Tuesday, June 23, 2009

SBC Executive Committee Recommends Disfellowshipping Church

Ethics Daily ran my latest article today, which is entitled "SBC Executive Committee Recommends Disfellowshipping Church." It is about a decision by Southern Baptist Convention leaders to kick out Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. The SBC claims the church promotes homosexuality while the church leaders say they do not but got kicked out anyway.

10 comments:

D.R. said...

All it takes is about 10 minutes online to find out how open Broadway's members are about their position on homosexuality.

They clearly "did nothing" and that was the problem. The SBC called them to action, as does the Bible, yet they refused. The only thing the SBC can do at that point is to call them to repentance. The Executive Committee tried to work with them, but couldn't get through. This disfellowshipping does not have to be forever. All Broadway has to do is to repent and get in line with the Biblical teachings on homosexuality. Then the relationship will be immediately repaired.

It's sad, but not hopeless. Let's pray this event brings Broadway to the place where they clearly hear the Spirit's call to return to their first love and to truly love their members by telling them the truth, not affirming the lie of our culture.

Kaylor said...

Why don't you share with us what convinced you. I referenced that the church actually wrote to the SBC Executive Board, in which they claimed they did not affirm homosexuality. Have you found a statement from them that says otherwise? Or are you claiming as evidence the accusations leveled by others? And, even if you did find something, does that mean we cannot work together to share the gospel message?

bapticus hereticus said...

at the SBC website (sbc.net) one may view recordings of the sessions. as of Wednesday afternoon one may view the Tuesday afternoon and evening sessions and the Wednesday morning sessions, but the Tuesday morning sessions are not available. according to ABP Broadway was removed from the Convention at the opening session of the Annual Meeting, which would be the Tuesday morning session. It would be interesting to hear the SBC reason for why the Tuesday morning session is not available for viewing.

StanD FreeMan said...

I think I see where D.R. is coming from.

Leviticus 18 deals with sexual sin, including homosexuality in verse 22. Verse 29 says those who do these things must be cut off from their people. Pretty clear.

But if we continue reading, we find in 19:19 that planting a field with two kinds of seed or wearing garments woven from two kinds of material are also forbidden, verse 27 regulates haircuts and shaving, and verse 28 prohibits tattoos. Christians are often strangely silent on some of these prohibitions, considering their outspokenness on one aspect of these passages. Would D.R. advocate the disfellowshipping of churches who accept members with tattoos or shaved beards and haircuts, or wear blended fabrics?

Then we get to 20:13, which says homosexuals must be put to death, so maybe that's the distinction some Christians are making, since those other prohibitions I mentioned don't seem to have a death penalty associated with them.

A few verses before that, at 20:10 we read that adulterers must also be put to death. The Pharisees described in John 8:3-5 considered this a Biblical "call to action", yet we read in 7-9 that Jesus discouraged others from heeding that call, and in verse 11 that he "clearly did nothing" according to the law, telling the adulteress to leave her life of sin instead of condemning her to death or being cut off from her people as the Bible demands.

But I don't think I'd want to make the logical leap that Jesus was "open in his position" on adultery, and I certainly wouldn't express the opinion that he should "repent and get in line with the Biblical teachings" on adultery.

Jesus taught by word and deed to unconditionally love one another and leave judgment to the Father. In verses 15-16 he states that he judges no man, even though he is uniquely (among men) qualified to do so as the Father's representative, who sent him.

So why don't we follow Jesus' example and love one another, forgiving their transgressions as the Father forgives ours, and leaving the judgment to Him.

Jesus didn't disassociate himself from sinners, he reached out to them with love and compassion. As his followers, we should be doing the same.

D.R. said...

Brian,

What convinced me was my conversation with Lyn Robbins at his blog "Blogarhithmic Expressions." It seemed clear from him that BBC refuses to adhere to the clear Biblical teaching that homosexual sexual behavior is sinful and should not be overlooked. Corollary conversations came from that, as well as examinations of other BBC members blogs where it became evident that the position that many members at BBC hold is that homosexual sexual behavior was not sinful in any way. Some even went so far as to endorse it as a legitimate expression of one's sexuality and in line with the teachings of the Bible.

All that would have been fine, had BBC been unaware of this or had sought to deal with it. But they did not. They refused and they further did not even acknowledge that it was a problematic view.

For me, that is a tacit endorsement of homosexual sexual behavior. I have no problem with BBC ministering to homosexuals - I would like to have a ministry in that regards as well. But, I cannot accept that theirs was simply a "ministry" when the truth was not proclaimed to these men and women, and they were not only given membership, but also leadership responsibilities, all the while, their behavior was not being addressed. That is endorsement, not a ministry. A ministry tells the truth and actively tries to help homosexuals overcome their same-sex attraction. Had that been the case, I would not have wanted to disfellowship them.

