An Open Letter Response to American Baptist College President Dr. Forrest Harris
Colgate Rochester Crozer President Dr. Marvin A. McMickle
Rev. Dr. John H. Grant, D. Min., Pastor
Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church of Asheville, NC
March 27, 2015
I am affiliated with the National Baptist Fellowship of Concerned Pastors and endorsed a recent letter objecting to same-sex marriage advocates Bishop Yvette Flunder, Dr. Delmen Coates and Dr. Allan Boesak being invited to preach at our American Baptist College in Nashville.
If we concerned pastors are guilty of “idolatry of the Bible” as Dr. Harris alleges, then what kind of idolatry is he guilty of? Has he elevated as synonymous with truth his opinion and the opinions of those who agree with him? A kind of idolatry of self? Do people like Dr. Harris and his allies discredit the Bible because they, in the words of Dr. Ben Carson, “need to remove any authority other than themselves as the arbiter of right and wrong?”
A statement from John R.W. Stott is compelling:
The Scriptures have the content, authority, and power for a proper evangelistic message. … God has clothed His thoughts in words, and there is no way to know Him except by knowing the Scriptures. … We can’t even read each other’s minds, much less what is in the mind of God.
If we are not to discern the mind of God on homosexual conduct from the Bible, where else are we to discern God’s mind on the subject? From the opinions of fallible, vacillating and “evolved” minds like those of Dr. Harris or Dr. McMickle, or any of the rest of us, or even of our President Obama?
Contrary to Dr. Harris’s claim, if anyone has “misappropriated the theology of the National Baptist Convention,” evidence would indicate in this instance that it is he and Dr. McMickle. Consider the theology in the Statement of Faith posted on our Convention website:
The Scriptures. We believe that the Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired, and is a perfect treasure of heavenly instruction; that it has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture of error for its matter; that it reveals the principles by which God will judge us, and therefore is, and shall remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and opinions shall be tried.
Every single one of the 18 Articles of Faith posted on our Convention website begins with the affirmation “We believe the Scriptures teach . . .” In light of this affirmation, it is excessively remarkable that Dr. Harris would denigrate our embrace of biblical truth, dismiss and relegate it to the ash heaps of history as a “first-century worldview” by which we moderns “can’t be guided and dictated” and from which the more enlightened mortals (as himself) have evolved. I guess we are supposed to evolve beyond Jesus. To his credit, however, Dr. Harris does not deny the biblical truth about homosexuality. He just denies that that truth has relevance beyond the first-century.
It is worthy of note that not only do National Baptists have a high regard for Scripture, but so did Jesus:
- He treated it as fully authoritative. (Matthew 4:1-10; Luke 4:1-12)
- Praying for His disciples, He asked the Father, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” (John 17:17, NKJV)
- He taught that it points to him, and that He is its fulfillment. (Matthew 21:42-44; Luke 24:27, 44; Matthew 5:17)
Harris also stated: “It’s tragic these conservative pastors are in opposition to what education ought to be about, to expose students to critical moral thinkers and a broad education.” If anyone believes having Bishop Flunder preach at American Baptist College was about exposing students to critical moral thinkers and broad education, all one has to do is read the transcript of her speech given on Tuesday evening, March 17, 2015 at the Baptist World Center on the campus of American Baptist College, which was posted on a Kingdom Global Strategy blog. Among other things contrary to academia, her speech was effectively and essentially a pep rally promoting sexual behavior which our Convention has historically characterized as perversion.
As a 1979 graduate of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, and with all due respect, I am personally embarrassed by our school president’s (Dr. McMickle) comments in defense of Dr. Harris, including his patronizing insinuation regarding our “biblical and theological standing” and whether any “noted biblical and theological scholars” are among our number. Those promoting the radical homosexual movement often and openly use harsh rhetoric, nasty name-calling, and display blatant intolerance toward others who dare to differ with their more “morally superior” perspectives for the purpose of intimidating or embarrassing them into silence.
To them, anyone who dares to differ with their “more enlightened minds” on this subject has to be displaying disrespect and bigotry, among other similarly disgraceful things. They claim for themselves the virtues of tolerance and open-mindedness while at the same time displaying intolerance and close-mindedness toward perspectives that differ from theirs. In America people with different perspectives are supposed to be able to discuss their differences courteously and respectfully without resorting to personal attacks. It should be about respectful debate, not about accusing others of hate. However, people with weak arguments and inclinations toward one-sided monologue rather than constructive dialogue are notorious for resorting to nasty rhetoric. Erwin W. Lutzer’s words are apropos here:
Ours is a battle that cannot be won by reason, scientific data, or dialogue. The radical homosexual movement that preaches tolerance will not itself tolerate alternate opinions. Everyone must move in lockstep with their agenda—or pay a price.
The price to be paid for reasoned and respectful disagreement is character assassination, demonization, denunciation and vilification as reflected in such words (also used by Dr. McMickle) as “ignorance” and “bigotry.” To so label others who disagree with him is very judgmental on his part and represents the virulent vitriol so prevalent today from pro-homosexual activists toward those who take exception to the “sex-style.” His own comments are also self-revealing, indicating guilt of the very kind of intolerance he condemns in others.
