The Rest of The Story

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 ( 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 ( 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.  

Welcoming and Affirming - 2013

The church ship of Crescent Hill Baptist has nearly completed an amazing journey over the past year and a half as she has navigated the potentially stormy waters of a move toward full acceptance of persons in the LGBT community who have chosen to be part of our fellowship.  Crescent Hill began this journey toward inclusiveness in the 60's during the pastorate of John Claypool when the church opened the doors to persons of color and continued the journey in the 70's with the acceptance of women into the full ministries of the church including service as deacons; Andrea Woolley became a "co-pastor" in 2012.  During the pastorate of Ron Sisk in the late 90's the church developed associations with the American Baptist Convention and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and welcomed the first gays to serve on the board of deacons.  Several years ago the church joined the Alliance of Baptists.  

In May 2012 Jason Crosby preached the following sermon, "In Or Out", which set the stage for a series of Wednesday night sessions in the spring of 2013 during which several members were able to share their own stories of struggle about feeling accepted or excluded because of sexual identity issues. 

 "In Or Out" (May 2012)

 Jason W. Crosby, preaching   Acts 8:26-40 

At a June 12, 2013 called Ministry Forum the church voted to become a "welcoming and affirming" congregation* and at an October 2013 ministry forum Crescent Hill voted to join the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists.  -- John Arnett, CHBC historian 

*"The vote clarifies that sexual orientation and identity will not be a factor when considering whether or not to extend rights, privileges, and blessings within the church's capacity to bestow.  The passage of this proposal also means that the church will not take into consideration sexual orientation or identity when determining whether or not a person is called to ministry [ordination] and that the church is willing to bless same-sex unions.  103 votes were cast.  94 votes favored the proposal, 7 disapproved, 2 abstentions."  -- from "Life Together", July 2013.

There is a saying...

By: William M. Johnson

There is a saying that goes something like this: “preach the Gospel, use
words only when necessary.” The Gospel was preached recently in my
office and not a word was uttered. Practicing the wise words of the
superb poet, Mary Oliver, I was paying attention and the Gospel was

Update - Prayer Request

By: Andrea Woolley

The last blog I posted in early January, I told of my friends’ trials at the end of her pregnancy and premature delivery.  I am happy to update you that right at 2 months later all are doing better.  Rachel (my friend, and now mother of 2) had severe eclampsia and was living in a small city in China was not able to get the medical intervention she needed. After an emergency C-section on January 3 to deliver baby Ann (who weighed just over 1 pound), Rachel and baby Ann were air-evacuated to Bangkok several days later. Baby Ann underwent a couple surgeries to repair her bowels, but has made remarkable progress.

Life is a Journey

By: Louie Bailey

This Sunday, February 19, is Transfiguration Sunday, the last Sunday of the Epiphany season. Next Wednesday, February 22, is Ash Wednesday, and Sunday, February 26, is the First Sunday in Lent. Just as the Christian year is full of dramatic changes, e.g., going from the Transfiguration into the more penitent, reflective season of Lent, life very often fluctuates between times of celebration and reflection.

Join Others As We Journey to the Cross

By: Jason Crosby
Soon, the Lenten season will be upon us.  Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which is February 22 this year.  Traditionally, this time of the year on the Christian calendar is one when believers engage in penitential acts in preparation for Easter celebrations.  Lent is a time when individuals assess what barriers preclude them from living resurrected lives.  The forty days of Lent mirror Jesus forty days in the wilderness when Jesus confronted temptations prior to beginning his earthly ministry.

Last Saturday

Please follow this LINK to read a blog by Dr. Jason Abbott, the Aung San Suu Kyi Chair in Asian Democracy at the University of Louisville. Dr. Abbott wrote about the event held at Crescent Hill Baptist Church last weekend with Senator McConnell.

Prayer Request

By: Andrea Woolley

I am  going to use this blog to let you know of a prayer request that has been weighing heavily on me this week.

Tempered Hope for Burma

By: Jason Crosby

The following appeared on the Courier-Journal's editorial page on Sunday, December 4.

In recent months, diplomatic relationships between Burma (disputably referred to as Myanmar) and the United States have thawed.  Leaders of the military regime that rules Burma have recently made gestures that indicate a desire for increased cooperation with the United States.  Burmese President Thein Sein met with Burma’s most well-known human rights advocate, Aung San Suu Kyi.  President Thein Sein recently released a small number of political prisoners and changed laws to enable former political prisoners to participate in the political process.   The Burmese military regime also conducted “general elections” about a year ago in an effort to pass the junta off as a civilian government.  The Obama Administration has responded to these moves by sending various officials to Burma in the past four months.  These diplomatic maneuvers paved the way for Secretary Clinton’s visit to Burma this week.

