Some among us were recently up in arms over the decision by Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, DC to call a lesbian couple as co-pastors. The story was even covered by The Washington Post. When I first read the story at the Baptist News Global site, I shrugged my shoulders. It wasn’t that I approved of the decision or felt that it was right in any way, but I wasn’t surprised.
This same church—and I use the word “church” very loosely in this case—ordained a transgender person to ministry in 2014. If they would ordain a transgender person, why was anyone surprised that they would also hire lesbian co-pastors? Yet some in our Southern Baptist tribe spoke out as if this were breaking news. Al Mohler spent over half of the January 10 episode of his podcast addressing the issue and some of its implications. While his commentary is accurate, I still cannot quite understand the attention this story received.
For quite a while now we have known of churches embracing homosexuality. Splinter groups have separated themselves from the Southern Baptist Convention over the issue. Some churches have been removed from our fellowship for accepting homosexuality as good and right, while others have simply left voluntarily. We have been dealing with this issue, and it doesn’t look like it will be going away anytime soon.
I have had to deal with this issue in both the local association and state convention that I was previously a part of through my previous church. While some in our local association opposed taking any kind of stand on the issue, I stood up and spoke in favor of a proposed amendment to our association constitution. The amendment would have defined our position on the issue, thus causing any church taking a different position to be automatically out of fellowship with the association. I also drafted a resolution for the 2015 annual meeting of the Baptist General Association of Virginia which served as a reaffirmation of two resolutions passed by the association in the late 90s concerning homosexuality and so-called same-sex marriage. An edited version of my resolution was passed. Proactively dealing with these issues was necessary in both cases because of various things taking place around us.
One of the issues that Dr. Mohler addressed in his piece was the refusal of the DC Baptist Convention to remove Calvary Baptist from their convention. He wrote:
“But that raises a huge issue, and this arrives most prominently at the door of the District of Columbia Baptist Convention. That convention has not been a paragon of theological conservatism to say the very least, but now they face a very dramatic challenge. If they do not expel Calvary Baptist Church from their membership, then they by very definition simply become a convention that will accept that, indeed, does accept a church that has legally married lesbian copastors in terms of their own membership.”
Of course, he is simply stating the obvious, and he is absolutely right. But another question arises in my mind. How many degrees of separation are needed for continued cooperation? The DC Baptist Convention has a relationship with the Southern Baptist Convention. Can that relationship continue with the DC Baptist Convention becoming “a convention that…does accept a church that has legally married copastors in terms of their own membership”?
What about other groups like the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship? The SBC has no official partnership or relationship with the CBF, but there are plenty of churches that choose to cooperate with both. If the CBF this summer decides to become a welcoming and affirming fellowship, will churches that remain in that fellowship be considered out of friendly cooperation with the SBC because they are voluntarily affiliating themselves with a fellowship that affirms homosexuality even if the church itself does not hold that position?
The tangled web this whole issue weaves can get very messy very quickly. Where will we draw the line? How many degrees of separation are needed? What about the SBC church that does a mission trip with a welcoming and affirming church even if the SBC church does not approve of the welcoming and affirming church’s position on homosexuality?
I’m not sure I have many specific answers. We must stand for truth, but we cannot spend all of our time off in the weeds chasing snakes. It is definitely a strange day in which we live. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts. How many degrees of separation are needed for cooperation?