He asks, “Who has authorized these pastors to speak so broadly about Baptist doctrine and biblical faith?” I ask, who has authorized him to question so broadly our theological standing and insinuate that we are intellectually and theologically inferior to himself and to those who agree with him. I would submit that in regard to what is posted on our Convention website, our position is more authorized than either his or Dr. Harris’. Consider, for example, the following statements from our website:
- In all matters of Faith and Practice, National Baptists are guided by Holy Scriptures. Genesis 2: 18-25 shows God’s concern for relationships by creating the woman to be a partner with man. National Baptist Endorsed Chaplains, although serving in a pluralistic environment, are not to participate in any activity that implies or condones same sex marriage or same sex union. ( Charles F. Thomas, Sr., Office of the Ecclesiastical Endorser, Home Mission Board National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.)
- . . . the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. affirms that marriage is a sacred biblical covenant between a man and a woman. (Dr. Julius R. Scruggs, Immediate past President)
Dr. McMickle further opines:
Why are they so enraged by same-sex marriage and homosexuality, but apparently not equally concerned about adultery, fornication, and divorce; all of which are spoken against in the Bible and all of which are currently occurring in black Baptist churches and black Baptist pulpits? This selective reading and enforcement of biblical teachings is infuriating to me.
Even if it were true, as Dr. McMickle alleges in his self-righteous infuriation, that we are not equally concerned about other sins spoken against in the Bible, that failure to be equally concerned about the others would not justify the affirmation of homosexuality. Failure to equally address one sin does not justify the affirmation of another.
Also, I don’t know of any adulterer or other types of fornicators demanding their sexual behavior be accepted, advocated, celebrated, legalized and elevated to the legal and moral equivalent of its opposite. If anyone is not “equally concerned” about these other sexual sins, it would appear be the mainstream secular and liberal media, much of corporate America, so-called Hollywood and intellectual elites, activist courts and judges, who have inundated our public airways, institutions and courts of law with a steady diet of prime-time homosexual propaganda. Many of the advocates of this pro-homosexual propaganda are now postulating the absurd position that a right to same-sex marriage exists in the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and that they expect the U.S. Supreme court to rule accordingly this summer.
Scholars like Carson Holloway have reminded us, however, that members of the Supreme Court are fallible human being with their own partisan biases, can be and have been wrong in the past, as in the cases of Brown v. Board of Education and Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), in which it held that the Constitution gave Congress no power to forbid slavery in the federal territories and that even free blacks could never be citizens of the United States. (This is a reason why we have) the other branches of government (that each may balance and hold in check the other).
Carson goes on to quote President Abraham Lincoln’s problem with the notion of judicial supremacy:
The candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the government upon vital questions, affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made, in ordinary litigation between parties, in personal actions, the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal. ( http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2015/02/14410/)
If the Supreme Court makes same-sex marriage the law of the land, then citizens of this country may find ourselves ruled by what Lincoln called that “eminent tribunal” rather than by “we the people.”
To be sure, as Dr. McMickle and others contend, it may be true that adulterers and other kind of fornicators, in addition to homosexuals, have preached at the American Baptist College without objection from groups like ours. But even if they have, they have not come brazenly and openly promoting, advocating, advertising and wearing their sin, in the words of Dr. Randy Vaughn, as a “badge of honor.”
Since Dr. McMickle seems to be so much concerned about civil rights and equality, what about the civil and equal rights of children to be raised by their mother and father? Same-sex marriage necessarily deprives a child of either the child’s mother or father or both, and is therefore antithetical to the well-being of children. Research shows that, in general, children in homes without their biological mother or father are at greater risk of abuse. Further, same-sex marriage, particularly among male same-sex couples who desire children, is now resulting in babies/children being severed from the inevitable bonds of their biological parents and treated as commodities to be commercially bought and sold, with the creation of a subclass of women who are treated as breeders, all for the purpose of birthing babies to satisfy the whims of adults. Who will fight for the civil and equal rights of these babies, many of whom as grown up adults are now speaking out against this abuse?
Also, if the real issue is civil rights, why isn’t there organized advocacy for the equal rights of those who practice other types of sexual sins like adultery, etc.? The civil rights struggle of the 50’s and 60’s was about people being victimized for an immutable trait, skin color, not about legitimizing one’s sexual behavior. While it is universally indisputable that race is an immutable trait, there is no science to prove that homosexual conduct is. Thus, the argument equating one’s sexual conduct to skin color and calling it immutable is, as a matter of fact, without merit. There are documented cases – based on clinical experience, peer-reviewed research and personal testimonies – of many former homosexuals, but there are no known instances of a former black person.
