Friday, February 20, 2009

Broadway, the Executive Committee, and the Homosexuality Debate

This week, I went to Nashville to attend the meeting of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention. I went as a representative of my church, Broadway Baptist of Fort Worth, both because I am church attorney and because I am a member of the church's denominational relations committee. I went along with our interim pastor and our minister of congregational care.

The occasion was the Executive Committee's consideration of a motion made on the floor of last summer's Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Indianapolis to consider Broadway no longer to be "in friendly cooperation" with the SBC. This is our denomination's version of an ouster motion, a disfellowshiping of a church. The motion, while it did not state a reason, was ostensibly based on the press coverage our church received last year over an internal issue that arose concerning the publication of our church pictorial directory and how one or two gay couples in the church should be pictured, if at all.

I attended the meeting as a representative of the church. For that reason, and because I am counsel to the church, I will not in this blog reveal any confidences that were not stated plainly before the Committee. I do not mean to intimate that there are deep secrets that we kept hidden but merely am respecting the attorney-client privilege.

This blog is not written as a representative of Broadway. It is my own. Please do not complain to the church, the pastor, or anybody but me when you don't like what I write. I expect to offend pretty much everybody who reads this blog, because I am going to try to set out what I believe are the good arguments on both sides of the homosexuality debate among Christians, and particularly among Baptist Christians. I am not going to try to resolve the debate in this blog - if my own personal view comes through here, that will be an accident. I therefore fully expect that virtually all of you will be offended when I set forth the argument with which you disagree and when I don't clearly come down in support of your side of the debate.

The SBC Constitutional Issue
According to the most recent amendment to the Southern Baptist Convention constitution, a church is not in friendly cooperation with the SBC if it acts to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior. I do not believe Broadway has so acted. Such actions would include things like open statements of affirmation of homosexual behavior or publications of such statements. Such acts could include things like performance of a marriage or marriage-like ceremony between persons of the same gender. Such acts could arguably include ordination of homosexuals. Broadway has done none of those things. In Broadway's case, the charge against it apparently is Broadway's choice not to exclude homosexuals from membership in the church. Some Baptists believe that the extension of church membership - or the choice not to withdraw it - is such a prohibited "act." I disagree. Others believe that allowing homosexual members to serve on committees within the church is an affirming act. Broadway hopes all of its members will serve on committees, so to me, committee service is just that - service - and not a leadership role that affirms homosexual behavior.

In short, at Broadway, church membership is for those baptized by immersion who profess Christ as Lord and choose to join Broadway in its following of Christ. Broadway has never taken the position that the church, in extending membership to any person, is affirming all of that person's behavior - no matter what that behavior is. There are Baptists who disagree with that conclusion.

This week's meeting was gracious. It was good to be a room where a Christlike sense of reconciliation was apparent. The Executive Committee took no action against Broadway, voting instead to continue conversation with the church.

There have been a number of internet press reports, blogs, and emails about the meeting. Responses have been predictable. I have seen the blogs condemning Broadway out of hand for failing to rid itself of the sinners. I have seen the articles laughing at the fact that this is a serious issue for a church. I have gotten the emails calling the whole matter a "ridiculous conversation." I have heard the various comments.

I want to address, carefully, the homosexuality debate, not because I want to end it, but because I hope to focus it. I think there are some bad arguments on both sides, and I think the discussion is far more productive if it is focused on the good arguments.

Orientation vs. behavior
Initially, I don't think I am going out on a limb to say that orientation is irrelevant to the debate over whether homosexual behavior is right or wrong. I believe that most of us - if not all of us - are tempted ("oriented," if you will) toward one sexual sin or another. I know that all of us are tempted to different sins. The temptation does not make the sin, and being tempted does not make one guilty of the sin. Jesus Himself was tempted and yet was perfect.

Similarly, I don't think the question of the origin of homosexuality gets us very far. Whether there is a "gene" or not means little to me. I doubt seriously that very many people choose homosexuality - given the stigmas, the societal problems, and the familial issues involved, I cannot believe that many people voluntarily choose that orientation. Some may, but clearly many do not. Whether they "became gay" because of an environmental factor or some sort of abuse or were "born gay" seems irrelevant to me.

But, the fact that someone did not choose the orientation does not end the discussion. I believe that everyone chooses his/her behavior. Paul talks a lot in the New Testament about how our natures lead us in certain directions and how the cause of Christ requires us to put aside our natures. If this were not so, we would all fall prey to our sexual temptations, for we all are "made that way."

