Homosexuality and Baptist churches
Describing the Baptist view on homosexuality is difficult due to the multitude of Baptist organizations, each with a slightly different doctrinal statement. The issue is further compounded by the large number of autonomous Independent Baptist churches which are not part of an organization and have their own doctrinal statements and beliefs.
This article will attempt to cover basic beliefs on both sides of the issue.
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As with most issues, there is a diversity of views of members of Baptist churches on homosexuality. Some denominations remain more conservative, believing in what they describe as 'traditional' marriage between one man and one woman. Other more liberal or moderate denominations allow local and autonomous congregations to determine their own regional policies. Thus, denominations are generally divided on the issue and reflect a diversity of opinions.
Nevertheless, Baptists generally believe that homosexuality must be an issue that is approached with compassion and love. Dr. Albert Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, emphasizes that: "Our response to persons involved in homosexuality must be marked by genuine compassion. But a central task of genuine compassion is telling the truth, and the Bible reveals a true message we must convey. Those seeking to contort and subvert the Bible’s message are not responding to homosexuals with compassion. To lie is never compassionate — and their lie leads unto death."
Al Sharpton, a Baptist minister and Civil rights leader, during his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 said that asking whether gays or lesbians should be able to get married was insulting: "That's like saying you give blacks, or whites, or Latinos the right to shack up – but not get married [...] It's like asking 'do I support black marriage or white marriage'. . . . The inference of the question is that gays are not like other human beings".
Positions of churches
Several organizations and denominations of Baptist churches have issued statements and resolutions about homosexuality.
- The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Baptist denomination globally with around 16 million members (mainly in the United States), has issued several resolutions in which it rejects homosexuality as a lifestyle and refers to it as a "manifestation of a depraved nature", "a perversion of divine standards and as a violation of nature and natural affections" and "an abomination in the eyes of God." It opposes same-sex marriages and equivalent unions. The Convention has urged churches not to show any approval of homosexuality. The Convention however also holds that "while the Bible condemns such practice as sin, it also teaches forgiveness and transformation, upon repentance, through Jesus Christ our Lord."
- Independent Fundamental Baptists, while not a denomination per se, would likely be unified in opposition to homosexuality. It would be rare to find an open and affirming IFB church.
- Within the American Baptist Churches USA, a mainline American Baptist denomination of around 1.4 million members, there has been a variety of understandings on homosexuality. The convention holds "that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching." It also opposes same sex marriage. It advocates dialogue on the issue. Some individual congregations, however, hold contrary views.
- The American Baptist Churches USA, as mentioned above, does have a conservative wing, but, within the denomination, there are congregations and regional bodies that both ordain gay and lesbian clergy and also allow same-gender marriages. After SCOTUS ruled in favor of gay marriage, the ABCUSA released an official statement emphasizing that local congregations are able to decide the issue for themselves.
- The National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., the second largest Baptist church globally and predominantly African-American, holds no official view on homosexuality, leaving this issue to individual congregations. They state however that a majority of their member churches would hold that homosexuality is not a legitimate expression of God's will and would be opposed to ordaining active homosexuals or lesbians for any type of ministry in their church.
- The Progressive National Baptist Convention, a mainline predominantly African American denomination, does not have an official position and, like many Baptist denominations, allows individual congregations to determine their own view. As a result, some congregations have performed blessings and marriages for same-sex couples.
- The Baptist Union of Great Britain with 140,000 individuals holds a nuanced view. It says that same sex couples "should not suffer discrimination because of their sexual orientation", while affirming that Christians who believe that same sex relationships are wrong should not be forced to compromise on what they believe as a tenet of their faith.
- The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a relatively small American-based network of Baptist churches, does not have an official policy on homosexuality (or other social issues). It allows individual organizations and churches to support or fund gay rights advocacy if they so choose, but it is not required or prohibited.
- The Network of Baptists affirming Lesbian & Gay Christians is a small UK network of Baptists who seek to support lesbians and gay men and people concerned about their sexuality in the church.
- The Alliance of Baptists is a small theologically progressive, American Baptist denomination which supports same-sex marriage and is open to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender believers.
- The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists is made up of Baptist churches, organizations, and individuals who welcome and affirm people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, and advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender inclusion within Baptist faith communities. This group is made up of almost 100 churches and organizations among the American Baptist Churches in the USA and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
- As aforementioned, the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. and the Progressive National Baptist Convention also have congregations and ministers who take a liberal position on the issue.
- "Split among American Baptists over homosexuality is final". Baptist Press. Retrieved 2016-03-04.
- The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists
- Network of Baptists affirming Lesbian & Gay Christians
- Sharpton Chides Black Churches Over Homophobia, Gay Marriage, Dyana Bagby, Houston Voice, January 24, 2006
- Resolution On Homosexuality June 1988 on sbc.net
- On Same-Sex Marriage June 2003 on sbc.net
- Resolution On Homosexuality June 1976 on sbc.net
- Resolution On Homosexuality June 1985 on sbc.net]
- "American Baptist Churches USA: Responses/Actions pertaining homosexuality" on abc-usa.org.
- "Gay marriage: mainline denominations affirm SCOTUS". Baptist Press. Retrieved 2016-03-04.
- FAQ on nationalbaptist.com
- Salmon, Jacqueline L. (2007-08-19). "Rift Over Gay Unions Reflects Battle New to Black Churches". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2016-03-04.
- Issues raised by the Equality Act (sexual orientation on baptist.org.uk
- "CBF to approve funding for pro-homosexual groups; gay church literature featured in CBF exhibit". Baptist Press. Retrieved 2016-03-04.
- Statement on Same Sex Marriage April 17, 2004 on allianceofbaptists.org
- "Member Congregations". Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists. Retrieved 2016-03-04.
- "Detroit Black Churches Openly Accept Gays, Others Denounce - BLAC Detroit - June 2014". www.blacdetroit.com. Retrieved 2016-03-04.
- New Testament Bible. 1 Timothy 1:9 (NASB, KJV, NKJV, NIV)