Southern Baptists are feeling pretty good about themselves today. Eleven years after the denomination apologized to African-Americans for supporting segregation and slavery, it elected a black man as its first vice president of the convention—“the highest position yet held by an African-American” in the denomination, the New York Times notes.
Fred Luter Jr. pastors a largely black church in New Orleans and is apparently an “overwhelming favorite to be elected president at the assembly next year.”
This is great news for the Southern Baptists, who have been predominantly, if not exclusively, white since the denomination’s founding. One might ask why it took the denomination 11 years after the apology to make such a move, but it begs the question of why it took the denomination 150 years to repent of its racism in the first place.
A group of gay and lesbian activists is asking the SBC to step up its glacial pace on apologies and skip the next 150 years and get on with the business of apologizing to them now. A petition started by several organizations including the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, Believe OutLoud, Faith in America, GetEQUAL, Soulforce and Truth Wins Out reads in part:
“Given the arc of justice and the trajectory of history, there is no doubt the SBC will offer a full-fledged apology to the LGBT community in the future,” reads a letter that petition signers will send to SBC’s leadership. “We ask the Southern Baptist Convention to prayerfully consider whether the motive behind the mistreatment and harm toward LGBT individuals, especially youth, is born of political gain and agendas rather the spirit of Christ.”
In words that may need to be eaten in a few more decades, Terry Fox, senior pastor of Summit Church in Wichita, Kansas, tells One News Now that it’s gays and lesbians who owe religious people an apology for their “perversion.”
“It shows [Get Equal] think[s] they have become an accepted organization in America, which I would beg to differ with them,” the pastor adds. “Any poll you would take from any region in America, including the more liberal parts of the country, they would find that they’re out of sync with all of society. So I’m embarrassed for them for even asking for an apology.”
Perhaps Fox missed the latest poll showing that 58 percent of those asked believe homosexuality should be accepted in society—or this one that shows 53 percent support marriage equality for gays and lesbians.
But, the shifting sands of opinion over the morality of homosexuality didn’t stop the convention’s members from passing a resolution today to affirm the Defense of Marriage Act and “again call on the United States Congress to pass and the states to ratify a constitutional amendment defining marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman.”
The convention also heard from Bob Stith, the denomination’s national strategist for gender issues and the representative of their Task Force on Ministry to Homosexuals. He told the convention:
… too many Christians believe homosexuals are “not really open” to the Gospel. But we’ve never waited for a group of people to be willing to hear the Gospel before we took it to them, he said. “We have gone because people needed Christ.” Many, many people, Stith said, have left homosexuality through the power of Christ.
Stith, it should be noted, has been working for more than a decade with the “ex-gay” outfit Exodus International.
With these sorts of resolutions and statements being made by denominational leaders, it’s easy to see that a petition for an apology to the LGBT community would be a bit like spitting in the wind. But with their membership numbers dwindling over these past few years—and younger people increasingly growing more tolerant and accepting of LGBT people—the handwriting will be on the wall soon enough.
Then perhaps we can celebrate the first lesbian first vice president of the convention as the denomination tosses a token bone to its latest minority in the hope of increasing membership. Wait, I feel a breeze coming on… get ready to spit!