Finally, I am not persuaded by the claim that "a loving God would not have made me this way if it were wrong." We do not live in Eden; our world is fallen. Children are born every day with all sorts of problems that are surely not in God's ideal plan. People are killed by drunk drivers. Disease strikes. Storms attack. Foreign armies invade. Recession paralyzes. If God does not stop all of that, I don't see why it would be expected that he would stop one particular natural phenomenon, even if - left unchecked - it has "wrong" consequences.

"Homosexuality is unnatural" is unpersuasive to me.
Setting aside the question of the origin of the temptation, I think it is too easy for those who are not tempted by homosexual behavior and who do not struggle with same-sex attraction to claim that those who are oriented in that way are "unnatural." Just because I don't understand something does not make it any less natural than the things I do understand. We have to face the fact that homosexual activity is stigmatized - it is simply so "gross" to some people that they cannot think of it rationally, and they often lash out against it. That reflects, I suspect, their upbringing as much as anything else, but it is not a persuasive argument against homosexual behavior.

"People who are against homosexuality are bigots" is a hasty generalization.
Yes, some of them are, but that does not mean their argument is wrong. In fact, some homosexuals are bigots as well. Many people who support gay rights are unfairly biased against conservatives, evangelicals, or clergy; that does not make their argument right or wrong. And the fact is, many who take the position that homosexual behavior is sin nevertheless are loving and kind to homosexuals. Many who would deny church membership on sincere grounds nonetheless would fight to keep the church doors open to homosexuals and to extend ministry to them in countless ways.

Singling homosexual behavior out of the biblical list of sins makes little sense.
Again, the upbringing of some and the incomprehensibility of same-sex attraction to the heterosexual may explain the tendency to list homosexual behavior as the worst of all sins, but I do not see any biblical support for that claim. Where homosexual behavior is listed in the New Testament, it is included among a laundry list of other things - including gossip, unkindness, stealing, and heterosexual immorality.

"Jesus never talked about homosexuality" is an unpersuasive argument.
This is a favorite of the progressive in today's churches - "If this were so important, Jesus would have talked about it."

In the first place, I think Jesus did talk about it. While we have no citation of his negatively attacking homosexuality, we do find Jesus favorably discussing sexuality, and it is always in the context of monogomous heterosexuality. In context, the holding up of heterosexual monogomy as the ideal serves to leave all other forms of sexual expression as unworthy.

In the second place, there are any number of things that we are quite sure Jesus opposed without having a direct scripture on point. For example, there is no scripture citing Jesus' views on child abuse, gang rape, bestiality, check kiting, or selling heroin to minors - but I doubt many biblical scholars would take issue with you if you asserted that Jesus was and is opposed to all of those things based on what He did say and what we know about Him.

Third, this assertion is an argument from silence that is unsupportable. At the end of the gospel of John, the apostle tells us that there are many things that Jesus said and did that are not written in scripture. We are told that it would take more books than the world can hold to encapsulate everything about Jesus. That tells me that we do not know everything He said. Yes, it is true that we have no recorded quotations from Jesus directly condemning homosexual behavior; that does not mean He never said it.

Finally, there are many facets of Christianity that arise from parts of the Bible other than the gospels. If we limit ourselves just to the words of Christ, we lose the concepts of justification by faith, the fruit of the Spirit, almost everything we know about the church, and countless other basics of our doctrine. If God is behind the Bible, and we believe in the oneness of the trinity, then in fact Jesus speaks to us from the whole of the New Testament, if not the whole Bible.

"Paul did not understand" is an unconvincing position.
There are several variants of this one: "Paul had no idea of modern science;" "Paul was a bigot;" or "Paul was pushing an agenda." All of these arguments, it seems to me, are unacceptable from the Christian point of view because they place our personal understanding and interpretation above the words and teachings of scripture, and this is a slippery slope that allows us to delete anything from the Bible that we don't like. Unlike Paul's admonitions about women that we can, using careful exigesis, determine were meant for certain times and cultures, his statements about homosexual behavior are not so limited. The confining statements about women have to be taken in context with Paul's many other statements about women - and Jesus' example - that are empowering and that describe women in places of worship leadership. There are no similar pro-homosexual statements in Paul's writing to lead us to believe that his condemnations of it are limited in time, place, or culture.