Clinton’s visit is the first to Burma by a United States Secretary of State in more than 50 years.  One of her stated objectives is to see how open Burma’s new leaders are to reform.  Clinton recently told NBC, “They need to begin to look at how they resolve these ethnic conflicts that have driven tens of thousands of Burmese of different ethnicities into refugee status.  They have to have a real electoral system with an open door to political parties and free expression.”  This kind of interest in the Burmese government’s human rights record offers some hope for the ethnic minorities that have suffered for decades under the junta.  

Unfortunately, while high-level diplomatic conversation has transpired, the Burmese military regime continues to oppress and terrorize ethnic minority groups in Burma. The words from the mouths of Burmese government officials may be different, but they continue to conduct their business as usual.  In the last seven months there has been an increase in the number of serious human rights violations in Burma.  Recently, according the U.S. Campaign for Burma, the Burmese army conducted “the largest forced displacement in a decade of over 100,000 new internally displaced persons.”  The U.S. Campaign for Burma also reports a recent increase “in the use of rape as a weapon of war, forced labor, and the use of civilians as human shields.”  

Many of the members at the church where I serve as Co-Pastor, Crescent Hill Baptist Church, are refugees from Burma.  I have had a chance to develop genuine friendship with Karen, Chin, and Karreni refugees from Burma.  They have shared with me stories about Burmese soldiers burning their villages and forcing them to seek refuge in the jungle.  They have told me of family members murdered and friends arrested by the Burmese army.  I have seen firsthand the devastating affects of landmines planted by the Burmese army.

Secretary Clinton’s visit gives me hope that real change may be on the horizon for ethnic minority groups in Burma.  However, my hope is tempered by the fact that human rights abuses continue.  Before the United States engages in agreements with Burma that may bring about economic or political gain for those with power here and there, real reform must sweep across Burma so that ethnic minority groups there no longer live in fear and terror.

What small pleasure has marked your day?

By: Bill Johnson

Our community of faith has recently lain to rest a remarkable woman of our city and a noble saint of this church:  Dr. Nancy Howard.  Nancy touched many lives along the way in her years of service as an educator, administrator, minister, colleague, friend, and fellow pilgrim on the Way.

My Son's Spiritual Formation

By Jason Crosby

Spiritual formation requires a multi-faceted approach.  Spiritual formation occurs through knowledge and intellect.  By poring over scripture, commentaries on it, and reflection, one will certainly grow in spiritual depth. However, spiritual formation goes far beyond this.  While Christian spirituality requires biblical and theological understanding and knowledge, deeper spiritual formation requires testing one's knowledge and intellectual concepts in the real world.  Spritual development really begins to occur when one takes their knowledge and understanding of the scripture and attempts to live out that understanding in the crucible that is reality.  

As the father of a one year old, I have been thinking a lot about Brooks' spiritual development recently.  I know that at Crescent Hill Baptist Church he will learn the Bible.  Soon, his Sunday School teachers and others will tell him about Noah, Moses, David, Ruth, Jonah, Job, the prophets, Jesus, Zacchaeus, Jesus' disciples, and many others.  Soon, he will learn what baptism is and what the bread and cup at the table represent. 

What really excites me, however, is the fact that he will be able to put even the most basic concepts he will learn soon to the test in our congregation.  Crescent Hill Baptist Church looks a lot like the real world I see beyond our walls.  When we gather on Sunday mornings for Sunday School and worship, the world congregates.  When we come together black, white, brown, rich, poor, gay, straight, english speaking, non-english speaking, the sick, the well, young, and old all assemble.  That is what the world I see looks like.  I am excited about what course Brooks' spiritual formation will take because the Exodus story becomes more real when learned alongside refugees, the words of the prophets carry greater meaning when sitting next to a gay man, and Jesus' promise of victory over death really hits home when taught by a woman in her nineties. 

The Gift of Memory

By: Louie Bailey

“Precious memories, how they linger, how they ever flood my soul,

In the stillness of the midnight, precious sacred scenes unfold.”

