I’ll join the long list of bloggers putting forth their thoughts about the situation between Ft. Worth’s Broadway Baptist Church and the SBC’s executive committee regarding a motion made from the floor of the convention in Indianapolis last June to withdraw fellowship from the church because it was no longer in “friendly cooperation” with the SBC as a result of what the messenger who made the motion called actions which affirm, endorse or approve of homosexual behavior.
First, I want to commend the executive committee’s sub-team that handled the recomendation for listening to the church and postponing action until the entire situation could be clarified. Actually, the process took a good turn when it was referred to the executive committee in the first place, rather than be subjected to a straight up vote at a convention meeting. The messengers would have largely been voting on hearsay, in somewhat of a hothouse atmosphere, whereas referring the motion allowed the executive committee to gather facts first. Broadway is well known as a church at the heart of the moderate Baptist camp, pastored by both Weldon Gaddy and Cecil Sherman, and most recently by Brett Younger, all well known moderate Baptists. It could have been easy for the executive committee to just make note of that and take this as a last straw. But that’s not what happened.
I must also commend Broadway Baptist Church. Through all of the more than 30 years of the conservative vs. moderate controversy in the SBC, Broadway has staunchly stood for its own principled interpretation of scripture and practice of faith, yet it has also remained faithful to its relationship with the Southern Baptist Convention. It has been a rocky relationship, at times downright hostile, but the church has continued to support its committment to the Cooperative Program. There are those who have encouraged them just to drop it, to save themselves money and trouble and just exit the SBC, but in spite of the trouble, they’ve stayed. That is a sign, perhaps, that moderates and conservatives can still find common ground on which to cooperate, and at the very least that the SBC is perhaps not as rabidly fundamentalist as some of its accusers might think. There were many who thought that Broadway’s “directory controversy” last year would be the last straw, and at least one messenger at the convention tried to make it so, but so far, cooler heads have prevailed.
The dialogue that has occurred is definitely encouraging.
Clearly, the church values its relationship with the Southern Baptist Convention, whatever form that might have taken in the recent past. The leaders delegated to represent the church in front of the executive committee have been adamant in insisting that the church has not taken any action which violates the particular SBC bylaw in question and that it, in fact, follows the Biblical teaching regarding homosexuality. There have been those who have stepped up to say the church is not telling the whole truth, but is hiding some evidence which might be brought forward to prove otherwise. But this is a matter that is being handled by the church within the boundaries of its independence and autonomy. There is no way for an outsider to know everything that is an internal church affair. And that appears to be why the executive committee, rather than tossing the church out with a smug, self-righteous flair, has tabled the matter until further discussion can occur, allowing the church time to wrestle with the request that has been made of them and come to a conclusion.
The church has clearly taken action which ministers to persons of a homosexual orientation, of that there is no doubt. But in so doing, have they “endorsed” or “approved” of the behavior, or are they acknowledging that it, like any other sinful act, exists, and that people caught up in it have no hope unless they find faith in Christ? They have gone further out on a limb in this regard, so to speak, than most other Baptist churches would be comfortable doing, but as an independent, autonomous body, they are responsible for their own decisions and ultimately accountable to God alone. I certainly cannot judge them. As far as what they have presented to the executive committee, I must take them at their word.
So, it appears that we have two groups of Baptists, thought by many to be incompatible, actually praying and working to find a win-win solution to a problem. The church has committed to find a way to meet the executive committee’s recommendation, the executive committee has given the church time and latitude to wrestle with things and come to a conclusion. The words pray, seek the Spirit, search the scriptures, were used by individuals from both the church and the executive committee. Those of us discussing this on blogs, from one perspective or another, would be well advised to simply join them in those activities at the moment, and make sure everything in our own hearts are right with God.