So what does the Bible say?
For the purpose of this blog, I will not deal with the Old Testament passages. I know that the holiness code and the kosher laws are in large part irrelevant to many Christians today, and I know there are distinctions to be drawn regarding the Sodom and Gamorrah passage. I do not concede their irrelevance, but I will pass on debating them here.

The New Testament passages are clearer. And here is where the real debate lies. On one hand, those who feel that homosexual behavior is sinful point to passages that state simply that homosexual behavior is outside the will of God. On the other hand are those who feel that the New Testament leaves some room for a committed homosexual relationship (analogous to marriage), who say that in these passages Paul is condemning not all homosexual behavior but rather certain "offending" behaviors that he saw around him in first century Roman society - primarily pederasty, child abuse, and extreme promiscuity. The "homosexual offenders" condemned in 1 Corinthians 6, then, are not all practicers of homosexual behavior but rather those who abuse it, so this argument goes. In turn, this argument says the "unnatural" acts that have been taken in exchange for the truth of God as described in Romans 1 are the excessive, promiscuous, and abusive examples of homosexual behavior.

Without concluding here that either position is right or wrong, I can respect both arguments because they both represent an honest attempt to deal with scripture. They admit that the authority for the debate is the Bible. That is where the debate should lie in the church.

The question of repentance presupposes conviction of sin.
I believe absolutely that church members - indeed all Christians - should repent of sin. My own experience tells me, however, that it is impossible to repent of something that you do not recognize as sin. As I have matured as a Christian, I have come to recognize that things in my life that I had done or said consistently are in fact sinful. In New Testament terms, the Holy Spirit convicted me of those sins. When I came to that realization, I repented. But before I repented of those sins, I was still a Christian. I was acting in ways that were sinful, but I did not recognize it. I was not unrepentant because I did not believe in repentance; I was unrepentant because I had not come to understand the actions/thoughts/statements as sin.

If a homosexual believes his/her behavior is sin and does not repent, I believe that is wrong. If a homosexual does not believe his/her action is sin, I do not see how or why we should expect repentance.

I believe that the church can and must help all of its members strive for and achieve a closer relationship with the Holy Spirit, for it is the Spirit who convicts of sin. If that relationship with the Spirit of God is pursued, we will all become aware of additional areas where we are falling short of His will for us, and we will repent as we discover those areas. If homosexual behavior is in fact sin, then the Holy Spirit will reveal that truth to the homosexual Christian who pursues relationship with the Spirit, and repentance will necessarily follow.

Philip said to Jesus "show us the Father." Jesus' response was "Philip, have you been this long with me and still do not understand?" That is true of us as well... we can walk with Christ a long time and fail to understand much of what He is teaching us.

If all church members were fully repentant, there would have been no need for most of Paul's writings in the New Testament. In fact, Paul wrote to churches - people who were Christian - to help enlighten them about what the Holy Spirit desired for their lives. He led them to repent of sins they did not recognize in their own Christian lives.

So what is my point?
I am neither unsure of where I come down on the "Is it sin?" question nor ashamed of my position, but I choose not to discuss my personal convictions right now. I am simply making a different point here. In light of the discussion my church is having with the SBC, I am today more concerned with the point that there can be a reasonable debate on the issue between two sides who both recognize the authority of scripture. We have to admit that we could be wrong. We have to respect the one with whom we disagree.

How can church pick this one issue as the touchstone for withdrawing membership? Are we next going to excommunicate the gossips, the mean, the greedy, the abusive, the lazy, the gluttonous? I know many who do not believe that tithing is required; I know others who believe that failure to tithe is a sin. Is one side of that debate going to disfellowship the other?

I know many of you think that scripture is absolutely clear on this point. I know many others of you think that the nature of God makes the decision on this question easy. I hope you will both respect the other. I hope the church can find a place for both of you. I hope that we can keep this debate from hindering us from the important work that God has for us as a church.

I have several gay friends. I hope they understand that they can have Christian friends who believe that their behavior is wrong but who love them anyway.

