Southern Baptist leaders and the church of pick and choose | Opinion
Leaders who expelled churches for welcoming same-sex couples should remember what Jesus said about self-righteousness.
- Buzz Thomas is a retired minister, educator and former attorney for the Southern Baptist Convention.
The ruling Sanhedrin of the Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention has made national news again, this time for expelling two more churches that refused to deny God’s love to same-sex couples that came to them seeking fellowship.
Pharisee-in-Chief Albert Mohler — president of the SBC’s flagship seminary — pronounced the expulsion of the two congregations “necessary and proper.”
This is the same Al Mohler who joined with other SBC seminary presidents a few months ago to decry critical race theory (the notion that our legal, financial and educational institutions have been stacked against African Americans from the get-go) as “incompatible” with the teachings of Christ.
That’s like saying history itself is incompatible with Christ’s teachings. Implicit and explicit bias were baked into American society: red-lining Black neighborhoods for bank loans; lower wages for Black employees; longer prison sentences for Black defendants. Even today, defendants convicted of killing white victims are 17 times more likely to receive the death penalty than those convicted of killing Black victims.
Rooting out systemic racism was not one and done with the civil rights legislation of the 1960s. It may be the biggest challenge facing America next to climate change. But the social science designed to accomplish this is incompatible with the teachings of Christ, per the academic leaders of the SBC.
What would Jesus think?
I bet Jesus would be surprised to hear it.
Returning to the religious tomfoolery de jour, there is no doubt the SBC Executive Committee is within its rights both constitutionally and ecclesiastically to expel the errant congregations.
That is to say, the congregations that are actually following the teachings of Christ. Remember, dear reader, these are not the Churches of Leviticus where being gay, a pig farmer or even a Saturday yard-mower could earn you a stoning.
Nor are they the Churches of Saint Paul, who in his private correspondence declared homosexuals — along with uppity women and slaves who got out of line — to be living in sin. These are Southern Baptist Churches of JESUS CHRIST, the God/man who welcomed not just gay people but Samaritans, prostitutes and the most hated crowd of all — tax collectors for the occupying Roman Empire.
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Search your Bible until your eyes cross and your fingers bleed, but you will not find one word of condemnation from the lips of Jesus for LGBTQ folks. What you will find is paragraphs of scorching words for the self-righteous.
The church leaders who strained at gnats while swallowing camels. Who tithed their spice cabinets, knew their Bibles and crossed land and sea to convert others to their cold-hearted, rules-oriented faith.
Who's in and who's out?
Any humans who take it on themselves to decide who’s in and who’s out of the Church of Jesus Christ is assuming an awful responsibility. But if it must be done, at least do it in the way Jesus said that he would do it. Didn’t feed the hungry? Out. Didn’t clothe the naked? Out. Didn’t welcome the stranger or visit the prisoner? Out.
Pretty scary, huh? Especially if the hell Southern Baptists like to preach about is more than metaphorical.
As one of the attorneys who used to advise and represent the Southern Baptist Convention, here’s my best advice to my former clients and colleagues: Preach the Word. Live the Word. And to the fullest extent possible, leave the judging to God.
If a same-sex couple comes to your church seeking fellowship, treat them exactly as Christ treated you. Welcome them. Kill the fatted calf. Rejoice.
Buzz Thomas is a retired minister, educator and former attorney for the Southern Baptist Convention.