Southern Baptists resolve “to oppose
steadfastly all efforts by any court or state legislature to validate or
legalize same-sex marriage or other equivalent unions.”

And they also scold: “We remind the international community that
religious liberty is not merely the right to remain in the religion of
one’s birth, but includes the right of anyone to change his religious
loyalties without fear of persecution.”

Apparently the right to live without fear of persecution stops short of
gay-affirming Christians who still think of themselves as Baptists.

My friend Steve Schalchlin recently described worshipping at Lake
Avenue Baptist Church
this way:

Lake Ave. Baptist holds a very special place in my heart. It’s where I’m
allowed to really be my Baptist self. As much as I have willingly admired
and identified with many of the belief systems I’ve encountered over the
years, I am, at heart a Baptist — in character if nothing else. It’s what
I grew up with. It’s who I am. No matter how far afield my theology may
swing from moment to moment, I can no more not be Baptist than my friend
Michael can’t be Jewish.

I love the original Baptists’ sense of fierce independence, the doctrine
that your relationship with God is your own and that everything is totally
between you and God. I’m also an angry, loud aggressive drama queen, which
is very Baptist. Amen? I can be full of fire and brimstone and, as much as
I hate to admit it, I love to just preach.

In the Episcopal Church, this week’s publicity has focused on the the
election of Gene Robinson and the controversy over the item that merits
only part of a sentence in his bio:
“The father of two grown daughters, Jamee and Ella, he lives with his
partner Mark Andrew…”

Baptists might want to note that his election — and Robinson’s lifetime
of service to the church — has drawn curious folks closer to the
Episcopal Church as well as controversy:

“I’m getting letters from an orthodox monk in North Dakota, from little
kids saying, ‘I want you to confirm me.’ There was a little girl in
Florida who said to her priest, ‘I want to be baptized in that church.’ It
doesn’t get any better than that.”

Asked what he would say to people who leave the church because of his
promotion to bishop, Robinson said he would reply, “This breaks God’s
heart, that you would let something like this stand in the way of our
commonness in the Body of Christ.”

Robinson said he expects conflict in the weeks ahead and even welcomes it:
“Bumpy rides are where we meet God,” Robinson said.

In demanding global tolerance without offering it, hoarding marriage
rights while denying them to their neighbors and former members, Southern
Baptists imply that controversial bumpy roads must be pummelled smooth by
force and intimidation.

The SBC was on the right track with its religious liberty resolution.
We’d do well to pursue an expanded version, something like this:

Liberty is not merely the right to remain loyal to one’s faith, homeland,
familial or cultural traditions, but includes the right to change without
fear of persecution.

— Steve B.

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