There is a compelling argument that says that churches have to draw the line, that when the church recognizes something as sin, it must confront the sin and deny membership to the one openly practicing that sin. The argument goes something like this: "If a car thief wanted to join the church and proclaimed that he was going to continue to steal cars, you wouldn't let him join your church." In answer to that, all I can say is that it is apples and oranges. Nobody makes a sincere argument that thieving is not condemned by scripture, so there is no real attempt to claim that the car thief is reasonably acting within the will of God when he continues to steal. Perhaps more important, any student of rhetoric and debate knows that the foolish extreme can always be argued as a counter to a basic point. The homosexuality debate is real, and there are real Christians with real love of scripture on both sides of it. Some of them disagree with me.

A church like mine that celebrates diversity has to be big enough for both sides. You cannot be "diverse" only in a politically correct sense of including oppressed minorities; you must also be diverse in the sense of welcoming the views of those on both sides of touchy debates. I think that is proper. I am glad my church does not take a position that affirms, approves, or endorses the behavior. I am also glad my church does not take a position that cuts off membership for those who accept the behavior.

My church is big enough for both sides.

11 comments:

Krytlebit said...

Very interesting, Lyn. You would enjoy my Sunday School class! :) love ya, cuz.

Arce said...

Fundamentalists rarely accept that there are two reasonable sides to any issue, just their side and the wrong side. And their idea of a big church does not include one willing to tolerate any dissent from their side, the one that comes from "pastoral authority".

D.R. said...

Lyn,

As a Conservative, Reformed, Life-long Southern Baptist pastor who has had many debates about homosexual behavior and has (hopefully) thought deeply about Church membership and what it means to be affiliated with and cooperate with other Churches, please allow me to address a few points you made in your article.

First, let me say that I agree pretty much wholeheartedly with a lot that you say. Your sections on "Orientation vs. behavior", "Homosexuality is unnatural", "People who are against homosexuality are bigots", "Jesus never talked about homosexuality", and "Paul did not understand" are all well written, and I tend to agree with most, if not all you wrote here.

Additionally, I think both sides tend to talk past one another and use such differing rules of interpretation that much gets muddied in the process.

Having said that, in reading other posts your wrote (particularly the one on what you learned in debate), I can clearly see you are man who understands and grasps the tools of logic. I wish I saw more of this in the blogosphere - debates would be much more fruitful. Because I perceive this to be true of you, I am hoping that you and I can have an honest discussion on this matter and you may be able to see why a pastor such as myself (who will be attending the Annual Meeting in Louisville in 2009 and who at this point would vote to disfellowship Broadway) would believe as I do.

In regards to the arguments you set forth, let me begin with your section on "The SBC Constitutional Issue."

I do view the extention of Church membership as an affirmation of behavior, but not wholistically. What I mean by that is that when one becomes a member I don't expect them to be perfect on each and every sin in their life. What I do expect from them is that they accept that the Bible clearly teaches what is sin and what isn't and that adhereing to a lifestyle of what the Bible clearly calls sinful cannot be tolerated, not because of legalism, but because one of the purposes of the Church is to hold its members accountable to Scripture and help them stay on the path. One tool in the Church's arsonal is Church Discipline (and another is the Covenant of Membership). Therefore, when one who is clearly living a lifestyle (not merely struggling with a sin they admit is wrong, or committing individual sins that they would readily ascribe as sin), then not calling them to repent is the same to me as endorsing their behavior. Now due to space I can't flesh this argument out as well as I would like, but that's the gist of it.

Moving on ... I take issue with the idea that comparing the car thief with the practicing homosexual is like comparing apples and oranges. I understand your argument that one can't make a case for one, but can for the other. However, your argument assumes two things. One - that homosexual behavior can be clearly shown not to be sinful from Scripture (which I would argue from Scripture, the early Church, and its historical interpretation, as well as logic it cannot - see my article on Romans 1 - Homosexuality and The Apostle Paul: A Study on Romans 1:26-27). And two - that holding to a sincere belief is credible enough to warrant ignoring the serious consequences of holding such a "sincere belief." After all, if those who hold to the traditional view are correct, those who practice a lifestyle of homosexuality will be sincerely doomed to Hell - a pretty serious consequence.

What those like myself would say in disfellowshipping Broadway is that we take these consequences serious enough to take a stand, and like Church Discipline, we call Broadway to repent of its lack of conviction on clear Biblical teaching for the good of its congregants, especially those who are being allowed to remain in a sin that could lead to death (John 5:16 - again not enough time to expound on that).

Moving on again ... I want to address your argument here:

If a homosexual believes his/her behavior is sin and does not repent, I believe that is wrong. If a homosexual does not believe his/her action is sin, I do not see how or why we should expect repentance.

