I am not in North Carolina any more, nor am I even working at a Baptist church, but I am pretty sure I am as much of a North Carolinian and Baptist as ever. Of late, the yet-to-be-fully-separated Baptist State Convention of North Carolina has set in place the last measure to force the churches that support the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship out. For non-baptists this means the very conservative SBC churches within NC are going to eliminate the means by which more moderate (and often just mildly conservative) churches can join other baptists in serving the state together. The state convention spent money on things such as orphanages, disaster relief, and college scholarships for in-state students to baptist schools. I always assumed it would eventually happen and personally I think the fundamentalists’ thieving procuring of the national and state infrastructure may turn out to be a fight for a millstone too heavy to carry for postmodern ministry. For this reason I am glad that the Cooperative Baptist is a Fellowship.
Any way, at the recent NC State Convention where the measure was passed the AP decided to do some great reporting and once again demonstrated major media outlets inability to discuss religion sensibly. Since the actual story did a horrible job explaining the events and articulating the position of CBF, I thought I would assist the AP and give them some questions to think about next time.
1. Why do you let fundamentalists define their opponents? Did you let Rush Limbaugh define Obama? Or a Yankee fan the Red Sox organization? NO, because you know they really have no need to understand any opinion other than there own, because they are, or at least have unmediated access, to the Truth. Fundamentalists of all stripes are very talented at hyperbole, fear-mongering, and ideological stances all under the guise of some virtuous commitment (ie. nationalism or the ‘gospel’).
2. Is CBF really gay-friendly? If the AP had learned how to use google or simply search the CBF web page they would have found the answer, but nope they couldn’t do that. Instead they just repeat and highlight the demonizing rhetoric of the SBC. As a body the ‘CBF does not issue “official” positions on homosexuality or other social issues because it violates the Fellowship’s mission as a network of individuals and churches. CBF values and respects the autonomy of each individual and local church to evaluate and make their own decision regarding social issues like homosexuality.’ Now that sounds like a reasonable response from a baptist who wants to define a group by an agenda other than stances on homosexuality and abortion. BUT that is not the end of the story. The CBF national coordinating council went on to say in 2000:
As Baptist Christians, we believe that the foundation of a Christian sexual ethic is faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman and celibacy in singleness. We also believe in the love and grace of God for all people, both for those who live by this understanding of the biblical standard and those who do not. We treasure the freedom of individual conscience and the autonomy of the local church, and we also believe that congregational leaders should be persons of moral integrity whose lives exemplify the highest standards of Christian conduct and character.
In addition they pronounced that they would neither hire a practicing homosexual or support one as a missionary, so AP I have a question for you. Is CBF gay-friendly? They define marriage as between a man and a woman, they tell homosexuals to be celibate, they use the ‘love the sinner hate the sin’ jab, basically tell their churches to avoid having homosexual ministers, and that a homosexual minister would keep them from being examples of Christian conduct and character. I have no idea what homosexual person would define that as friendly.
Personally I think the CBF national coordinating council should have never made the statement in 2000 and actually left the decision up to the people and congregations without telling everyone what to believe as ‘Baptist Christians’ and what the ‘biblical standard’ of marriage should be. If anyone was looking for self-defining statements against homosexuals they could hook up with the SBC, but again I imagine part of the reason they took the stance was to impress their SBC friends or keep dually aligned churches within the fellowship. I know multiple ministers at CBF churches that are decidedly more ‘gay friendly’ than anything the group has said and some that are more conservative than the statement. I know churches within the fellowship that span the gap, from those with homosexual members and ministers to those who take a stance parallel to the SBC. Regardless of what variety of baptist church you show up in that is affiliated with the CBF, the organization itself is not ‘gay-friendly.’ It isn’t scared, angry, and full of holy indignation over homosexuality either and that may be what is necessary to not be ‘gay-friendly’ for the SBC and now the Baptist State Convention of NC.