While at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (2000-2004), I learned there were Baptist churches affirming and conducting same-sex marriages. I thought to myself, “I am a convictional Christian first and foremost, but I chose to be a Southern Baptist because of their strong stance on the Bible and what it says about sin. Why are Baptist churches thinking homosexual marriage is ok?”
I learned that there were Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) churches that were moderate to liberal in their theology. The increasing acceptance of homosexuality and same-sex marriage led the SBC to pass constitutional amendments addressing these issues. As a result, the SBC Executive Committee disfellowshipped New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, CA in 2014 because it “does not presently meet the definition of a cooperating church under Article III [of the SBC Constitution]” which states, “Among churches not in cooperation with the Convention are churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior.”
Frank Page, Executive President of the SBC, said “This action does not reflect a lack of love for homosexuals. We love all people, including homosexuals. But when you love someone, you tell them the truth about their actions.”
Albert Mohler has said the rejection of the inerrancy of the Bible “is one of the central lessons now revealed two decades after the Conservative Resurgence . . . The moderate-to-liberal faction in the SBC is now affirming theological and moral positions that the leadership of that movement would have condemned at the height of the controversy. The old liberal wing of the SBC is marching steadily left, and the new generation of more liberal leaders is pushing far beyond where the older leadership of their own movement would have gone.”
The formation of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) was a result of the SBC affirming the inerrancy of the Bible. The CBF is a group that rejected the inerrancy of the Bible in 1991 and formed a distinctive umbrella for broad autonomy for member churches.
According to the CBF and MS Baptist Convention (MBC) websites, there are nine MS Baptist churches “dually aligned” with the CBF and MBC. Reports indicate that three of these churches have been working with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) that also works with Winning Connections (WC). These groups are advancing the “Project One America” initiative. This is an $8.5 Million multi-year HRC campaign in MS, AL, and AR to advance homosexual rights, transgender rights, homosexual adoption, and the erosion of religious liberty rights.
Northside Baptist Church, University Baptist Church Starkville, and University Baptist Church Hattiesburg ministers signed a 2014 Human Rights Campaign letter defending the rights of homosexuals to violate the religious liberty of business owners. Their desire was to kill the MS Religious Freedom Restoration Act in the 2014 MS Legislature. The letter stated in part, “However, we also know that there is a difference between sacred space and commercial space. When providing a service to the public, businesses cannot pick and choose whom to serve and whom to deny. This is basic discrimination and it has nothing to do with religious freedom.” The apparent goal of the HRC and these MS Baptist churches is to advance a homosexual’s right to discriminate against a business owner’s deeply held religious beliefs.
The HRC and WC brought tremendous pressure, and AT&T and the Mississippi Economic Council (MEC) also reportedly pressured republican leadership in the MS House to strip legislative language that would have protected the religious convictions of people like the Klein’s in Oregon. The Klein’s bakery was sued for $135,000 because they chose not to contribute their services toward a solemnizing event, or homosexual “marriage.”
A MS Baptist pastor recently asked the Christian Action Commission (CAC), “I was wondering what the current CAC policy or recommendation for MS Baptist Associations is regarding MBC churches that are dually aligned with the CBF. The CBF has opted to remain in fellowship with LGBT affirming congregations, citing Christian unity as their reasoning. LGBT affirming churches are considered “not in cooperation” with the SBC – what about the MBC?”
The CAC does not have a policy on church or associational membership nor does it speak for the MBC except when called upon. Baptist Associations could amend their constitution and bylaws like the SBC to ensure member churches were not “unequally yoked” with other churches affirming homosexuality.
The same could be said with the MBC. Article VI, Section 2 of the MBC Constitution states: “This Convention shall always recognize and observe the equal rights and independence of the churches; it shall not possess nor attempt to exercise power or authority over any church or association of churches. This Convention is hereby irrevocably committed to the principle of the complete sovereignty of local churches.”
There is no apparent enforceable language in Article VI, Section 2 that holds MBC member churches accountable to any biblical standard, and it appears to provide an accommodation for any member church or dually aligned church that affirms, approves, or endorses homosexual behavior. There is, however, a striking similarity between this MBC constitutional language and the hyper view of autonomy held by the CBF. This could be one explanatory reason why so many CBF churches find their home at the MBC.
In June 2014 the CAC was asked to meet with several pastors. They wanted to amend the MBC Constitution, reflecting the SBC’s constitutional language on membership, in order to address MS Baptist churches affirming same-sex marriage. They asked the CAC to present their suggestion to the MS Baptist Convention Board (MBCB) leadership. The CAC presented this information and was later informed by MBCB leadership that the Executive Committee (EC) would consider the pastors’ suggestion. In light of judicial and political debates on same-sex marriage, their hope was that the MBCB or the like would present a motion at the October 2014 MS Baptist Convention. They wanted the motion to call for amending the Constitution to disfellowship churches that affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior. The much anticipated motion was not presented. Why not?
Many pastors are puzzled about the MBCB’s suggestion of an optional facilities usage policy as a substitution for a constitutional amendment. The pastors’ response has been that a policy avoids the real issue and still leaves homosexual-affirming churches unaccountable to the inerrancy of the Bible. It also does nothing for churches that do not want to be in cooperation with or “unequally yoked” with homosexual-affirming churches.
A significant number of pastors have expressed to the CAC their concern why nothing has been done at the Convention to universally address this theological/ethical concern. Many pastors and church members have also communicated to the CAC that they view this as a problem with leadership who is either complacent or tacitly approving churches being “unequally yoked” with those who may affirm homosexual sin. Many have questioned how their church can, in good conscience, retain membership in the MBC and contribute to the Cooperative Program over other avenues of giving, like Great Commission Giving.
Numerous Baptist leaders have said that the same moderate to liberal factions infiltrating the church on the homosexual issue have also infiltrated MS government. What is interesting is the apparent accommodation of the views of the Human Rights Campaign and Winning Connections within both the MBC and the MS GOP. MS is largely a Baptist state that is also considered politically conservative. Why is it that both church and political entities in MS are giving the appearance that they accommodate progressive factions whose voice appears to be heeded?
The idea of church and state operating on two separate tracks in MS could be argued to be running on a single track. Could it be that the same sympathizers are bringing to bear progressive influence on both church and state? Are they also striving to usher MS into a false sense of unity through homosexual accommodation? At the 2014 MS Baptist Convention, did the vote to replace the MS State flag fail? False impressions of unity always end in destruction as it did with the Tower of Babel.
Any unity that is not first established upon fidelity to Christ and to the inerrancy of the Bible will result in futility. As a result of standing on Truth, watch and see what the dogs of war within MS churches, government, and media will do to Christians, but the faithful will not be overcome. There will always be a Remnant. Are you all in?