KOH2RVA: Day 67

Can you bring heaven to earth by making a motion at a Baptist meeting?

Well, no, apparently not.

I went to the microphone yesterday during the miscellaneous business portion of the BGAV annual meeting to ask if we could amend a recent decision made by the Executive Committee of the Virginia Baptist Mission Board. You see, the BGAV—the Baptist General Association of Virginia—meets only once each year, and when we are not in session the Executive Committee of the VBMB makes our decisions for us. Recently the Executive Committee decided to sever ties with Richmond’s Ginter Park Baptist Church for ordaining an openly gay man.

I know, I know…that’s way outside the “norm” for Baptist churches. But when I stood to make my motion I simply asked if we could appoint a study committee to look into the matter and bring back a report at next year’s annual meeting. I said, “I don’t want to open the floor for a discussion of how we all feel about homosexuality, because we would be here for the rest of the week, maybe the rest of the year. And I don’t want to talk about whether this church had the right to do what it did. Of course it did. Baptist churches are autonomous. No, what’s at stake here is the question of whether or not we can maintain fellowship with a church that has taken such action.”

And that got things started.

Part of what I was hoping for was that our annual meeting would not devolve into a shouting match about homosexuality, and I think my motion accomplished that. While most of the people who spoke to the motion were passionate, there was no shouting, and we mostly stayed on the subject. The subject was whether or not a church that had done such a thing could stay in the BGAV “family.” In the end, the answer was no. My motion was defeated 426-164.

The decision of the Executive Committee stands.

I learned only later that the BGAV, in its 190-year history, has never before severed ties with a church, not for welcoming blacks, not for ordaining women. And while I’m sure the Bible was quoted in those instances, and Scriptural reasons given for why such churches could not remain in the family, they did, and maybe that’s only because our sense of family is strong.

I talked with someone at this meeting who has a gay daughter. She said that the news came as a shock to her when she first heard it, but that there was never any thought of kicking her out of the family. “She’s my daughter!” she said, as if that explained everything.

For many people it does; our sense of family is strong. I’ve told my own daughters there is nothing they can do or say—nothing—that will keep me from loving them. But after yesterday I’m wondering how some of our sons and daughters will feel about their place in the BGAV family, and it’s one of the reasons I made my motion: if we’ve never kicked a church out for any reason, don’t you think we could take some time to consider this one? And even if we did end up in the same place, can’t heaven come to earth through respectful talking and listening?

I wonder.

9 thoughts on “KOH2RVA: Day 67

  1. Do we not express love within the family differently as it relates to obedience and disobedience from our children? Paul’s admonition to the church in 1 Corinthians 5:5,11-13 indicates that love for the family means tossing one out.

  2. Unfortunately, exclusivism is noting new among Baptists. I was surprised to find my name on “Do not hire” lists in two states after an article of mine was published in SBC Today in 1988.

    It is, however sad to note that such exclusivism in now so strong among Virginia Baptists.

    There is always the Alliance of Baptists, or the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. I”m sure the Ginter Park church knows this.

  3. Jim, Thank you so very much for standing up for Ginter Park Baptist Church. I am heartbroken, as I grew up in this Church under Dr. James R. Copeland, who just passed away a few days ago, on November 5, 2012 at the age of 91. What a WONDERFULY GIFTED MINISTER. I credit Jim and his strong Christian Leadership with my strong faith and love our our Lord. Our Jim, you did the right thing in standing up for Ginter Park Church; Dr. Copeland would have wanted you to do that.

  4. Obviously, feelings run high on emotionally held opinions, and as human beings, we don’t always think things through on a strictly intellectually rational basis. I applaud your asking Baptists to consider a variety of points of view, and to weigh the pros and cons of differing courses of action and their effects on perceptions of Baptists, Christians, and fellow human beings. Last time I looked, the “Law of Unintended Consequences” hasn’t been repealed, and it’s my personal belief that while individual Baptist churches have every right to make a decision, it’s not reasonable to expect that all will approve of almost any decision that would have been made. It’s always sad, in my opinion, when we cannot even discuss differences in decision-making on any level. One doesn’t need to agree with a point of view in order to listen and attempt to understand another perspective. Thanks for trying!

  5. Patricia: I had approved both your comments without taking time to read them carefully. I have deleted one and edited the other, simply because I don’t want to start a fight on my blog any more than I wanted to start one at the BGAV meeting (smile). I hope you can understand.

  6. The form of religion of which this is an example gives such wide lattitude to what it means to sin that people who listen to/read it will become hard pressed to differentiate between right and wrong. And, if right and wrong are, like beauty, matters of individual preference, then we’re living in a post-sin world.

  7. Jim, I applaud and thank you for the manner in which you attempted to address this issue. Discussing and exploring a hot-button issue over time demonstrates a willingness to listen and to understand. In my opinion, you were trying to lead Virginia Baptists in a way that I personally would have preferred to see them/us go. Closing our minds and hearts so quickly to any segment of the population does not reflect positively on BGAV as an organization, nor does it accomplish any part of bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond or anywhere else, I believe.

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