FROM THE BAPTIST PRESS (6/22/09) -- The Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee recommended in a unanimous vote Monday afternoon that the denomination cease its relationship with Broadway Baptist Church, a Fort Worth, Texas, congregation that has been the source of controversy over its stance on homosexuality . . . .
At issue is whether the church is in violation of Article III of the SBC Constitution, which states that churches "which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior" are not in friendly cooperation. Broadway Baptist has approximately five open homosexual members, including two male couples, according to church leaders. Some of the homosexuals serve on church committees . . . .
Stephen Wilson, a member of the Executive Committee and vice president for academic affairs at Mid-Continent University, emphasized to Baptist Press that the denomination encourages churches to reach out to people struggling with homosexuality. The issue with Broadway Baptist, though, is over a church allowing members who are homosexual and unrepentant . . .
Oh… I see… the real problem is that these five gay church members are “open” and “unrepentant.” They’re violating the #1 rule of Baptist life -- keep it secret. If you dance, don’t tell. If you drink, don’t tell. And if you’re gay… well that goes double… don’t tell.
I can just hear some of those SBC leaders now. “Why can’t those gay-guy troublemakers be more like our clergy child molesters? The clergy child molesters aren’t open about it and so it’s no problem. And even when they’re caught, they have the good sense to repent. Or at least to say they’re repentant."
Prior to the February meeting, the church sent a letter to the Executive Committee, which stated in part: "Broadway has never taken any church action to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior. Broadway Baptist Church considers itself to be in friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention and has every intention of remaining so." It further stated, "While we extend Christian hospitality to everyone -- including homosexuals -- we do not endorse, approve, or affirm homosexual behavior."
But Wilson said the church's actions ran counter to what it claimed in the letter.
"[I]t was more from what they were actually doing in practice where the conflict was," Wilson said. "While they didn't officially endorse it, they were allowing members and also people in leadership that were homosexual" . . . .
So… Baptist officials won’t accept the mere word of a church that it doesn’t “endorse… homosexual behavior.” Instead, Baptist officials will investigate “the church’s actions.” But when it comes to churches with clergy reported for sexual abuse and child molestation, Baptist officials turn a blind-eye, don’t investigate, and don’t do diddly-squat. And when it comes to churches with clergy who knowingly kept quiet about ministerial child molestation, Baptist officials simply accept their word that they don’t really endorse clergy sex abuse. “Oh gee whiz… we didn’t really mean any harm by keeping quiet and keeping that man in ministry after he admitted to molesting a kid. It was uncharted waters.”
SBC officials don’t even blink at that. Though most ordinary people might say that keeping a pastor who turned a blind-eye to ministerial child molestation “runs counter” to a verbal stance against clergy child molestation, Baptist officials simply shrug. "It’s up to the autonomous local church," they say.
Incidentally, Stephen Wilson is the same guy who was chair of the committee last year when it decided that Southern Baptist officials should not take any action toward assessing Baptist ministers who are reported for child molestation. The SBC will investigate and evict a church with a few gay members, but they won’t do diddly-squat about churches with reported child molesters in the pulpits. (In the photo, that’s Stephen Wilson on the right, talking with a Broadway member who appeared before the committee on February 17, 2009.)
David Lowrie… president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, told BP he had hoped Broadway Baptist would do more to make clear it opposes homosexuality . . . . Lowrie said he told church leadership "that they needed to take a step beyond just making a public declaration" in a letter.
"They needed to actually express those convictions in some practical way," he said. "They, for whatever reason, weren't able to do that . . . . He said he thought a ministry within the church to help people with "unhealthy lifestyles" would have helped clarify the matter . . . .
Oh… I see… the motive for “ministry” is to “clarify” a church’s own righteousness. It’s not about helping the people being ministered to; it’s about promoting the church’s own good-standing in the sisterhood of Southern Baptist churches. Frankly, if I knew about a church that had a “ministry” founded with this sort of attitude, and they wanted to “minister” to me, I’d run.
And if Lowrie is so concerned about wanting deeds to match words “in some practical way,” why is it that the Baptist General Convention of Texas provides readily available and confidential counseling referrals and counseling subsidies for clergy sex abusers, but doesn’t provide any readily available help at all for the victims of clergy sex abusers? Why doesn’t Lowrie see that, in a very practical way, this amounts to support for the clergy sex abusers? Oh gee whiz… but the BGCT claims that it opposes clergy sex abuse. So they say… but look at the “practical” reality of what they’re actually doing and not doing.
FROM THE ASSOCIATED BAPTIST PRESS (6/22/09 with update) -- It took messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 23 only 30 seconds to sever a 125-year relationship with a prominent Texas congregation because of the church’s perceived toleration of gay members . . . .
"We are disappointed with the decision of the Southern Baptist Convention," said Kathy Madeja, the church's deacon chair . . . .
Uh-oh. A woman as deacon chair. For Southern Baptist Execs, that probably didn’t sit well either. Can’t this church get anything right?
August Boto, the Executive Committee's executive vice president and general counsel, sent an April 21 letter to Broadway officials. It said members of the committee had received information from people with firsthand knowledge of the church showing "rather pointedly that there is a clear divergence between the prevalent views of the Convention on the topic and those of your church."
Boto said the church needed to respond to a series of questions about the church's stance on homosexuality in order to "protect the reputation of the Convention". . . .
Oh… I see… if a church is reported for having 5 gay members, then the attorney for the SBC Executive Committee will send out an investigative letter with a “series of questions.” They have to do that, you know, “to protect the reputation of the Convention.” But when a church is reported for having a clergy child molester in the pulpit, the SBC Executive Committee doesn’t do anything, except maybe give a sermon on forgiveness to the person who reported it. Then they’ll say “Baptist churches are autonomous” and wash their hands of it. I guess they don’t worry too much about how clergy child molesters affect “the reputation of the Convention.” Of course, like I said earlier, it helps that clergy child molesters follow the Baptist rule of keeping it secret. So they’re usually no trouble.
Incidentally, this is the same August Boto whom former Southern Baptist president Frank Page identified as being “in charge” of the committee that chose to do nothing toward creating a database of credibly-accused Baptist clergy sex abusers.
The SBC changed its constitution in 1993 to exclude churches that are welcoming and affirming of gays. Previously the amendment was interpreted to apply only to churches that take some formal action, like ordaining or licensing a gay minister or conducting a ceremony to bless a same-sex union, but in 2006 an SBC-affiliated state convention with a similar policy said a church could be expelled for simply being perceived as affirming homosexual behavior.
Make no mistake about it: I don’t buy the SBC’s excuse that local church autonomy prevents them from taking action to protect kids against clergy child molesters. Not for one second. Providing churches with objective assessments and a database of information doesn’t violate church autonomy. The SBC could do it, and they could do it right now.
But here’s the thing. Even if you buy into their radicalized and wildly inconsistent notion of local church autonomy, the Southern Baptist Convention could still do something about this if it wanted to. The Southern Baptist Convention could change its own constitution and bylaws. They’ve done it for other reasons, and if they wanted, they could choose to do it for the protection of kids.
The problem isn’t that they can’t take action. It’s that they won’t.