This week, the Southern Baptist Convention held its annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio. Amidst committee reports and news from the missions were statements stubbornly denouncing same sex marriage, including a panel discussion entitled "The Supreme Court and Same-Sex Marriage: Preparing Our Churches for the Future". SBC leaders used the meeting to spout tired, homophobic rhetoric as a Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage draws near.
Baptist Press reports that Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd urged Christians to seize a "Bonhoeffer moment" amidst great global evil. "The lostness has never been greater in our dangerous and hopeless world," he told listeners at the SBC annual meeting on June 16th.
Floyd's speech touched on a variety of topics, including the upcoming Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage. He demonized same-sex marriage as fuel for "the already sweeping wildfire of the sexual revolution" and as a potential threat to religious liberty. "Now we await the outcome of the next possible Supreme Court ruling that could alter our nation's belief and practice on traditional and biblical marriage, but also our historic commitment to religious liberty for all people," he said, according to Baptist Press. Floyd called for American pastors to refuse to officiate at same-sex wedding ceremonies.
Southern Baptist antipathy toward LGBTQ equality came to a head on June 17th. According to Baptist Press, a coalition of former Southern Baptist Convention presidents issued a statement rejecting same-sex marriage at the annual meeting. The meeting also produced statements glorifying "sexual purity" and condemning the so-called "genocide" of abortion.
"On The Call To Public Witness On Marriage" stressed that marriage must be between a man and a woman for the task of childbearing. It argued that marriage equality would "weaken the institution of the natural family unit" and endanger religious liberty, although it failed to explain how same-sex marriage recognition would imperil either.
"WHEREAS, The redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples will continue to weaken the institution of the natural family unit and erode the religious liberty and rights of conscience of all who remain faithful to the idea of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife; andFirst, denying rights and respect to LGBTQ citizens is not "love"; it's hatred from people who don't want to admit that their actions are hateful. Are Southern Baptist leaders spouting "love" language in order to reassure the public, or to reassure themselves?
WHEREAS, The Bible calls us to love our neighbors, including those who disagree with us about the definition of marriage and the public good; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Columbus, Ohio, June 16–17, 2015, prayerfully call on the Supreme Court of the United States to uphold the right of the citizens to define marriage as exclusively the union of one man and one woman; and be it further
RESOLVED, That Southern Baptists recognize that no governing institution has the authority to negate or usurp God’s definition of marriage; and be it further
RESOLVED, No matter how the Supreme Court rules, the Southern Baptist Convention reaffirms its unwavering commitment to its doctrinal and public beliefs concerning marriage; and be it further
RESOLVED, That the religious liberty of individual citizens or institutions should not be infringed as a result of believing or living according to the biblical definition of marriage; and be it further
RESOLVED, That the Southern Baptist Convention calls on Southern Baptists and all Christians to stand firm on the Bible’s witness on the purposes of marriage, among which are to unite man and woman as one flesh and to secure the basis for the flourishing of human civilization; and be it finally
RESOLVED, That Southern Baptists love our neighbors and extend respect in Christ’s name to all people, including those who may disagree with us about the definition of marriage and the public good."
Second, a Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex civil marriage would pose no threat to religious liberty. No one is compelling clergy members to marry same-sex couples or change their religious doctrines. No one is punishing right-wing Christians for holding anti-gay opinions, however odious those opinions may be. The SBC's religious liberty arguments frame LGBTQ equality and religious freedom as mutually exclusive, when in reality they are not and never have been.
Is it any wonder why Southern Baptist membership has been declining for eight years? Bigotry and delusions of persecution are not only repugnant to modern Americans, but they offer no spiritual nourishment.
To read additional commentary, visit the following links.
Right Wing Watch: Southern Baptist President Bravely Pledges Resistance Against Non-Existent Forced-Marriage Threat
Washington Post: The Southern Baptist Convention has passed a resolution opposing gay marriage