Sunday, July 05, 2009

My response to Brandon's question...

For my Facebook friends who will read this, my friend Brandon asked me to clarify my last note about what it means for Baptists--really all followers of Jesus--to be prophetically living in grace, love and liberty. My response was too long as a comment, so I had to do a separate post.

Brandon, I would love to clarify. First a disclaimer or two: I am not a member at Broadway Baptist in Ft. Worth, so none of my information is firsthand account. I do have several friends there, and of course most of us have access to the news from both sides of the discussion.

Here are the facts as I know them:

1. Last year (or perhaps the year before--can't remember how long this has been going on) the church was working on a pictorial directory.

2. At least one same-gender couple wanted to appear as a family in the directory.

3. As a church, Broadway struggled with how to respond in both grace and holiness. In the end their decision was to not have individual or family pictures, but pictures of the church folks engaged in various ministries and fellowships.

4. During the church's wrestling with the decision, at last year's SBC, someone from South Carolina who had no direct relationship with Broadway, nor to my knowledge ever sought one, moved that the Convention disfellowship Broadway. The motion was sent to the SBC Executive Board for further study.

5. During the past year, the church has been in dialogue with leaders of the SBC, and many on both sides hoped any disfellowshipping would be averted. Much scrutiny was given to Broadway, and more conservative Baptists pushed for some sort of open declaration that Broadway opposed homosexuality. During that time, it was discovered that the church had homosexuals on some committees or involved in some ministries.

6. At the SBC in June, the Convention voted to disfellowship Broadway.

7. After the SBC's decision, the University of Cumberland, a SBC-related institution, contacted the youth minister of Broadway and informed them that they would not be welcome to stay on campus and serve in a ministry to the poor in the Appalachian region as they had originally planned to do.

Now, these are the facts as best as I can tell. Here is why I take issue with this. The issue is not over the church supporting or condemning homosexual behavior. The church, who does care what homosexuals think about them and their reflection of Jesus, decided that a high road choice was to change their pattern on the directory layout. I happen to think that was a good option. They were able to maintain relational status with the members of the gay community they were connected to without being supportive of homosexual behavior or being used by strongly activist members of the gay community. In other words, they decided, in my opinion, that prophetically bearing witness to grace and love and liberty and yes, holiness is done in relationship, not from a distance. I have written extensively on that in other blogs, so I won't go into much more detail here.

Let me bring it to a personal place. I struggle with one of the most obvious and accepted sinful behaviors in American Christianity, gluttony. I can almost hear you laughing right now my friend. But gluttony is a sin, and it is the sin I most struggle with. I'm often encouraged by friends and family to be more gluttonous, a challenging place to be to say the least.

So let's say I as a person struggling with gluttony was either unaware or rebellious about it, and had not repented of my gluttonous behavior. Should my church not allow me in the directory? Should they only show my face and not my too large gut? Should they avoid pics of me pigging out at the potluck?

And suppose they choose to put in the directory--should the SBC then decide that because my church allowed a picture of a known sinner into the directory that they should be disfellowshipped? Should my church be uninvited to attend a mission trip and serve impoverished people because they posted my fat picture in the directory?

I say no. I say that those who wish for churches to be 100% squeaky cleaned and scrubbed of sin before other churches can work with them are more like the religious Pharisees of Jesus' day than they are like Jesus. Should church communities want to be holy? Of course. But Jesus didn't say to the woman caught in adultery "I condemn your sin until you stop." He said "neither do I condemn you, now go and sin no more."

I hope to not be condemned for my gluttony (fortunately or unfortunately, I'm not sure which, I don't think anyone's ever condemned me for this). I think it would be silly for my church to be disfellowshipped for having me serve on a committee or in some ministry because I'm a glutton. Perhaps if they called me as pastor that would be a different story (somehow I think if I could preach and teach and lead and raise money my gluttony wouldn't matter to most Baptists).

But Broadway does not have a gay pastor. They have not publicly supported any kind of statement that says homosexual behavior is not sinful. In my opinion they have tried to find a prophetic Jesus-like way.

To disfellowship them was scandalous, as was uninviting their youth group to do mission work among the poor.

Just my opinion. Thanks for asking the question. Looking forward to Friday morning in Amarillo!


pablo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
pablo said...

You're right that we are inconsistent when it comes to sin in the church. I believe in disfellowship because Jesus (Matthew 18:15-20) and Paul (1 Corinthians 5) believed in it. But it has to be done consistently.

Paul wrote that we cannot judge those who are outside, but we can judge as a body those who are inside. He said, "But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner--not even to eat with such a person. For what [have] I [to do] with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore 'put away from yourselves the evil person.'" (1 Cor. 5:11-13).

The Church is supposed to be a body of mutually accountable people, and we are not. I'm guilty of it too. In general we hold a high standard with sexual immorality and drunkenness, and pretty much look the other way with everything else.