I never imagined that I would find myself in the midst of what I have been in the midst of since Tuesday morning. Since the Kentucky Baptist Convention voted to dismiss Crescent Hill Baptist, I have been on the phone or in front of a camera. While those who know me know that I do not mind attention (and that is probably an understatement), at times I felt uncomfortable with it all. So many others have done so much more, given their lives in fact, for the full inclusion of LGBT individuals in church and society. I feel like a laborer who came to the vineyard late in the day and is getting paid for a full day of work.
Nonetheless, I and others at CHBC seized this moment in time to share our story. However, the story that has been told through the media is only a snippet of the story, and it just doesn't feel right not to share more of the story in this moment when it seems that people are listening.
A Desire to Grow
I have said that homosexuality is not condemned by the Bible. Many applauded that statement. Many expressed their strong disagreement with it. Many others in the last few days and weeks have asked how it is that I have reached that conclusion.
The opportunity to engage in these conversations, and they have been plentiful, is one of the primary reasons I have been willing to speak out. It appears that many people want to grow in their understanding of what God and the Bible says about this matter. If you are interested in beginning some exploration of your own, let me direct you to a series of submissions recently posted by David Gushee, a professor at Mercer University (http://baptistnews.com/opinion/columns/item/28904-starting-a-conversation-the-lgbt-issue-part-1). In this 16 part series Gushee thoughtfully examines the biblical passages most often cited to condemn homosexuality, and does so in a well-balanced and respectful manner. Plus, at least for the moment, his work is easily accessible and available for free.
Theology's Real Life Consequences
We are all theologians. By that, I believe we all construct understandings of God. Even if you do not believe there is a God, you are engaging in "God-thinking."
Our theology ponders the heavens, but is also touches the earth in serious ways. Theological constructs rooted in biblical interpretations that condemn homosexuality result in real-life disastrous consequences that I do not believe the loving God I see condones. Not only is homosexuality not a sin in the eyes of God, those that claim that it is are hurting and literally killing people. The National Coalition for the Homeless reports that 40% of homeless youth are LGBT (http://nationalhomeless.org/issues/lgbt/). Furthermore, in recent weeks, I have heard from many LGBT individuals who were closeted by theology that condemned them. They shared that they had seriously pondered suicide. Tragically, many others have acted upon this impulse.
In 1612 Thomas Helwys, one of our Baptist forefathers, wrote, “For men’s religion to God is between God and themselves. The king shall not answer for it. Neither may the king be judge between God and man. Let them be heretics, Turks, Jews, or whatsoever; it appertains not to the earthly power to punish them in the least measure. This is made evident to our lord the king by the scriptures.” Let’s just say that when King James received his copy of theses words sent to him by Helwys, he was not very pleased. Helwys was sent to prison where he soon died. From our inception, Baptists have fought for the ability of each individual to experience God for themselves, whoever they may be. This notion has compelled Baptists to be a non-creedal, congregational self-governing bunch in which churches associate with one another. In other words, Baptists from the onset have been a bunch that have agreed to disagree.
That's why I was pleased that Crescent Hill Baptist chose not to step away from the Kentucky Baptist Convention, but rather, stick with the KBC until forced out. We believe, as our earliest Baptist forefathers and mothers did, that God speaks to us in different ways and only in part. In order to hear the larger story of what God is up to, we need to gather with others around God's table, even those with whom we disagree, and eat bread and drink from the cup in remembrance of Christ.