I am honestly not sure how you can defend this belief from Scripture. Clearly much of what Paul taught in some way depended upon the Church not understanding what was sin and what was not. He believed it to be his role to help the believer avoid sin. And when one confessed Christ and refused to repent, he did not in any way communicate that this was O.K.

Three examples - 1) Leviticus 5:17-19 ("Now if a person sins and does any of the things which the LORD has commanded not to be done, though he was unaware, still he is guilty and shall bear his punishment. He is then to bring to the priest a ram without defect from the flock, according to your valuation, for a guilt offering. So the priest shall make atonement for him concerning his error in which he sinned unintentionally and did not know it, and it will be forgiven him. It is a guilt offering; he was certainly guilty before the LORD." - even in the OT, sin one is unaware of is punishable. This is shown also in Genesis 26:8-10 where unintentionally sleeping with another's wife still brought guilt - that one seems to apply here in regards to unknown sexual sin)

2) 1 Corinthians 5 (here the issue is a sexual one, but there is no indication that the two engaged in this act are aware that what they are doing is sinful - instead it is the Church's job to deal with it. Notice v.2 - "you have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst." My question is "What has Broadway done to mourn those who are clearly committing an immoral lifestyle sin?")

3) 1 Timothy 1:18-20 (Here the issue seems to be two who have blasphemed God, and Paul, like in 1 Corinthians 5 turns them over to Satan. Now we must ask why. V.20 says, "so that they will be taught not to blaspheme." Why would they need to be taught not to do this if they believed it to be wrong in the first place? Couldn't Paul simply correct them with them acknowledging they did wrong? It seems they don't acknowledge their sin or are unaware of it. Thus Paul's actions seem appropriate for those who don't see their sin.)

In closing let me say this - I can appreciate you wanting to have a Church where people can disagree. I am a Reformed Pastor in a Church that likely has no Calvinists, and contrary to popular belief I have not "snuck in unawares" in order to convert the masses to Reformed Theology and I have no intention on every doing that.

However, the consequences of differing views of soteriology pale in comparison to those which will come to the ones who fall on the wrong side of this issue. If indeed the traditional view is right, then your Church is helping to pave the path to Hell for many in your congregation and in doing so you have many who would fall into the category of those in Romans 1:32.

That to me creates an unavoidable confrontation and I am compelled to call Broadway to repent and come back to the clear teaching of Scripture, back to the teachings of the early Church, and back to the teachings of their brothers and sisters up to about 1960. This debate is not simply about how one is saved, it goes to the heart of how one views God, the authority of Scripture, Baptist History, and sin. Because of that I am hoping this will spark a debate your Church that would lead you back to the Biblical position. Disfellowship, like Church Discipline, is a tool (at least in my eyes) to bring congregations to repentence on a central issue with great and eternal consequences. My prayer is that this doesn't happen because Broadway reconsiders its positions on practicing homosexual members.

I hope my rather lengthy comment wasn't too inappropriate, nor offensive - that was not my intent. I do hope that after reading it you might understand my perspective more and we might be able to engage in a honest conversation about this. Thanks and may God bless you as you follow Him.

Soli Deo Gloria,
D.R. Randle
Pastor, Cleveland Road Baptist Church
Bogart (Athens), GA

Arce said...

D.R.,
If we excluded all of the sinners with unrepented sin from the church, the pews would be empty! No one lives up to the model that Jesus set forward in Matthew 25, for example. And none of us carry out the second great commandment in its entirety.
It is therefore true that if the SBC excluded churches that have members with unrepented sin in their lives, there would be no churches in the SBC.
What happens is that people pick the sin that they wish to point a finger at, a sin in someone else's life or some other church, and make an issue of it. Today it is homosexuality. Once upon a time the sins were the consumption of alcohol and divorce.
We get so busy yelling about the sin in someone else or the church to which they belong, that we miss the sin in our own life and our own church. None of us should sit in judgment of others, and when we do so, we sin, according to the words of our Lord.
So, if the SBC decides to disfellowship Broadway, those who participate in doing so will be committing a sin, one I doubt they will ever repent.

D.R. said...

Acre,

If you follow my argument carefully, you will see that the issue is not allowing unrepentant sin to go unchallenged in a Church. Certainly we all are guilty of that. The issue is condoning the sin by welcoming those who openly and joyfully commit said sin in the midst of the congregation. When we begin to call what is clearly sin a "preference" then we violate Scripture beyond simply ignoring it in our midst.

