KOH2RVA Day 192

disaster-responseLast night the Richmond Baptist Association voted to maintain fellowship with Ginter Park Baptist Church, a church that recently ordained an openly gay man to the ministry.

The vote was close—very close—but it was enough to establish a simple majority and settle the question, at least for last night: Ginter Park can stay in the RBA family. How the churches of the Association will respond to that news remains to be seen.

But here’s what I find myself wanting to say this morning: Baptists and Buddhists can work together if the cause is just and the mission is clear.

When Superstorm Sandy pounded the coast a few months ago, for example, Baptists from Virginia were among those who raced north to provide relief. But they weren’t the only ones. People of different faiths and people of no faith at all were working alongside them to provide food, clothing, and shelter for people whose homes had been lost in the storm.  They didn’t have to agree on every point of doctrine in order to work together; just on that point that insists that people who are hungry and cold need some help.

I remember my own experience with disaster relief after Hurricane Fran hit the North Carolina coast in 1996. I jumped in a car with a few other Baptist men and drove to Wilmington, NC, where I ended up washing out empty food containers after hot meals had been delivered. I worked side by side with a delightful older couple whose views were almost completely opposite of mine. If we had been in a Baptist meeting, we would have voted differently on every issue.

But we weren’t.

We were in a disaster-stricken area trying to provide relief to people who had almost nothing left in the world. We didn’t have to agree on everything to agree that what we were doing was both urgent and important.

I think Sterling Severns helped us see that last night. He said that when he came to Richmond as a pastor nine years ago he asked his new church why they supported the Richmond Baptist Association. “Because of Camp Alkulana,” they said. Because every year the RBA takes busloads of boys and girls from inner city Richmond to spend a week at camp—breathing fresh air; hiking, camping, swimming; and learning about the love of Jesus in a beautiful natural setting. For those kids, for that week, heaven really does come to earth. That’s one of the best reasons why Sterling’s church, and my church, and Ginter Park Baptist Church give money to the Richmond Baptist Association—so those kids can go to camp. We don’t have to agree with each other on everything to agree that that’s a good thing, and something worth doing.

So, in spite of all our discussion about homosexuality last night, and about what the Bible says, and about what we believe, in the end we voted to keep on working together on what we agree is important—those kids who go to Camp Alkulana, for instance. And if the Buddhists decide they want to send us a check?

We’ll take it.

7 thoughts on “KOH2RVA Day 192

  1. Proud of the Richmond Baptist Association for last night’s vote and happy for Ginter Park Baptist Church. I am not so naive to believe that is the end of the matter, but it was a step in the right direction.

  2. You said it better than I did, Jim (www.choosewhotobe.com). Thanks for saying it. Our remaining connected because of our connection in Christ (and humanity) is right.

  3. Jim, thank you for your words. I was a life-long Baptist till a few years ago. “Brand” means nothing, though. It is, as you said, about the Kingdom. My students where I work, many of whom go to Camp Alkulana, have nothing to do with GPBC or homosexuality, but they would pay the price for continued fracturing and bickering amongst God’s church.

  4. I never read anything about Jesus voting. Just Him wondering about healing the sick in body and soul.

  5. Amen and amen! Could not have been said better. We should all love one another and leave the judging to God.

  6. The issue is not a camp or helping people in disaster — the issue is a Biblical issue — and the problem is that people are afraid to make waves. We are either people of the Bible or we are not — what a shame that the Richmond Association retracted from its stance.

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