The Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention will meet on Monday, June 22, 2009 and more than likely approve a recommendation seeking to officially disassociate from Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas.
Bill Sanderson, a pastor in North Carolina and a trustee of the International Mission Board, made the motion to disassociate from Broadway Baptist Church at last year's Southern Baptist Convention in Indianapolis. The messengers referred Sanderson's recommendation to the Executive Committee, requesting the EC to report back to the 2009 Convention. It seems gay couples who were attending Broadway asked to have their portraits appear in the church directory. Broadway's leadership, rather than taking a stand against homosexual relationships, led the congregation to vote in February of 2008 to publish a directory without individual or family portraits — simply candid snapshots of people instead. This solution, said church leaders, would allow members to recognize one another without making a judgment regarding homosexual relationships.
It is my belief the motion from the Executive Committee to disassociate from Broadway Baptist Church, if presented to the Convention, will pass. In the mid-1990's the Southern Baptist Covention voted to change Article III of the Convnetion's Constitution.
The Southern Baptist Convention's Constitution now reads:
Article III. Membership: The Convention shall consist of messengers who are members of missionary Baptist churches cooperating with the Convention as follows:
1. One (1) messenger from each church which: (1) Is in friendly cooperation with the Convention and sympathetic with its purposes and work. Among churches not in cooperation with the Convention are churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior. And, (2) Has been a bona fide contributor to the Convention's work during the fiscal year preceding.
If in fact, it is reported that Broadway Baptist Church and her members are affirming homosexual relationships, I will vote to disassociate from Broadway. The Convention's action will be big news, particularly in light of President Barak Obama's push to overturn the 1996 Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which prevents the federal government from recognizing "gay marriage." However, the SBC has disassociated from churches that affirm homosexuality before, and we will simply be following our Constitution. You will be hardpressed to find Bible-believing, evangelical believers who would disagree that homosexual relationships are sin.
The Bigger Problem We Face as Southern Baptists
The much larger issue we face as Southern Baptists is not the disassociation from Broadway Baptist Church, but rather, the probable attempt by some to disassociate from churches that recognize and call women to vocational ministry, such as First Baptist Church, Decatur, Georgia. This historic Southern Baptist Church called Julie Pennington-Russell as their lead pastor, and have a number of women in ministry positions.
Though evangelical, conservative Christians agree that homosexual and adulterous behavior is sin, there is disagreement among inerrantists on whether or not women preaching the gospel to men, women teaching the Bible to men, or women spiritually leading men is actually sin. One conservative, inerrantist Southern Baptist pastor has written an excellent paper, while in seminary no less, entitled A Biblical Primer on Women in Ministry. Jon Zens, a fellow conservative evangelical Christian has written, Are the Sisters Free to Function?, an extraordinary defense of women in ministry, based on a very high view of the sacred text. Many conservative scholars write for Christians for Biblical Equality, defending their belief from Scripture that nowhere does God restrict women in ministry.
Sure, there is disagreement among Southern Baptists on this issue. But I predict that if someone from Georgia offers a similar recommendation to disassociate from First Baptist Church, Decatur because they have hired a female pastor, then the Southern Baptist Convention will face an extraordinary crisis, the likes of which we have not seen in a very long time.
The world may not understand our firm view on homosexuality. So be it.
But when half of conservative evangelical Christianity doesn't understand why we would disassociate from churches that call women as pastors, then we lose as a Convention.
Let's debate the women in ministry issue. Let's disagree with one another amicably. But for heaven's sake, let's not make fools of ourselves by equating women preaching the gospel with homosexual sin.
In His Grace,