Stances of Faiths on LGBT Issues: Southern Baptist Convention
The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, with over 16 million members, has discriminated against gay and lesbian people for more than a quarter-century. The SBC has passed numerous resolutions on gay and lesbian issues since 1976, repeatedly asserting its commitment to preach, teach and politically organize against gay and lesbian people and their supporters. Unlike many Christian denominations that oppose discrimination against gay and lesbian people in civil society, the SBC has gone on record as supporting it.
The SBC opposes marriage equality for same-sex couples. It prohibits congregations from blessing same-sex unions or ordaining gay and lesbian clergy. It is even opposed to the establishment of gay-straight alliances in schools and legislation that would ban discrimination in the workplace.
On Gay and Lesbian People
In a 1996 “Resolution on a Christian Response to Homosexuality,” the SBC declared that “even a desire to engage in a homosexual relationship is always sinful, impure, degrading, shameful, unnatural, indecent and perverted.”
In the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message statement, the SBC equated homosexuality with adultery and pornography, declaring, “In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose … all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality and pornography.”
The SBC calls on its members to a “love the sinner but hate the sin” approach and affirms the possibility of reorientation from same-sex attraction and supports “ex-gay” ministries. As the SBC website states:
“Christians can, and should, minister to homosexuals in a kind, yet firm manner. The church should never turn its back on homosexuals who are searching and seeking to heal the hurts within their lives. … While God hates the sinner in his sin, we are called to love the sinner and hate the sin. In doing so, Christ can work through our lives to touch those lost in a world of confusion and darkness.”
Likewise, the SBC website also asserts: “We affirm God's plan for marriage and sexual intimacy – one man, and one woman, for life. Homosexuality is not a ‘valid alternative lifestyle.’ The Bible condemns it as sin. It is not, however, unforgivable sin. The same redemption available to all sinners is available to homosexuals. They, too, may become new creations in Christ.”
Some SBC leaders have also been outspoken in their condemnation of public schools teaching their students about LGBT issues. At the denomination’s annual meeting in June 2005, a group of anti-gay delegates proposed a resolution that would have encouraged Southern Baptists to remove their children from their local public schools if the schools offered “curricula or programs that treat homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle.” Following protests from LGBT-rights activists including the Human Rights Campaign, the convention instead passed a somewhat milder resolution that simply encouraged parents to take action against schools that promoted tolerance. At the same meeting, the SBC also reiterated its opposition to safe schools programs and diversity training.
On June 14-15, 2011, a coalition of local and national LGBT activists hand-delivered a petition to leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention at their annual meeting calling on the SBC to apologize for the harm its teachings have caused the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Members of the coalition said Southern Baptists’ anti-gay teachings interpret Bible verses selectively, similar to how earlier generations used Scripture to justify slavery in the 19th century and racial segregation in the 20th.
Additionally on June 15, Southern Baptist Convention President Bryant Wright met with the coalition. Although the meeting remained cordial throughout, Wright told the delegation he was “certainly glad to hear of your concerns,” but in the end they must agree to disagree.
Wright said, “We don’t feel there can be a need to apologize for teaching sexual purity. Our only authority for expressing our faith is the word of God, and all through the word is sexual purity for God’s people, and that is true whether it’s homosexual sex or it’s heterosexual sex. We just feel like from our understanding of Scripture, that that is taught in the Old and the New Testaments.”
During the 2011 annual meeting, The Rev. Albert Mohler (president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) said that his denomination needs to repent from a form of homophobia that has condemned gays instead of embracing them as fellow sinners. He told his fellow Southern Baptists that they've only been half right about homosexuality saying they’ve been right to insist that the Bible calls it sin but wrong to say it's just a choice that people can "turn on and turn off."
In 2003, the Southern Baptist Convention issued a statement reaffirming its opposition to gay marriage. It called on "Southern Baptists not only to stand against same-sex unions but to demonstrate our love for those practicing homosexuality by sharing with them the forgiving and transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)."
Repeal of DADT
The SBC has been opposed to the current repeal of the policy “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” that prohibited LGBT individuals to serve openly in the military. On June 2010, a resolution (On Homosexuality and the United States Military) passed that states:
“we oppose changing current law to normalize the open presence of homosexuals in the armed forces, and insist on keeping the finding of Congress that sustains current law, which states that even ‘the presence in the armed forces’ of persons demonstrating ‘a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts’ creates ‘an unacceptable risk to . . . the essence of military capability.’”
Resources for LGBT Southern Baptists:
Both the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Alliance of Baptists emerged from the 1980’s fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention as networks for moderate to progressive Baptist congregations and seminaries.
If you would like to communicate with the Southern Baptist Convention, here is their mailing address:
The Southern Baptist Convention
901 Commerce Street
Nashville, TN 37203-3699