So again, the issue is not about picking one sin over another, it's actually about cultivating that sin by claiming it is not sin at all, but rather preferrable behavior. You can imagine if any other sexual sin were treated this way - say Adultery? Or Incest? Or Rape? or Beastiality?

Would you seriously not be upset if a Church you cooperated with decided to invite open, practicing Pedaphiles to be a part of the congregation, and then affirmed their behavior by making them members and allowing them to serve on committees?

Lyn said...

D.R.,

Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I think I have actually addressed most of them in my original blog, but let me make a couple of additional points to address what you have said.

First, with regard to my point on repentance that you are "honestly not sure that [I] can defend from scripture," please understand that I have a personal view about whether or not this act is sinful, but that is not my point in the blog. My point on repentance is that expecting someone to repent of something that the person does not recognize as sin is a waste of time until the person first recognizes it as sin. If there has been no conviction, there will be no repentance. I am quite comfortable that that is scriptural.

Second, church discipline is for the church. I agree. I believe, however, that the convention is not a church, and to try to use "church discipline" as a convention is overstepping the bounds of the convention and is, frankly, non-Baptistic.

Third, I get that you expect a church member to try to live a life that is not openly practicing sin. So do I. Again, the issue here is conviction. I don't expect a church member to quit doing something that the church member (who is actively seeking the Spirit's guidance in his/her reading of scripture) has not been convicted of as sin just because I want him/her to quit.

Fourth, your citation from 1 Corinthians 5 suffers from the same "apples and oranges" issues as does the car thief example. Remember, I am taking those who believe that scripture does not condemn all forms of homosexuality at their word when they say that is how they read scripture. Both whether they are right or wrong and whether I agree with them or not are irrelevant to the issue of whether they, in their interpretation of scripture as they are led, should be allowed to be a member of a church. I think you are wrong in your reformed theology - frankly, I don't understand how you get there from a systematic reading of the New Testament and I am honestly not sure how you defend it scripturally - but I would not move to kick you out of my church, and I furthermore would support your right to hold your view, so long as you are seeking the Spirit's guidance in interpreting scripture. I could, after all, be the one who is wrong.

Finally, you lost me on the "paving the way to hell" argument. The traditional view is that homosexual behavior is sin, not that it is an unpardonable sin. The best (and only) way I know to keep people out of hell is to introduce them to Jesus Christ.

I very much appreciate the time you have taken to critique my blog, and I hope we can agree to disagree on the right of church members to disagree. I suspect you and I agree on many things. I hope that you can be persuaded that Broadway should not be disfellowshiped from a convention that exists to share the gospel with the world; you and Broadway agree on the main things, and I hope we can keep the main things the main things.

In Him,

Lyn

Joe Blackmon said...

If a homosexual does not believe his/her action is sin, I do not see how or why we should expect repentance.

There is the problem....you see, you don't decide what sin is, I don't decide what sin is, the Bible makes that declaration. The only way that anyone can make a case that homosexuality is not always a sin is by distorting scripture. Period. You cannot be a Christian and a homosexual anymore than you could be a Christian and live in any other sort of unrepentant lifestyle. It's really sad the the Executive Committee didn't do the right thing here. It shouldn't take more time to decide what is clearly an open and shut case of a church that won't deal with unrepentant sinners the way God's word obviously dictates that they should.

D.R. said...

Lyn,

Thanks for your response. Let me address the point of repentance and conviction a bit further.

So what you are basically saying is that no one who does not believe their actions to be sinful should be called to repentance by a church, even if the Church and Scripture agree it is a sinful act. Now if we take this to its logical conclusion then something horrific can result.

Let's say (going back to my comments to Acre) a Pedaphile enters your church and openly practices that behavior. But, when confronted, he or she says, "I am not convinced from Scripture this is wrong." Then, under your paradigm, you would have nothing further to say to him or her.

Now, keep in mind, there is absolutely no direct prohibition against pediphilia in the entirety of the Bible (unlike homosexuality, where there are numerous historically-recognized references, along with a Jewish and early Christian history of prohibitions against homosexual behavior - none exists for pedaphilia, even though we know for certain it existed in the NT times).

Thus, pedaphilia would not be an apples-oranges conparison. It would be a legitimate test case for your views.

