FIRST-PERSON: The challenges ahead
EDITOR'S NOTE: This monthly column about the issue of homosexuality by various authors is a partnership between Baptist Press and the Southern Baptist Convention Task Force on Ministry to Homosexuals.
ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)--The Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Orlando will mark the third year since the establishment of the Southern Baptist Gender Issues office. While we have seen some significant gains, the road before us is filled with challenges. Too often we hear of the church's failure to effectively address the issue of homosexuality.
A LifeWay Research study reports that while 100 percent of Southern Baptist pastors believe homosexual conduct is sin, 49 percent of Americans do not. "Those statistics should give church leaders pause and lead them to strike an important but delicate balance between demonstrating Christ's love for all people while still presenting a biblical teaching about homosexual behavior," LifeWay Research director Ed Stetzer said.
Too often churches take one of three approaches: The issue is either ignored, accepted as normative or vehemently denounced.
One of the positive things I've seen over the last three years is the increasing number of Southern Baptist churches that are opting for another approach. These churches recognize the clarity of the Scriptural teaching on homosexual activity, but they also realize that identifying behavior as sin is only part of our responsibility.
The report of the Gender Issues office to the convention this year will feature four people whose lives were forever changed by churches that dared to reach out and care about them. What is especially significant to me is that these four people are actively engaged in impacting our culture. Thousands of lives are being changed as a result of their efforts.
As Dr. Jimmy Draper said at the 2003 SBC annual meeting, "Thousands of people long to be free from the struggle with homosexuality. God is looking for people who will reach out with His saving, healing love through Jesus Christ."
While you're at the annual meeting in Orlando, drop by "The Way Out" booth in the exhibit hall. Let us talk with you about how you can change the perception, or perhaps the reality, of your church's attitude toward homosexuals.
If you're not attending the annual meeting, get in touch with the Gender Issues Office to discuss setting up training for your church, association or state convention.
Bob Stith is the SBC's National Strategist for Gender Issues. For more information about the SBC's outreach to homosexuals or to contact Bob about a speaking engagement or interview, visit www.sbcthewayout.com.