An Open Letter to the Southern Baptist Convention,
I have been a member of a Southern Baptist church for most of my adult life. I came to faith in Christ in no small part through the teachings and ministry of one such church. My Father is a retired Southern Baptist pastor, having said all of that, whenever anyone asks me about my religion, I never answer, “I’m a Southern Baptist.” Instead, I usually say that I’m a Christian. The reason for that is the subject of this letter.
There are many amazing things about the Southern Baptist church, things of which I am very proud. Through the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists have found a way to leverage the giving power of 45,000 churches and turn it into an amazing missions organization that supports over 5000 missionaries who serve over 950 different people groups around the world. In the United States, whenever there is a disaster, a tornado, flood or hurricane, groups from local Southern Baptist churches are some of the first relief organizations on the scene and usually the last to leave. As a denomination, Southern Baptists have done more to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ than any other organization I know of. This has been the single focus of our existence and is worthy of great praise accordingly.
But then, once a year we have a convention. Each church elects “messengers” to attend. Speeches are made, songs are sung, and then like the sun rising in the east and setting in the west, we do something stupid. This year it involved the Boy Scouts of America.
Recently the BSA changed its rules and decided not to prohibit openly gay boys from joining. Actually, the wording stated that being gay could no longer be the sole reason for an applicants’ disqualification. For reasons that escape me, the Southern Baptist Convention decided that it needed to get involved in the membership controversy of an organization that has nothing to do with the Southern Baptist church. Well, that’s not exactly true. In the United States, over 100,000 scouts do hold their weekly meetings in some 4,000 local Baptist churches. But the Convention has no power to force a local congregation to prohibit such meetings, so, why make a statement about it, which you had to know would be the one single headline to come out of your entire meeting, “SOUTHERN BAPTISTS SLAM SCOUTS”
I understand that homosexuality is a sin in both the Old Testament and the New. But, it has a lot of company, and gets nowhere near as much attention as good old fashioned adultery, dishonesty, pride and greed. Why no statement about the rampant adultery and divorce among the faithful? How about a statement coming out against the pornography business which has destroyed more traditional marriages than homosexuality ever thought about destroying?
I guess my problem with you guys is one of emphasis. Why pick a fight with the Boy Scouts? With all the problems facing the world today, it’s the Boy Scouts membership policy that tops your agenda? With traditional marriage divorce rates hovering around 50%, why do you spend so much time railing about the sexual practices of at best 10% of the population? And, what are we to make of this statement? Are we trying to encourage local churches to not allow local troops to meet in their buildings because they may have a gay member? Does this mean that we are against gay people coming to church? I guess I just don’t understand the method to this madness. Homosexuality is a sin. I get it. Lots of things are sins. The entire world is full of sinners. Isn’t it the job of the church to reach them with the message of salvation through Christ? How does this Boy Scout statement accomplish this? What it does accomplish, is reinforce the stereotype of Southern Baptists as a bunch of people who are against everything. We’re against drinking, gambling, dancing and gays. Well, there goes 75% of the country, and 100% of Washington DC.
Good luck dealing with the fallout from this. Oh, and the next time you’re sitting in a meeting pondering the problem of declining membership and influence, you might want to consider coming up with a list of things that you’re FOR.