gay or lesbian support group. To do so would be contrary to our mission and purposes, which are deeply rooted in Baptist traditions."

The Hilltop Monitor, the campus newspaper, contained an editorial by Natalie Nimmer promoting tolerance. She noted that the school had a long way to go"

"... before truly accepting diversity and promoting love for all of God's children. By speaking out for what is right and realizing all people are different, we can create a positive change that will promise tolerance, acceptance and love."

Mike Whitehead, a Church-state law expert and assistant professor of church and law at Midwestern Seminary, has stated that private religious colleges must be free to teach their religious beliefs.

"There is no legal duty for a private religious school to allow homosexual student groups to be recognized or to operate on campus. Public colleges, funded with tax dollars, are held to different standards and constitutional duties, including giving equal access to various student groups, including homosexual advocacy groups. That's why Baptist colleges remain private, so that Baptist campuses may reflect biblical values."

This is another indication of how the concept of religious freedom is being redefined to include the freedom to denigrate, discriminate against, and oppress minorities.

bullet1998-NOV: The Wake Forest Baptist Church is on the campus of Wake Forest University in North Carolina. It is a member of the SBC. The congregation passed a statement on NOV-15 which states in part:

"... though we cannot, as a church, bless any relationship, we do with joy petition God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, that He bless, insofar as it conforms to His will, any and all loving, committed, and exclusive relationships between two people."

The vote was 90 to 33. They also decided to allow their clergy preside at gay and lesbian union services. Mac Brunson, president of the North Carolina Baptist State Convention commented "Regardless of how they phrase it, they're sanctioning same-sex marriage." This action by the church severed its relationship with the state convention; it is the third congregation to be thrown out of the SBC because they granted equal treatment to persons of all sexual orientations.

"... there are still parents in that [Baptist tradition] who love their children even if they don't agree theologically with them." Dr. Allen has a gay son with AIDS. He said "I love him and we do not agree. I believe it's time for us to talk to each other instead of about each other....I'm not changing any positions or pulling any punches about what I believe [about homosexuality]."

Dr. Allen is a moderate Baptist who founded the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship when Fundamentalists took over leadership of the SBC in the early 1990's. 3

Religion Today's news summary mentioned that a:

"spokesman for the SBC said the former president's appearance could be misconstrued as supporting the agenda of the gay church. Metropolitan church founder Troy Perry said that inviting Allen was controversial within his group because about 20% of its members left Baptist churches because they felt they were not accepted." 4

bullet 1998-OCT: About 2,400 delegates from SBC denominations in Georgia attended the Georgia Baptist Convention in Columbus GA. They said that gays and lesbians are welcome as members. However, congregations that endorse "the homosexual lifestyle" or which perform homosexual union ceremonies will be excluded from the association.  J. Gerald Harris of Eastside Baptist Church in Marietta GA made a remarkable statement: "The unanimous verdict of Scripture is that practicing homosexuality is a sin. [Love] must not compromise the church's allegiance to Scripture."
 
bullet 1999-JUN: At the 1999 SBC convention in Atlanta, GA a number of controversies regarding sexual orientation were dealt with:

bulletAmerican Airlines: On 1999-JAN-29, both American and Delta Airlines announced discount fares for delegates attending the SBC convention. The SBC Executive Committee dropped American Airlines as a recommended carrier on FEB-9. They gave as their reason AA's financial contributions to the Human Rights Campaign, Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). The committee said that AA had previously given assurances that it would not "support movements destructive of the family and society." Apparently the SBC viewed support for human rights and opposition to defamation as destructive to family and society, while AA viewed that support as positive or neutral. AA was the first major airline to prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and was the first to allow an internal homosexual support group. 1

bulletRebuke to Clinton: A resolution was passed with near unanimous consent at the SBC annual meeting which rebuked one of their own members, President Clinton. The resolution included:

bulletReproving the President for "issuing a historic proclamation designating a 'Gay and Lesbian Pride Month' " 2 on 1999-JUN-11.
 
bulletCriticizing President Clinton for his "most public endorsement of that which is contrary to the Word of God." and for forcing Americans to choose between "denying a presidential proclamation or rejecting their own deeply held religious convictions."
 
bulletA request that Clinton cancel his appointment of James Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg. (Hormell is openly gay).
 
bulletCriticism of violent attacks against homosexuals.
 
bulletExpressing of "abhorrence of the teaching that God hates any person on account of an immoral lifestyle."
 
