CBF to approve funding for pro-homosexual groups; gay church literature featured in CBF exhibit
ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)--The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship will continue funding a pro-homosexual organization whose booth was prominently featured at the CBF's General Assembly and another group whose immediate past president suggested that homosexuals can be called to the pastorate, according to action taken during the June 30 - July 1 meeting in Orlando, Fla.
Becca Gurney, board member and immediate past president of Baptist Women in Ministry, said that just as the SBC has no right to suggest that God does not call women to the pastorate, she has no right to suggest that God does not call gays and lesbians to the pastorate.
"Who am I to say who God can call and gift for ministry?" she said. "In terms of God calling gays and lesbians, when we start limiting God's call we're in dangerous territory."
Gurney's group will receive $30,000 in funding as a CBF partner ministry.
The Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, defunded by the CBF Coordinating Council in 1995 for its pro-gay policies and then subsequently refunded, will receive $5,500 from CBF.
Messengers to the General Assembly will vote to approve funding on July 1.
The curriculum, produced and distributed by the Baptist Peace Fellowship and the Alliance of Baptists is entitled "Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth: A Resource for Congregations in Dialogue on Sexual Orientation." The resource affirms same-sex partnerships, denies that the Bible condemns homosexual behavior, and affirms homosexuality as an unchangeable sexual orientation.
The curriculum was endorsed by former CBF moderator Carolyn Weatherford Crumpler, Tim Clifton, president of the Central Baptist Theological Seminary and Kyle Childress, pastor of Austin Heights Baptist Church in Texas.
The resource features articles by gay rights advocates such as Peggy Campolo and Mahan Siler, and includes a testimony by Jeff Cornett, a homosexual member of Oakhurst Baptist Church in Decatur, Ga., a congregation recently disfellowshipped by the Georgia Baptist Convention for its pro-gay stance. It also features examples of congregations who are "welcoming and affirming" to gays and lesbians. These include Binkley Memorial Baptist Church in Wake Forest and Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, both disfellowshipped by the SBC in the 1990s for their pro-gay church policies.
Ken Sehested, executive director of the Baptist Peace Fellowship, said that the advocacy of gay marriage and ordination is "a parallel to the civil rights movement" and can no longer be ignored by Baptists.
Sehested said that the Bible nowhere condemns homosexuality as a sin. The biblical passages SBC conservatives point to speak of "power relationships with minors," he said, not consensual adult gay sex. Even if the Bible does prohibit homosexuality in some places, he argued, "in the end it becomes a discussion of the larger text of Scripture." Pointing to the recent divorce of former SBC president Charles Stanley, Sehested said that conservatives "ignore with impunity" some of the implications of their own "literalist reading" of the Bible.
"The church has always wrestled with some parts of Scripture over other parts," he said. "If we're all honest, we all pick and choose what fits our experience."
Referring to the 1995 SBC resolution expressing regret for the sin of slavery, Sehested said, "150 years from now, the SBC will have a statement of confession over homophobia."
Sehested said that gay marriages or same-sex covenant unions would reduce the reputation the homosexual community has for transient relationships with multiple partners.
"The reason gays are promiscuous is because it is underground and taboo," he explained. "When these covenants are honored, you will see no more promiscuity than in the heterosexual community, although we will always have hormones that go awry among our church members."
Sehested said that he believes his organization's advocacy for gay ordination and same-sex unions is "out on a ledge, but it is a ledge we've gotten to because of the Holy Spirit."
He said that he received great support from CBF members who were outraged in 1995 by the Coordinating Council's brief defunding of the Peace Fellowship in the heat of controversy over homosexuality. Sehested called "good news" the fact that CBF Baptists seem increasingly open to discussing issues of "justice" for gays and lesbians.
Stan Hastey, CBF member and director of the Alliance of Baptists, said that he believes the question of gay rights is one that must be faced by Baptist progressives.
"I cannot say that God does not call gay people to ministry," Hastey said. "The Baptist tradition is to call out the called."
Contrary to the SBC's new Baptist Faith and Message article which calls homosexuality a sin, Hastey said "homosexuality is not necessarily sinful."
"I believe in the overwhelming number of cases it is a matter of sexual orientation," Hastey said. "Only part of that number is promiscuous and therefore, just like promiscuous heterosexuals, guilty of sexual sin."
Some CBF leaders, however, are not so willing to speak on the question of gay ordination and same-sex marriage.
"I don't think I'm going to answer that," said CBF leader Carolyn Weatherford Crumpler when asked about these issues. "I'm not gay and I'm not lesbian."
Crumpler refused to say whether she personally considers homosexual behavior a sin.
"I just don't have an answer to that," she said.
In a session on the new Baptist Faith and Message, Annette Hill Briggs, pastor of University Baptist Church in Bloomington, Indiana, told seminar participants that the question of women in the pastorate is only "the very top of the mountain" before "we have to talk about other things that other churches are talking about."
When asked by Baptist Press, Briggs affirmed that she was speaking of gay and lesbian issues in which Baptists are "a few steps behind other denominations."
When asked by Baptist Press to elaborate on her views of homosexuality, Briggs refused.
"I don't want to talk to the press about that," she said. "There is no good thing that could come out of that."