Louis, a frequent commenter on this and other blogs has given us part 2 in his series, “Two Thing I Hope Do Not Happen at the Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Houston, 2013.” Here is a link to Part 1, about Guidestone’s decision to sell products beyond previous boundaries.
The second matter that I am concerned about is how the SBC responds to the Boy Scouts.
I am sure that several resolutions may be floating around already. I have not read them. Who knows what may be presented on the floor of the Convention.
It is no surprise to anyone that the Boy Scouts made a decision that did not please the SBC. The question is, “What to do about it?”
Here is what the SBC would be expected to do – pass a resolution saying that we believe homosexual conduct is sinful, that we are against normalizing it, and that we disagree with the Boy Scouts’ decision to remove the restriction on disallowing participation by Scouts who claim to be homosexual.
The SBC will also be expected to 1) discourage the members of its churches from participating in the Boy Scouts, and 2) discourage SBC churches from allowing the Boy Scouts to meet on church premises.
I fully expect that is the course of action that will be suggested at the annual meeting. Many people will feel very satisfied to vote for such a course of action.
I believe it is the wrong course of action for several reasons.
1) That course of action will cause the SBC to appear to be fixated on the issue of homosexuality.
There is no confusion about where the SBC stands on issues relating to sexuality. The SBC has spoken clearly in this area. The SBC believes in the creative order and Jesus’ expression of that in the New Testament. The SBC also believes in the recorded witness of Christ’s Apostles as they shared the Gospel in the ancient world, particularly among pagan people who did not see homosexual activity in a negative light.
As it relates to the witness of Christ and His Church, the SBC has remained faithful.
The SBC has spoken numerous times on this topic. Our governing documents address this. I am glad that the SBC remains faithful to the Christian witness in this area.
No one who is paying attention would ever think that the SBC is confused or neutral on sexuality.
If there were some confusion about where the SBC stands, I would understand and support clearing up any confusion. But there is no confusion here. The SBC is on record.
By speaking on this issue again, at this time and in this way, detractors will paint the SBC as obsessed and fixated on this issue.
We have a wonderful annual meeting coming up. We have so much more to discuss at our annual meeting than the decision of a private organization that we do not control.
If we play to type in this area, the only headlines coming out of this year’s meeting will be about the Boy Scouts.
2) A statement by the SBC at this point along the lines of what I have predicted above will have no practical effect.
There is no chance that the Boy Scouts is going to reverse course because of any statement made by the SBC. The SBC is deluded if it cannot see this. The Boy Scouts has already cast its lot.
The SBC is not acting wisely if it thinks another statement on this topic coupled with the threat of the loss of support in the religious community is going to affect change.
There are times to speak, but even Jesus warned about trying to speak to people who do not want to hear what you have to say.
Also, we have been down this road before. Does anyone remember?
We boycotted Disney over this issue, with no success. I supported the action at the time. I regretted it about a day later. I understand the intent, but it was a bad tactical decision. Disney did not change its mind. Other companies followed Disney’s decision. And worst of all, members of the SBC’s churches ignored the boycott and went to Disney anyway.
So, we passed a resolution urging a boycott that even we ourselves did not follow.
Do we want to do this again?
3) A statement by the SBC condemning the Boy Scouts and threatening the withdrawal of support from the religious community places the SBC in the position of an aggressor.
I admire religious organizations that stand by their principles. I believe that most Americans do also, even if they have different convictions.
But most people do not admire groups that appear to be aggressive toward others. The SBC does not intend to be aggressive. I know that. But outsiders do not. This action will easily be seen or characterized as aggressive.
The SBC can certainly maintain its convictions, and it can urge other groups to adopt convictions that are in sync with SBC positions.
But when a private group, such as the Boy Scouts, decides to go in a different direction, even after the SBC has encouraged it not to, the SBC needs to understand that threatening the other organization with consequences can place the SBC in a negative light. Not for its convictions, but for the attempt at forcing others to act the way we believe is appropriate.
The SBC can have a great influence on public morality in the United States, primarily by example. Public pronouncements have their place, but we have to use wisdom. And being seen in positive light helps increase the effect of that moral influence.
One of the things that we often fail to realize is that many of the efforts of groups to remove the moral stigma from homosexual conduct in today’s society are based on the simple desire to be inclusive.
I am not sure that I see a significant increase in the desire of people to engage in homosexual activities over the last few years, but I do see a strong desire to include in society those people who are seen as marginalized. That is part of the narrative of U.S. history, with the primary example being slavery.
I am not saying that homosexual conduct is an equivalent to slavery, and I find any such comparison improper and a terrible failure to see the unique horrors of slavery. Many people, however, do not see things in that light.
The motivating desire for many is love and concern for the one who has been excluded. Many who are advocates do not want their parents, siblings or children excluded from society. We hear this over and over again in the pleas of those who argue for removing the stigma from homosexuality.
We have a hard time seeing that because we see the advocates solely from the position of trying to destroy God’s creative order. There are some in that camp who take joy in destroying vestiges of Christian morality, and negative feelings toward them are justified. But many who favor the Boy Scouts’ decision have no desire to destroy anything. They are wrong, but they are driven by kindness and have no evil intent.
I am not advocating that we agree with them.
I am advocating that we consider what motivates people when we respond. That will help us communicate effectively.
4) I am not sure that the churches in the SBC would want to operate in a way that we are urging the Scouts to operate.
If a student, say a seventh grader, announces that he is gay, and he starts attending church, what do we do? We certainly do not tell him that until he renounces being gay, he cannot attend the youth group. At least I hope we don’t do that.
But we are encouraging the Boy Scouts to have such a rule. I was a part of the Boy Scouts when I was young. I do not remember sexuality coming up at all in the material. I did not stay in it long, so maybe I missed that part.
I know that there are lots of differences here (e.g. the church would help develop the boy’s morals, whereas the Boy Scouts would not etc.), but the illustration brings up the difficulties involved in such a situation.
So, what’s the SBC to do? Here is my suggestion.
The SBC could pass a resolution expressing our disappointment that the Boy Scouts has decided to pursue a course that will communicate things, whether intended or not, that are inconsistent with the teaching of Christ and the Church and the history of public morality in the United States.
But the resolution could also say that the SBC continues to encourage the Boy Scouts in its mission through scouting to help form young men who will make good citizens. The resolution could say that the SBC wants to continue to support the Boy Scouts in achieving that goal, and that despite the disappointing decision of the Boy Scouts, the SBC encourages its churches to make their facilities available for Scout troops.
A resolution like this would not be playing to type. We would not give up a thing in a resolution like this.
Plus the churches of the SBC would continue to have an opportunity to influence the next generation of scouts. That places the SBC in the position of serving the Boy Scouts, even though we disagree with their decision.
I would rather the SBC been seen in that light than any other.