In the end, I think BBC was trying to just enough to stay under the radar of the SBC. Now they are called to account for their actions. As I said before, let's pray they repent, and return to Orthodoxy on this.

D.R. said...

StanD,

Actually, you don't seem to know where I am coming from on the issue of homosexual sexual behavior, because if you did, you would have started with Romans 1, not Leviticus 18 and 20.

My view of the Law is simply that it teaches us about the character of God - it is no longer binding to us today. What we learn from Leviticus 18 and 20 is that God cares about our sexual behavior. Most other sexual prohibitions contained in those chapters, we would today generally agree with today (including incest, beastiality, rape, etc.).

And while today, we are not bound by the Law, as I said, it teaches us about the character of God - this is how the first Christians used it and understood it.

But again, no provision is binding. Of course, that is, unless it is specifically renewed in the New Testament by Jesus or the Holy Spirit through the writers of the NT. We have that with Paul, in multiple places. In particular, we have it in Romans 1:26-27.

For more on this you can see my exegesis of these verses on my blog:

Homosexuality and The Apostle Paul: A Study on Romans 1:26-27

Elsewhere Paul uses the term arsenokoites often translated "homosexuals" in his list of those who won't inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-10). It's important because it's the only time it's used in the NT or OT. Where then did it come from? The best evidence is that it comes from Leviticus 18 and 20 (in the Septuagint - the Greek translation of the OT - most often Paul's OT of choice), where arsen is found next to koites in reference to men having sex with other men. The logical conclusion is that this term was made up by Paul to describe the exact situation going on in Leviticus 18 and 20, homosexual sexual behavior.

Now, as far as trying to make Jesus out to only be about love and forgiveness, let's remember that He often called people to repentance (in the case of John 8, He told the woman to go and sin no more). Ministering to sinners is what we ought to do - we are all sinners. But, we cannot endorse or ignore sin. We must call for men and women to repent. Anything less is a violation of Jesus' first recorded words in Mark 1, "REPENT, and believe in the Good News."

StanD FreeMan said...

D.R.,

Thank you for the thoughtful response. Your points are well made and we're fundamentally in agreement on them.

The point I'm trying to make has nothing to do with whether or not homosexuality is sinful or where the biblical authority on that position comes from -- on that we clearly both agree. Certainly the church is commanded to police itself against wrongful teachings or behaviors by calling the leaders to action and the transgressors to repentance. But I can't help but notice a tendancy within the church to unevenly focus on certain sinful behaviors which most of us are not even tempted to engage in to begin with, and my concern is that this focus can be used to subtly diminish the gravity of our own sin in our minds and distract us from dealing with it by magnifying the importance of the sins of others, often without really thinking about it or realizing how that focus effects our thinking. It's a trait of human nature and it can be a strong temptation (for me anyway -- I catch myself doing this from time to time and have to work very hard sometimes to bring the focus back to my own spiritual growth).

I quoted Leviticus instead of Romans because the phrase "cut off from their people" was more relevent to the subject matter of disfellowshipping, but my reference to OT law regarding tattoos and haircuts didn't support my point well, as you say "But again, no provision is binding. Of course, that is, unless it is specifically renewed in the New Testament by Jesus or the Holy Spirit through the writers of the NT".
Thank you, I think I can make my point more effectively within that template.

Mark 10 quotes Jesus affirming that God created male and female for the purpose of mating for life and becoming one, which He joins together, and let not man put asunder. Homosexuality is, by definition of course, excluded from this scenario and clearly outside God's plan for His creation. But the question Jesus was answering wasn't about homosexuality. It was about divorce, and the passage goes on to quote Jesus saying that coupling with another after divorcing one's mate is adultery. Jesus goes on to list adultery first when quoting the commandments in his conversation with the rich man a few verses later. In the Leviticus passages I quoted and the writings of Paul which you quoted, adultery is considered a serious sexual sin on par with homosexuality, both considered an abomination to the Lord, and both punishable by death according to OT law.

A problematic aspect of homosexuality for Christians often cited to justify different treatment for homosexuals is that it is impossible to be repentant about something with the intention of continuing in it. I see no difference between the unrepentant homosexual continuing his life of sin with his partner, and the unrepentant divcorcee continuing her life of adultery with her new husband, do you? I would hazard to suppose that remarried divorcees are much more common among the membership of the SBC than homosexuals are and hold many more positions of leadership, if nothing else because they are much more common in the general population, so it seems to me that this is a much bigger problem for the SBC that needs to be dealt with. Are they dealing with it? It's hard to tell over all the noise about homosexuality, but I haven't heard of any disfellowshipping over it lately.

