The Southern Baptist Convention wrapped up its 2014 Annual Meeting in Baltimore on June 11. The newly elected president, Ronnie Floyd, did exactly what was expected. At the Pastor’s Conference, he spoke of a need for change in the area of declining baptisms. He spoke of new strategy. He made one thing perfectly clear: the denomination will not change its position on the issue of same-sex relationships even as judges across the nation are striking down bans on gay marriage. If only more had taken place during the actual convention.
Floyd is the lead pastor of Cross Church which is located in the northwest area of Arkansas. In a recent interview with the Associated Press, Floyd acknowledged that the nation as a whole is changing its perspective on gay marriage, the largest denomination in America has no intention of changing its opinion that the concept of homosexuality is immoral.
Floyd said the Southern Baptist Convention will continue to stand firm on their interpretation of scripture and the belief that it enforces the idea of marriage being between one woman and one man. He acknowledged that many in the cultural climate would not agree with this but he hopes that Southern Baptists will handle these disagreements with compassion and love in order to bring other people to a right relationship with Jesus. On June 10, the convention also voted in favor of a resolution that stood in opposition to efforts by the government to validate the concept of transgender identity.
Floyd stated that the stance taken by denominations reflects their idea of the Bible being the final authority and for that reason, cannot be compromised. Earlier in the month, New Heart Community Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in California made the decision to stop standing in condemnation against homosexuality and rather embrace what they called a “third way” which is basically to neither approve or disapprove but to simply ignore the issue. He told reporters that in loosening its views on homosexual members, the church and its leader had made the choice to disassociate its congregation with their denomination. He further noted that the denomination does not condone or support the actions of the California church.
Southern Baptists make up the largest group of Protestants in America with close to 16 million members. Whenever they speak out on another issue, the media is prepared to jump all over it. But here is the sad part. Although Floyd spoke out after the convention, nobody really spoke out during it.
Wiley Drake, former vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention and current pastor of another congregation in California, stepped up to a microphone the first time that messengers were given the opportunity. Drake attempted to make a motion that would ask convention officers to act on behalf of the entire convention in enacting discipline on the New Heart Community Church for violating the constitution of the Southern Baptist Convention which bans from membership any church that approves, affirms, or endorses homosexual behavior. Specifically, the constitution refuses to allow messengers from church congregations that do anything to affirm, endorse, or approve any type of homosexual conduct. However, a committee on the order of business decided that the motion was out of order. It was never brought up again during the convention proceedings.
As the convention was drawing to a close, Drake came to the microphone again. This time, it was during a report by Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. At this point, Drake asked about the proper way to discipline a church that was acting in a way contrary to Southern Baptist beliefs. Akin replied that church discipline was to be decided by the local congregations. However, he did go on to say, however, that any graduates coming out of the denominations six seminaries are committed to the traditional idea that marriage represented a man and woman uniting together.
As an aside, Drake was also the author of a resolution at the Southern Baptist Convention in 1996 that was in favor of boycotting the Walt Disney Corporation. Drake’s opposition to the business giant came about because of its decision to give health benefits to lesbian and gay partners of their employees. Drake was the author of a 1996 resolution boycotting the Walt Disney Corp. over its decision to grant health benefits to gay and lesbian partners of employees. Drake also served as the Southern Baptist Convention’s second vice president in the years 2006 and 2007.
Executive Director of the California Southern Baptist Convention Fermin Whittaker told the press that more than likely, the church would continue to be affiliated with Southern Baptists on a state level. The only way this would change is if the national convention voted them out during the proceedings.
Whittaker went on to say that New Heart Community Church was simply a mission congregation, small in size,that gave around eighty dollars a month to Southern Baptist causes. He said the church does not in any form or fashion represent most Southern Baptist churches in California especially when it comes to the subject of homosexuality.
Just four short years ago, the Southern Baptist Convention, broke off a relationship with a congregation in Fort Worth, Texas. Messengers decided that the practice of Broadway Baptist Church in allowing openly gay members of their congregation to serve on committees within the church was counterproductive to the purposes of the nationwide denomination.
It would seem that the Southern Baptist Convention has dropped the proverbial ball. Right now, there is a diehard attempt to take what scripture has clearly said was wrong and make it right. Anyone who has spoken out on it has been demonized, dubbed as “hatemongers,” and made fun of by late night comedians. Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame made some remarks that homosexual was not natural or scriptural and almost lost his popular television show. His family stood behind him and with enormous pressure from the Christian Right, won the day. Not once did Phil back down. Not once did he recant.
This meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention was an excellent chance for the denomination to increase its voice in this matter. It was important. The media was watching. Southern Baptist church members from all over the nation were watching. Nothing happened. No stance was made. The only attempt to make a stand was dismissed. It would appear that, for what could be the first time in the history of the Southern Baptist convention, there was an attempt to ignore an issue for fear of public reaction.
President-elect Floyd was right to make it known that any church that stood in favor of homosexuality was in direct opposition to the very heart of the Southern Baptist faith. It was just a shame that more could not be said while the convention was actually taking place.
Opinion By Rick Hope