HRC Blog

A Call to Baptist Ministers

This guest post comes from the Rev. Dr. Miguel de la Torre, Professor of Social Ethics and Latino/a Studies at Iliff School of Theology:

How can one respond to Pastor Charles Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church in North Carolina?  What can be said to a minister who claims to proclaim the love of Jesus; and yet, calls for some type of concentration camp to forcefully house gays and lesbians until they “die out?”  Specifically, he advocated that we “build a great big, large fence - 50 or 100 miles long - and put all the lesbians in there. Fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals - and have that fence electrified so they can't get out. Feed ‘em. And you know in a few years, they'll die out. You know why? They can't reproduce.”  If it wasn’t for the violence lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender people continue to face; his comments would be something to laugh off, if not ignored as an ignorant mindset and worldview of some by-gone era.

Frankly, it is not Pastor Worley’s comments that bother me; nor is it his remarks that really do not deserve a response.  The real tragedy of this story is the complicity of many of my fellow Baptist ministers who have created an atmosphere where such hateful words can be associated with the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Many of my Baptist colleagues have been making a mockery of our heritage, a heritage that teaches “soul competence”--the ability, the right and responsibility of each Baptist to engage with scripture and draw their own conclusions about its teachings in light of the Gospel.  Ours is a tradition that respects the Biblical calling of those who are different.  Yet, shamefully, what we’ve witnessed in recent years is a systematic hijacking of our faith in which the humanity of others who are different is denied - and as a result an atmosphere where the Charles Worleys of the world can fuse and confuse hate speech with holy writ is allowed to flourish. 

Where are my fellow Baptist ministers at a time such as this?  Where is the outrage?  Where is the denunciation?  The world needs to hear and see the love of Jesus more now than ever.  But many fellow Baptists who know that Worley’s comments are offensive and unacceptable are afraid to speak lest they lose their pastorate, their reputation, their livelihood.  We fear more the loss of mammon than the loss of God. 

Our silence to say Worley is not preaching the word of God and our fear of saying God loves everyone, including our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender brothers and sisters, allows absurd hate claims to become the acceptable norm of Baptist life. I must refuse to believe this is the fate of Baptist. I must believe that the world will know we are Christians by our love.  I must believe that all can enter God’s gates with thanksgiving in their hearts. I must believe that salvation and redemption are available for all, even Charles Worley and those who refuse to speak up because they have ignored God’s word, “be not afraid.”  We must either speak now, or let the Charles Worleys continue to speak for us.

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