bulletReaffirmed that gays and lesbians can be converted to heterosexuality thorough belief in Jesus. They proclaimed that "forgiveness of and freedom from homosexuality" is found in Jesus. They offered no proof of this statement, which seems to contradict extensive research findings that adult's sexual orientation is fixed and unchangeable.
 
bulletRichard Land, president of the SBC's Ethics & Religious Commission, said after the vote that the proclamation was:

"... a call for the American people to affirm and approve behavior that tens of millions of Americans believe, by the definition of their most sacred religious convictions, to be deviant, immoral behavior, and that's an abuse of the office of the presidency.


bulletGay Pride banners: Over 600 banners proclaiming "Gay and Lesbian Pride Month" appeared on city light poles in Atlanta, during the SBC convention.
 
bullet 1999-JUL-16: Jimmy Allen, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention (1977-1979) addressed the General Conference and World Jubilee of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in Los Angeles. The MCC describes itself as "the world's largest organization serving the spiritual needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community." It was their 30th anniversary. Dr. Troy Perry, founder of the MCC, personally asked Allen to speak.

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bullet2000-JUN-15: Their year-2000 convention in Orlando, FL, home of Disney World, covered a number of major topics. They decided to prohibit their 1,600 ordained women from acting as pastors. At a time when other faith groups are calling for a moratorium or for studies into capital punishment, the SBC affirmed their support for the death penalty. 5 Some developments concerning homosexuality were:
 
bulletMessengers (delegates) to the meeting altered the SBC's Baptist Faith and Message. It now calls on Christians to "oppose all forms of sexual immorality, including ... homosexuality."
 
bulletJames Merritt, a pastor from Snellville, GA became the new SBC president. He said:

"Yes, we do stand against homosexuality. We believe that Scripture is absolutely plain. There's not one shred of evidence in the Bible that God ever approved of homosexuality in any shape, form or fashion.  At the same time, what we're really for is the family. And we're really for the homosexual having a productive lifestyle that honors the Lord."


bulletFormer SBC president, Bailey Smith, is an evangelist from Atlanta GA. He received applause from the delegates when he said: "If you believe it is natural and acceptable for two men to marry each other and two women to marry each other, you are not a liberal. You are a nutball."
 
bullet Messengers approved a resolution that congratulated Laura Schlessinger for her denegration of homosexuals during her radio broadcasts.
 
bullet Leaders of three "ex-gay ministries" said that Baptists must continue their stand for biblical morality but also must be willing to extend God's unconditional love to people "trapped" in homosexuality. 6
 
bulletTim Wilkins, director of CROSS Ministry, Raleigh, NC, appeared with representatives of Eleutheros, Fringe Youth Outreach, and Family Research Council. Wilkins said: "

Southern Baptists have come under increasing attack for sincerely holding the biblical view that homosexuality is sinful and that Jesus Christ can and does set men and women free from sinful lifestyles. No other denomination has taken the public stand that Southern Baptists have on this issue and the heat that stand has generated."


bulletBertie Barber of Eleutheros in Winter Park FL said:

"We embrace the inseparable standard of God's truth and love. While we make no apology for standing on and for God's truth, we confess that we have not always stood as zealously on and for God's love...For the times we have tried to present biblical truth in ways that were unloving or even hateful, please forgive us. For the times we have self-righteously pointed our fingers and declared your sin greater than ours, please forgive us. For the times we have condemned and offered no love, no mercy, no hope, please forgive us."

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Ken Walker, "American Airlines official boasts of homosexual marketing efforts," Baptist Press, 1999-JUN.
  2. Tom Strode, "SBC resolution rebukes Clinton for 'gay pride' proclamation," Baptist Press 1999-JUN-16
  3. Art Toalston, "Southern Baptist leaders wrongly noted in AP account of Jimmy Allen's speech." at: http://www.sbc.net/
  4. Current news summary for 1999-JUL-20, ReligionToday.com
  5. Adelle Banks, "Baptists say yes to death penalty, no to women pastors,"
    Religion News Service, 2000-JUN-16
  6. Mark Kelly, "Oppose sin, but love sinners, ex-homosexuals tell Baptists," at: http://www.sbcannualmeeting.org/
  7. The Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission maintains a list of links on homosexual topics at: http://www.erlc.com/

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Copyright 1997 to 2011 Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2011-NOV-11

Author: B.A. Robinson
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