“Tonight I Am Ashamed to be a Baptist”

This post has been updated.

Those are the words of Bill Leonard, professor at Wake Forest University Divinity School, writing at the Associated Baptist Press about Pastor Charles Worley’s despicable hate sermon about gays and lesbians.

Leonard writes:

Pastor Worley said things that are repugnant in any Christian pulpit, that shame the name Baptist and undercut the gospel itself. Although I’ve sometime been embarrassed to be a Baptist, until now I’ve never really been ashamed.

I remain haunted by the courage of those early Baptists who, for reasons I cannot fully comprehend, looked beyond their historical context to the vision of a believers’ church, uncoerced faith, freedom of conscience and transformation through Christ.

But tonight I am ashamed, because I heard a Baptist pastor say things so abhorrent to the gospel of Jesus that I could not keep conscience with my Baptist forebears and remain silent. In what appears to be a May 13 sermon, Charles Worley declared: “Build a great, big, large fence — 150 or 100 mile long — put all the lesbians in there,” Then he continues: “Do the same thing for the queers and the homosexuals and have that fence electrified so they can’t get out. Feed them, and you know what, in a few years, they’ll die out. Do you know why? They can’t reproduce!”

Leonard goes on to compare Worley’s statesments to the 1980 remarks of then-Southern Baptist Convention president the Rev. Bailey Smith that “God Almighty does not hear the prayers of a Jew.” He adds:

E. Glenn Hinson, then my colleague at the Baptist seminary in Louisville and one of the most Christ-like human beings I have ever known, said of that statement, “Such is the stuff of which holocausts are made.”

Hinson’s statement sparked great controversy inside and outside the seminary. His words were true then, and perhaps even truer now. Such concentration-camp language is shameful, whether used in 1930s Europe or 2012 North Carolina.

UPDATE: Perhaps Leonard might also have some words for the Family Research Council’s honoring another North Carolina pastor, Ron Baity, with its 2012 Watchman Award. Via Towleroad, Jeremy Hooper has compiled videos of Baity implying gay people are “worse than maggots,” comparing them to murderers, saying that “God signs the death warrant of any nation” that permits homosexuality, advocating criminalizing homosexuality, and more. (Notably, an FRC spokesperson’s advocacy of criminalizing homosexuality was a principal factor in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s naming it a “hate group.”)

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