This old gospel song I remember hearing my grandmother and grandfather sing came to my mind as I was thinking about All Saints Sunday November 6, at Crescent Hill Baptist Church. On that day we will remember all our members who have passed away during this year. One of the regular parts of the Jewish service is to remember each week the names of those who have died during that particular week through the years. It is called the Yahrzeit and a congregational prayer is said affirming the greatness of God and asking for peace on the earth. I think it is a beautiful tradition and find it very meaningful.

Change is Complicated

I wanted to use this opportunity to thank all of you for your concern and prayers for me and my family during this time. Three weeks ago today, my dad had a stroke. I was able to go home a few days later to be with them when he came home from the hospital. It was good to be there, but it was very difficult to see my dad changed.

Being Church, Becoming Family

By: William Johnson

It started with a phone call asking for permission to set up a tent and spend the night on the church property. Seemed like a simple enough request, but with insurance coverage and liability issues, it was not. But we worked it out and by signing a release form, the four young men could spend the night on the church property.

A Late Thought About September 11

On Sunday evening, September 11, I was driving home from CHBC listening to NPR's broadcast of a "Concert for Hope" at the Kennedy Center.  After President Obama spoke, a woman whose husband died in the 9/11 attacks read a reflection crafted by a British columnist in the days after the attack.  Despite my best efforts to identify that woman's name and the author's name, I could not do so.  Nonetheless, I want to share the essence of that message because it spoke to me so profoundly.   Basically, what she read was as follows:

The 9/11 attacks were fueled by hatred and rage.  The highjacking of those planes and the crashing of those planes into buildings and fields brought that hatred and rage before the eyes of the world.  Those responsible for the attacks believed, at least in part, that their hate filled actions would prevail that day.  

However, hate did not prevail.  Many trapped inside the World Trade Centers that day knew the end was near.  Many who found themselves in that situation used their cell phones or other's phones to say their last words to loved ones, friends, and family.  Almost without exception every call from those trapped in the soon-to-fall buildings that day ended with the words "I love you."  Even in the midst of that terror, hate and rage could not extinguish love.  Ultimately, those calls out of the towers, as simple as they were, were more powerful than those planes crashing into the towers.

I live in hope, even in a world where 9/11 tragedies occur far too often, because I too believe that no amount of hate and terror can triumph over love. 


Reflection on Fathers

By: Louie Bailey

Please note: The original blog was intended to be posted in June just following Father's Day.

This past Sunday was Father’s Day and it brought a flood of memories and reflections to my mind.  My father, Mitchell Lee Bailey (“Bud” or “Mitch”), was a World War II veteran who lost a leg in the war in the South Pacific.  He and I never talked about his experiences in the war, and my mother said that he never wanted to talk about it.  I do know that probably one reason I am a minister now is because he had what some people call a “foxhole conversion.”  Prior to going into the service, Daddy had been a Christian in name only.  According to my mother, he had a life-changing experience as he suffered in the foxhole and promised God that if he got out of there alive he would serve the Lord all of his life.. 

Patiently Failing

By: Andrea Woolley

I over hear the teaching and the conversations most days from my office. I see the boys after their classes, at lunch, and during their breaks. They seem different this year –lighter (not as weighed down by the stress), happier, more content, but most importantly HOPEFUL. The Hope Academy, run by Annette Ellard and Steve Clark, with a few volunteers, Andy Bates, Mary Neal Clark, Carolyn Posey, and Jessica Johnson, has been in session for 2 weeks now.


By: Andrea Woolley

Eighty percent of the time I have no idea where I am going. If it weren’t for my little black GPS suction-cupped to my dashboard, I would spend more time lost than found. Less than a year after I moved to Louisville my parents gave me a GPS for Christmas…or maybe it was my birthday (I don’t remember). Nevertheless, I now have a little black box that speaks to me and tells me how to get where I want to go. I have come to rely on my GPS so much that I don’t really have a sense of where I am in the city or how to get places that I have been numerous times. The few instances that I do know how to get somewhere, I only know one way and only from my apartment. If my starting place is different, then I turn on the GPS.

“God of Rainbow, Fiery Pillar ”

By: Louie Bailey

These lines come from a riveting hymn we have sung recently, “In the Midst of New Dimensions,” first at the Alliance of Baptists Convocation held at Crescent Hill several weeks ago, and again in worship this past Sunday, May 15.

When it Happens

By: Bill Johnson

Around the church there are many ways to enter into another’s life and observe wonderful things happening.

From time to time I have the occasion to work with families who rent the church facilities for a wedding and often, a reception. When there is a wedding and a reception in the making, you get to know folk real fast and fully!