StanD FreeMan said...

Part 2: (Brian, sorry for the long-winded comment)

Is it possible for the SBC to remove the mote of "tacit endorsement" of homosexuality from BBC's eye without first removing the beam of "tacit endorsement" of adultery from it's own? Are there adulterous remarried divorcees among the membership and leadership of your church, and if so are you willing to proclaim the truth to your congregation and deal with the issue even-handedly, the same way you expect BBC to deal with theirs, and are you prepared to call for the disfellowshipping of SBC churches which don't?

Finally, it wasn't my intention to "try[] to make Jesus out to only be about love and forgiveness". It was simply my intention to emphasize that Jesus dealt with sinners compassionately and even-handedly, offering forgiveness and guidance to righteousness while leaving judgment to the Father. As you said, and we know from Romans, we are all sinners and we all deserve eternal death for it, regardless of the category of sin we commit. So by definition the membership and leadership of all churches consists of sinners. If we're going to categorize certain sin and treat it's practitioners differently than others and justify that on the basis of repentance, we should heed Matthew 7 and carefully avoid the hypocrisy of judging others by a different standard than we judge our own and ourselves.

D.R. said...

Stan,

Good response and good point. I apologize for reading into some of you comments. I hope you will forgive me considering I have had many, many discussions with those who would say that homosexual sexual behavior is not sin and specifically use the same argumentation in regards to Leviticus. So my mistake for assuming you were doing the same thing and then putting words in your mouth.

As to your argument about divorce, I certainly agree it's a problem, but I also think that even in both instances there is some nuance that needs to be accounted for. For instance, if you notice, I try to always talk about the sinfulness of "homosexual sexual behavior" not simply the state of having same-sex attractions. One is a temptation to sin, the other is willful engagement in it.

Nuance comes into play with divorce in Mark 10. I preached that passage 2 months ago (I am preaching through Mark until April of next year).

Coming to that passage, there is a lot of historical background that needs to be taken into account. Suffice to say that I can't do all that now, but let me refer you to David Instone-Brewer's book, Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible. I don't agree with all he says, but he does point out some important research, particularly on the two main Rabbinic traditions Jesus was responding to in Mark 10 and Matt 19.

In the end, what I conclude about divorce in regards to its sinfulness is not so much that it is an ongoing sinful state or lifestyle (After one is divorced and remarried, how does one deal with the previous spouse, the current spouse, and any remarriage on the part of either one? Wouldn't the best thing be to honor the current marriage and repent of one's past behavior, seeking never to repeat that pattern again?), but rather that it is a sinful act that should be repented of and no longer repeat.

D.R. said...

(Con't)

Now any divorce or remarriage or situation like that should be dealt with in the Church, and we should focus on doing that. There is no question there, but each situation is different, and motives and behaviors and reasons must be dealt with separately (for instance, what if there was infidelity, what if abandonment by an unbelieving spouse, or even one that seems to be unregenerate?).

This just simply isn't cut and dried, but I agree it needs to be dealt with. Also, few, if any, SBC Churches would openly teach that divorce for any reason is perfectly legitimate and not sinful. If they were, I would agree they should be disfellowshipped as well.

But now, going to the case of BBC. There was clearly a problem there, and we could agree that all homosexual sexual behavior between members was wrong. It was black and white. But what made this situation necessary for the SBC to deal with is that it made national news. We couldn't ignore it even if we wanted to. Then a motion was made at the SBC. Now, it becomes public record and it has to be at least investigated.

So here is a situation where the SBC has a public policy and a Church in the SBC is publically known to violate it. At that point, it can't be ignored. It had to be dealt with. It's not so much that we are picking sins, but that we must deal with a clear, black and white situation like this. And so that is why I supported the decision, because after researching it on my own, I came to the conclusion that there was no nuance here at this Church. They weren't simply ministering to those who had same sex attraction, they were allowing Sunday School teachers to teach that homosexuality was wrong and allowing people to join and take leadership roles who were openly and publically engaging in homosexual sexual behavior. And that is clearly against the previous statement by the SBC, and more importantly the Biblical teaching on it.

I wish I could have gone into more detail about divorce and how I feel it should be dealt with in Churches in order to curb the sin within the Church, but I just can't in this forum. If you want more let me know and we'll discuss off site somewhere.

Again, thanks for your thoughfulness and I hope my post helps explain some of what I believe about what you asked.