Why the Baptist Church will never sanction the blessing of same-sex unions

ImageLast night the Episcopal Church in America approved a 3-year trial run of a service it calls “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant.”  The service is not considered a marriage ceremony, media affairs representative Nancy Davidge said. 

“We have authorized a blessing, and a blessing is different than a marriage,” she said.  “A blessing is a theological response to a committed, monogamous relationship.”

But I’m guessing some of the members of my brother-in-law’s church back in Waco, Texas, won’t see it that way.  Chuck is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal in that city, a church that is progressive by Texas standards and conservative by almost anyone else’s.  I’m guessing that someone will pull him aside when he gets home from the General Convention and ask, “Did you vote for the gay marriage thing?”

This is not a question anyone will ever ask me when I come home from a Baptist convention, because there is no such thing as “The Baptist Church.”  There is no single body of Baptists that makes decisions for all Baptists everywhere.  We have to make those decisions in our own local churches and when we do every member has a voice and every member has a vote.  So, if your Baptist church decides to vote on whether or not it will bless same-sex unions you will have a chance to speak your mind and vote your conscience.  No priest, no bishop, no general convention will do it for you; you will have to do it on your own. 

It’s a tremendous burden for Baptist churches.  A terrible freedom.  But we’re Baptists, and we love our freedom, and even if we have to make difficult decisions from time to time…

We wouldn’t have it any other way.

10 thoughts on “Why the Baptist Church will never sanction the blessing of same-sex unions

  1. I understand the polity distinction. I do. But I would like to note that the idea of General Convention deciding anything “for” the church in some sort of rarefied isolation, without seeking input and heeding the voices and requiring decisions of the rest of us, is no more correct for us in the Episcopal Church than it is for our American system of government. Less, actually. As messy as it can be, there is also freedom found in the unity of our church. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. 🙂

  2. Interesting thoughts…however, it seems that Baptists have their own “top down” legislation as well.

    Would there be any sanction from a national/denominational body if your own local church did approve same-sex blessings? Are Baptist churches truly congregational? If so, what is the function of the denomination…

  3. Baptist churches ARE truly congregational, Peter. If a local church chooses to bless same-sex unions it is absolutely free to do so. The local Baptist association may choose to break fellowship with that church, but it cannot control the outcome of a vote or reverse the decision.

  4. Thanks for this, Jane. Sometimes our deacons “represent” the larger congregation in decision making, and it feels a little bit like a session of Congress (smile). But all the big votes go to the church at large, and, as I said, every member has a voice and a vote. It can get messy too, as you might expect, but we do love that feeling that “nobody but Jesus” can tell us what to do. I have a friend in the Methodist church who used to say that his denomination’s way of doing things was the worst in the world–except for everybody else’s. Maybe that’s how we all feel down deep.

  5. The ABC has been trying to walk the tightrope of congregationalism and full inclusion of LGBQ inclusion. The congregations I have been affiliated with have blessed unions/marriages and have ordained LBGTQ members of the fellowship.

  6. When immorality is condoned and celebrated by The Church, do you think God cares whether the decision to do so came about through democratic vote or dictatorial directive? The practices of homosexuality and sodomy, like fornication, are abominations in the sight of God. Could it be that the “tremendous burden” and “terrible freedom” you describe are the result of someone’s trying to rationalize personal behavior when God’s word on this subject is clear? The situation you describe reminds me of a passage in Judges (21:25); “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”

  7. Excellent blog. It gave me much pause in that I recognized for the first time that it is more than the current issue at the heart of the matter. The governing covenants of the church are part of the big picture.

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