So Lyn, do you overstep your paradigm and declare this person in sin or do you hold to your convictions and declare that you must wait until the Holy Spirit intervenes?

Now what about beastiality? Rape? Adultery?

In every case, under your paradigm for conviction/repentance and church action, your hands would be tied. How do you resolve such a dilemma?

And finally, if you are "quite comfortable" that your view is Scriptural, perhaps you can show us some Scripture to back this up, or at least explain why there needed to be an offering for unknown sin in the OT. If it is Scriptural, then Scripture should be shown to back this up.

On your second point, I don't think disfellowshipping Broadway is specifically a form of "Church discipline". I simply said it is a process, which like Church Discipline, is inteded to result in repentance and restoration.

The convention has a right to cooperate and to not cooperate with whomever its members see fit. An investigative process and possible disfellowship is a way to make sure that we are cooperating with like-minded, Biblically-based, Spirit-led Churches. The issue of homosexuality is settled for 99.9% of the SBC. And there are grave consequences for those who live in this lifestyle. Thus, this is and should be a primary concern for the SBC, even as it has been for Anglicans, Methodists, and Presbyterians over the past few years.

As for the process of disfellowshipping a Church being un-Baptistic, that is at least an argument that can't be made historically and especially within your own state, given that in 1895, B.H. Carroll and George W. Truett moved the Waco Association to disfellowship any churches holding to specific views they believe heretical.

One of the Earliest Southern Baptists, James P. Boyce, founder and first president of SBTS, was in favor of disfellowshipping Campbellite Churches in KY for fear they would infiltrate Baptist life.

And in the late 1800's and early 1900's Baptists in N.Carolina reportedly disfellowshipped any congregations who became part of the early "Holiness" movements (now Charismatic movements).

Of course, this is not just a Southern thing. New Jersey Baptists in the mid-1800's disfellowshipped any churches not teaching total abstinance from alcohol. And Warren County (Mass.) churches disfellowshipped a church there in 1788 for holding to universalism. Also, Old Regular Baptists in Appalachia made it a "regular" practice to disfellowship churches that were not in doctrinal and practical agreement with their associations.

There were even written instructions about disfellowshipping churches found in "The Baptist Church Directory" published in 1859, which was widely circulated and used throughout the American Baptist Church (Northern States). Here's what it said about disfellowshipping:

Should one of the associated churches be commonly reported to have become unsound in the faith, or irregular in practice, to have violated the constitutional provisions, or broken the compact accepted at the union, and these reports seem credible, it would be the right and the duty of the Association to inquire into the case, by committee or otherwise, and ascertain the facts. The Association would have no right to call the Church to account, to exercise any authority on it, reprimand or censure it; but only to ascertain the facts in the case, and then to take such action
as their mutual relations warranted, Such action might result in the Church being disfellowshiped, dropped from the
minutes, and all intercourse with it discontinued. That would be the extent of an exercise of disciplinary power on a Church by an Association.


Specifically related to homosexuality, both American Baptists and Mennonites (Anabaptists), have disfellowshipped Churches in their associations for welcoming non-celibate homosexuals as members. And finally, the SBC since 1988 has taken a stand in at least a dozen other instances to disfellowship Churches who hold to views about homosexuality contrary to its general membership.

I could go on and on with more historical examples, but these should suffice. So, to say that disfellowshipping is unbaptistic is a hard sell given that throughout the history of the Baptist church in both the North and South, among Anabaptists and even those abroad, Baptists have disfellowshipped and didn't think it to be unBaptistic. In light of all this historic evidence, perhaps it is your views which are unBaptistic.

On your fourth point you say:

Remember, I am taking those who believe that scripture does not condemn all forms of homosexuality at their word when they say that is how they read scripture. Both whether they are right or wrong and whether I agree with them or not are irrelevant to the issue of whether they, in their interpretation of scripture as they are led, should be allowed to be a member of a church.

The problem with this is that in Scripture, none of the Biblical authors ever deal with sin in this regard. In the illustration on 1 Cor. 5, Paul does not ask if the people involved believe their sexual sin to be sinful. He makes it clear to the congregation that it is! And those in the midst of the sin are to be expelled, not allowed to remain until they realize what they are doing is wrong.

