Gay students at university protest SBC president's honorary degree
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Some University of South Carolina students say the school should not award an honorary doctorate to Southern Baptist Convention President Bryant Wright because of his and the denominations' stance against homosexuality and "gay marriage," but Wright says he and the SBC are simply reflecting clear biblical teachings.
The school's awarding of the honorary degree to Wright during graduation was the lead story April 20 in the student newspaper, The Daily Gamecock, which quoted a member of the Bisexual Gay Lesbian Student Association as calling the SBC "hostile to the LGBT community" and an "advocate for hate." Wright is scheduled to receive the degree May 7.
"Basically the Southern Baptist's platform is 'it's either this way or you're going to hell,'" said the student, Zac Baker, a public relations coordinator for the association.
The newspaper also published letters opposing and supporting the school honoring Wright.
Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., received his undergraduate degree from the university in 1974. He will not have a speaking role at the graduation.
"It's really a false charge that when you simply teach what the Bible says about sin, that you're a hateful person," Wright told Baptist Press. "Jesus Christ loves all mankind. He loves homosexuals that are engaging in homosexual activity. He loves heterosexuals that are engaging in immoral heterosexual activity. But He does call on us -- because He has paid the penalty for our sins on the cross -- to be willing to repent of sinful behavior. We're just teaching what God's standard is for sexual purity."
The Southern Baptist Convention is not alone in its stance on homosexuality, Wright noted, pointing to other denominations and the Catholic Church, along with Christian leaders through the centuries.
"The Gospel is a wonderful message of Good News, but it is a message of truth, and sometimes people are not always open or perceptive to God's truth," Wright said.
The story in the student newspaper also quoted student Dustin Tucker as saying, "I feel like granting him a doctorate is a representation of every student here." Tucker said the SBC's message "is one of hate and intolerance and I really don't think that reflects well on the university."
Tim Stewart, director of the university's Baptist Collegiate Ministry, applauded the school for honoring Wright.
"Dr. Wright has been a strong leader in the Southern Baptist Convention," Stewart told the newspaper. "He's been a long-term pastor in his church and has led that with integrity [and] character ... I think it's a really neat opportunity to distinguish one of our USC alumni."
Referencing the Southern Baptist Convention's stance on homosexuality, Stewart said, "We've made some resolutions backing it up with what God's Word says. We're not going to back off what God's Word has said. We do not intend any kind of harm on anyone."
Others will receive honorary degrees during the graduation ceremonies, including Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Wright said he is humbled.
"I am just very thankful and amazed that a state university would be willing to honor a Christian pastor in today's world," he said. "I think that's very encouraging."
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. The Southern Baptist Convention has a ministry to homosexuals. Find more information at http://www.sbcthewayout.com . Join Baptist Press’ Facebook page or Twitter feed to comment on this and other articles. Visit facebook.com/baptistpress or Twitter.com/Baptist Press.