According the scholarly National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (“NARTH”):
Although many people have been misled to believe that homosexuality is biologically based and therefore unchangeable, researchers acknowledge that people are not simply born homosexual. Researchers have never found a biological basis for homosexuality (APA, 2008). Anyone familiar with the research knows clearly that many factors contribute for sexual orientation. There are many pathways into and out of homosexuality.
There is disturbing scientific evidence/proofs, even from the U.S. Center for Disease Control, of the harmful effects of this “sex-style” on the individuals who practice it and upon the larger society. Not long ago in a letter to the editor of our local newspaper (Asheville Citizen-Times), I raised the question of why the indisputable public health consequences of men who have sex with men (MSM) are not being more widely debated and disseminated in the mainstream media. The CDC reports that “Gay and bisexual men is the only risk group in the U.S. in which the annual number of new HIV infections is increasing.”
- MSM account for more than half of all new HIV infections in the U.S. each year (53%, or an estimated 28,700 infections).
- While CDC estimates that MSM account for just 4 percent of the U.S. male population aged 13 and older, the rate of new HIV diagnoses among MSM in the U.S. is more than 44 times that of other men (range: 522–989 per 100,000 MSM vs. 12 per 100,000 other men). (http://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom/docs/fastfacts-msm-final508comp.pdf)
Other researchers report that the HIV-positive rate for homosexual men is as high as fifty-times more likely than for heterosexual men. The CDC also reports that MSM are at “elevated risk for certain sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, HIV/AIDS, syphilis, gonorrhea, and Chlamydia.” Studies also show that women who identify as lesbian are at a higher risk for more gynecologic cancers and increased likelihood of bacterial vaginosis compared to heterosexual women.
It’s not ignorance and bigotry to point out these adverse health consequences. The real danger to public health is the pro-homosexual bigotry that would keep the public in ignorance about these consequences. Who is really being unloving? Those who shine the light on these troubling statistics, or those who try to prevent these statistics from becoming widely disseminated and legitimately debated? In this instance, the debate has nothing to do with the Bible or religion but with public health.
Our culture and courts are elevating a known risky sexual behavior to the level of a civil right, enshrining it into law, criminalizing dissent, prosecuting non-cooperating business owners with stiff penalties and the threat of being deprived of their businesses, reputations and livelihoods – all for advocating a view of marriage which Christians and adherents of other major world religions have universally affirmed for thousands of years. This view of marriage as between a man and woman was even advocated by President Obama just a few years ago prior to his “evolution” before the previous presidential election.
Finally, as a 1987 graduate of Erskine Theological Seminary’s doctoral program, I fully endorse and support my Alma Marta’s position on homosexuality:
We believe the Bible teaches that all sexual activity outside the covenant of marriage is sinful and therefore ultimately destructive to the parties involved. As a Christian academic community, and in light of our institutional mission, members of the Erskine community are expected to follow the teachings of scripture concerning matters of human sexuality and institutional decisions will be made in light of this position . . . Sexual relations outside of marriage or between persons of the same sex are spoken of in scripture as sin and contrary to the will of the Creator.
There are numerous compassionate, competent, credentialed scholars and theologians, as well as other persons of impeccable character, academic credentials and intelligence who do not agree with Doctors Harris and McMickle on the subjects of homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
In addition to those of us affiliated with the National Baptist Fellowship of Concerned Pastors, here are a few more noted scholars/theologians, among others, who do not agree that disagreeing with homosexual behavior is a matter of ignorance and bigotry:
- Robert Gagnon, Ph.D. (Princeton): Jesus, Scripture, and the Myth of New Knowledge Arguments about Homosexual Unions
- Michael Brown, Ph.D. (New York University): Can You Be Gay and Christian?: Responding With Love and Truth to Questions About Homosexuality
- James DeYoung, Th.D. (Dallas Seminary), Homosexuality: Contemporary Claims Examined in Light of the Bible and Other Ancient Literature and Law
- Thomas R. Schreiner, Ph.D. (Fuller Seminary), “A New Testament Perspective on Homosexuality“
- Gordon Wenham, Ph.D. (University of London), “The Old Testament Attitude to Homosexuality“
- Jeffry Satinover, M.D. (Baker Books), “The Politics of Homosexuality”
Their disagreement, like ours, is not due to ignorance, homophobia or hatred of homosexuals, but due to a sincerely-held, well-grounded and researched conviction on the nature of marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Today there is alarming and widespread animus, as well as brazen intolerance, against those of us who hold to this conviction, and there is being hurled at us a disturbing brand of anti-Christian and anti-Bible bigotry. It is high time that more of us start naming and challenging this brand of bigotry.
I say to those who disagree with our conviction about the nature of marriage that we stand where we stand respectfully, unapologetically, unequivocally and compassionately. Compassion does not require the compromise of convictions which are based on biblical truth. I welcome ongoing and respectful dialogue on this subject. We can agree to disagree without attacking each other’s character, intelligence, or theological standing.
Contact information for the Author:
Rev. Dr. John H. Grant, Pastor & President
Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church of Asheville, Inc.
47 Eagle Street
Asheville, NC 28801