Stances of Faiths on LGBT Issues: National Baptist Convention USA Inc.
The largest group of African American Christians in the United States, the National Baptist Convention is founded on the belief that the Bible is, “a perfect treasure of heavenly instruction; that it has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture of error for its matter.”
As with other Baptist conventions, individual parishes—representing 7.5 million individuals—are entirely autonomous but meet basic criteria for membership as dictated by the Church constitution. Each parish can choose how fully to participate but will lose voting power if they fail to join in cross-church missions, which focus on outreach and education. The Convention does not exercise administrative or doctrinal authority, and there are no mandatory rules on attendance or funding.
The National Convention, which convenes annually, is led by the Board of Directors and its President, who is elected every five years. The Board of Directors consists of the Vice Presidents of six Regions, and Presidents of 64 State Conventions (some states contain more than one convention). Like the National Convention, State Conventions are supported by the voluntary membership of District Associations, parishes, and individuals. At each organizational level, individual churches choose how much—or how little—to participate.
The National Baptist Convention has not released a formal statement encouraging its constituent churches to be welcoming and inclusive of LGBT congregants, but does allow full autonomy to its member churches to embrace that goal. Although there are increasing numbers of parishes and clergy that are supportive of LGBT equality, the Convention has taken a formal stance against the celebration of same-sex marriages. (See below on Marriage Equality)
On Transgender Inclusion
The National Baptist Convention has not released a formal statement on transgender members or their ordination.
On Marriage Equality
In a statement released in January 2014, the National Baptist Convention gave specific instructions to its Military Chaplains, stating that “Endorsed Chaplains, although serving in a pluralistic environment, are not to participate in any activity that implies or condones same sex marriage or same sex union.”
Similarly, in June 2012, Julius Scruggs, then President of the Convention, responded to President Obama’s statement of support for same-sex marriage with a letter stipulating,
“The National Baptist Convention, USA, Incorporated does not dictate to its constituent churches what position to take on issues because we believe in the autonomy of the local church. However, the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. affirms that marriage is a sacred biblical covenant between a man and a woman.”
There is no formal statement of the National Baptist Convention concerning the ordination of openly LGBT people. In keeping with the Convention’s commitment to church autonomy, some parishes have called and ordained women pastors, though they are in a distinct minority.
The National Baptist Convention has not released a statement expressing its views on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Official documents provided by its web pages make no mention of employment policies or the issue of discrimination in the workplace.
The autonomy afforded to each parish holding membership in the National Baptist Convention suggests that change can – and does – happen at the local level where congregants can chose to build welcoming and affirming congregations. For more information on finding your place as an LGBT congregant, or on finding your voice as a straight ally committed to creating an inclusive church community, download the HRC resource Coming Home: To Faith, To Spirit, to Self.
In addition to the work of individual churches and their members, there is a growing movement toward inclusion across all Baptist organizations, with thoughtful dialogue supported by such organizations as the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists.
Resources for LGBT Baptists
Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists, a national organization made up of a growing number of member churches, affiliated organizations, and individuals willing to go on record as welcoming and affirming all persons without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity.
Operation Rebirth, a website that provides resources that assist black gays and lesbians on reclaiming their religion and spirituality.
The Balm in Gilead, a national organization that develops educational and training programs specifically designed to meet the unique needs of African American and African congregations that strive to become community centers for health education and disease prevention.
If you would like to communicate with the National Baptist Convention USA Inc., here is their mailing address:
National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.
1700 Baptist World Center Drive
Nashville, TN 37207