As for the comment about Reformed Theology, I would suggest you read, "Chosen But Free" by R.C. Sproul, "The Bondage of the Will" by Martin Luther, "The Institutes of the Christian Religion" by John Calvin, "The Death of Death in the Death of Christ" by John Owen, "The Potter's Freedom" by James R. White, and "The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination" Loraine Boettner. Each of these make a hearty Biblical case for a Reformed soteriology.

Additionally, since we are Southern Baptists, you might be interested to know that the first 5 presidents of the SBC were Calvinists and that the majority of the convention was Reformed up until German liberal theology and higher criticism came to American in the early 1900's.

But, again, as I showed earlier, differing views on soteriology pale in comparison to the results of one living a lifestyle of homosexuality.

Now you said that I "lost [you] on the "paving the way to hell" argument." Let me explain.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 says plainly:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

Now, there are arguments against this translation, but if the traditional view is true (as outlined in this passage), then this passage teaches that those living in a lifestyle of homosexual behavior are not true Christians, but instead will not inherit eternal life (tranlation: they will go to Hell). Thus, if your church winks at this behavior and affirms it to be alright, then you are allowing these in your church to be decieved and thus are paving their way to Hell, a grave mistake.

Contrary to 20th and 21st century easy-believism, no where in Scripture does it teach that if you say a prayer, walk an aisle, and simply say you believe in Christ does it mean you are truly saved. Scriptures like the one above reveal who is truely the sheep and goats, the wheat and chaff. Even Jesus taught us that we may not know the difference until the last day. But we can identify behaviors that are contrary to a Christian lifestyle, confront them, and help restore our brothers and sisters in their path toward eternal life.

When a church refuses to do this, I have to question their loyalty to Christ and His Word, and I have to ask myself, "Do I want to cooperate and affiliate myself with this Church?" At this point, and according to your testimony, currently, I would say "no" in regards to Broadway Baptist Church.

And that is keeping the main thing the main thing, because if we can't agree on the clear teachings of the Bible and what is sin, how can I feel any sort of unity in fidelity to the Gospel with you and your Church? And why would you want to cooperate with me, one who preaches that many in your congregation are not true believers and should repent of their behavior?

Lyn said...

DR,

I don't have time to go point for point with you.

I will only make one final point - repentance comes when one recognizes sin and turns away from it. I am not suggesting that the church should not call sin what it is. I am not suggesting that the sinner not be confronted. I am only saying that the sinner will not repent until the sinner recognizes a sin from which he/she needs to repent. That is the full extent of my argument. Expecting someone to repent of something that that person thinks is not sinful will be a long wait. Instead of calling that person to repentance, I believe the church should be introducing that person to the Holy Spirit, the convicter (John 16:8), so that the sinner can be convicted of sin and thereafter repent. I am not against repentance; I am not suggesting that sin should be ignored. I am only saying that repentance is far more likely if the preliminary work of realizing that one is a sinner comes first.

In the context of my church, there are some who, after exhaustive and prayerful Bible study, honestly do not believe they are sinning. I get the fact that you think they are wrong and that you roundly condemn my church for not telling them so on your timetable. Your privilege. My point is that if it is sin, then the church is the best place for them to figure that out, and kicking them out seems less likely to bring them to a convincting experience with the Holy Spirit. I simply think the offenders in 1 Cor 5 are in a different boat (do you seriously think the man who "had his father's wife" was taking the position that scripture allowed such a thing?), but we clearly disagree.

Your other points are not conceded, but I simply don't have the time or energy to debate them here. And from looking through the blogosphere, you clearly have many other outlets where people are engaging you on them, so I will leave it to them.

Thanks for caring about the issues and for being gracious in your posts.

Lyn

The Whited Sepulchre said...

Lyn,
Good post. I'm glad I've found your site.

"They admit that the authority for the debate is the Bible. That is where the debate should lie in the church...." is where some of us might part company.

I believe that if Paul had any idea that he would be read thousands of years later by people on continents he didn't know existed, he might have chosen his words more carefully.
There are many Christians, including Broadway members, who hold the view that Paul was one voice among many. The Gospels that we read on Sundays were but four voices among many.

That's a terrifying realization for a lot of fundamentalists, and a lot of them immediately abandon the topic to go off on a Quest For Certainty.

Come see us in room 306 on Sunday mornings if you ever get a chance !

Samuel said...

Lyn, this was thoughtful and well written. Excellent discussion. You have the one of the highest energy levels of anyone I've ever known!