BGCT Resolution on Sexual Ethics 2009

This week the Baptist General Convention of Texas went on record again about its historic position on sexual ethics and the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman. There are those who question why does the convention need to keep saying where they stand over and over again.

From my perspective there are a number of reasons:

  1. Our society continues to be bombarded with an onslaught of messages suggesting that the historic and biblical standards of the Bible in the area of sexual ethics are outdated and irrelevant. This especially true in the area related to homosexual behavior. The Bible clearly defines homosexual behavior as sinful, yet today there are many who claim it is normal and healthy behavior. In this kind of environment it is important that people of faith stay in the conversation. This is one of the great debates of our society and we cannot be silent on the matter. Please note, my emphasis on behavior not being. In my book, what we do does not define who we are.
  2. The BGCT needed to clearly restate its position in light of the Southern Baptist Convention’s actions against Broadway Baptist Church of Fort Worth. There were many churches and leaders questioning whether the BGCT had wandered from its historic roots, especially since so many of its conservative churches left to form another convention in Texas. It was important that the BGCT reaffirm its commitment to biblical truth and morality.
  3. Finally the BGCT needed to restate its position for this generation of leaders, because every generation needs to affirm for itself where it stands in light of the rapidly changing world we serve in.

I affirm the resolution and the efforts made by the BGCT leadership to state clearly where it stands in this great debate over sexual ethics.

Below is the resolution affirmed in Houston:

Whereas the resolution of sexual values adopted by the 1992 annual meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Texas upheld a biblically grounded “sexual ethic of fidelity in marriage and abstinence outside of marriage”; and

Whereas the 2005 annual meeting reaffirmed this resolution because “society continues to be plagued by sexual values and practices which are both harmful to humanity and unfaithful to God”; and

Whereas the 1996 annual meeting adopted a report stating the “Bible teaches that the ideal for sexual behavior is the marital union between sexual relations — whether premarital, extramarital, or homosexual — are contrary to God’s purposes and thus sinful”; and

Whereas the 1982 annual meeting adopted a resolution stating that “homosexual lifestyle is not normal or acceptable in God’s sight and is indeed called sin”;

Be it therefore resolved that we maintain the consistent position of past convention statements and actions which affirm the biblical sexual ethic of fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness, and also affirm the biblical image of marriage as the union before God between a man and a woman (Genesis 1:24); and

Be it further resolved with the 1992 resolution that we “encourage all persons to uphold a lifestyle of biblical sexual values” and “affirm that the gospel provides forgiveness and restoration for all persons through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ”; and

Be if finally resolved with the 1998 Executive Board statement that “churches should seek to minister to all persons” and that “the love of God embraces all persons and instructs all Christians to share God’s love with others.”

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “BGCT Resolution on Sexual Ethics 2009

  1. Monte Garrett

    Thank you for your leadership, Dr. Lowrie. And congratulations on your re-election as president of the BGCT.

  2. Brice Mandaville

    David,

    Thank you for your work and leadership in our convention and your words regarding the resolution on homosexuality. I would agree that this is one of the great debates of our society and we cannot be silent on the matter. It was sad to see the financial statistics presented by the Future Focus Committee showing a steady deterioration of giving to the BGCT over the past decade. I have been at my present pastorate for eight years, and our giving to the BGCT in 2008 was seventy-five percent higher than in 2001 when I came. When I reviewed the giving of some of the other churches in our association, however, it was a far different story. Four churches our size or larger contributed a combined quarter-million dollars less to the BGCT in 2008 than they had in 2001, with one church ceasing contributions altogether. Considering the Future Focus Committee report, it would appear that our association is not unique. In this regard, I believe that how the BGCT deals with the issue of same-sex marriage will be pivotal in whether or not the decline of the past ten years continues.

    The resolution passed in Houston was similar in many ways to the organizational policy on homosexual behavior approved by the CBF. The CBF policy states “we believe that the foundation of a Christian sexual ethic is faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman and celibacy in singleness” while the BGCT resolution reads that we “affirm the biblical sexual ethic of fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness, and also affirm the biblical image of marriage as the union before God between a man and a woman.” Undoubtedly the BGCT follows the same standard as the CBF in that it “does not allow for the expenditure of funds for organizations or causes that condone, advocate or affirm homosexual practice.” Please note that I am not implying that the BGCT took their position from the CBF, only that the two are similar.

    The issue at hand, however, is not one of organizational belief but of parameters of membership. The CBF position is that local church autonomy prevails when it comes to the issue of homosexuality, and churches such as Glendale Baptist in Nashville, with an openly practicing lesbian as co-pastor, are fully participating members of the CBF. Should the BGCT accept the “church autonomy” principle in this matter, I believe we would lose a large portion of our membership and see our finances plummet.

    Currently there are a number of churches affiliated with the BGCT who are also affiliated with the Alliance of Baptists. Affiliation with the Alliance requires a minimum annual contribution of $500. The stated position of the Alliance in regards to same sex marriage is as follows:
    “Affirming that our federal and state constitutions exist to protect the rights of minorities from the tyranny of the majority and in the context of the current debate over same-sex marriage, we of the Alliance of Baptists decry the politicization of same-sex marriage in the current presidential contest and other races for public office. We specifically reject the proposed amendments to the constitution of the United States and state constitutions that would enshrine discrimination against sexual minorities and define marriage in such a way as to deny same-sex couples a legal framework in which to provide for one another and those entrusted to their care.
    As Christians and as Baptists, we particularly lament the denigration of our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender sisters and brothers in this debate by those who claim to speak for God. We affirm that the Alliance of Baptists supports the rights of all citizens to full marriage equality, and we affirm anew that the Alliance will ‘create places of refuge and renewal for those who are ignored by the church’.”
    I bring this up because a messenger from an Alliance church made the motion at the 2009 BGCT annual meeting to “postpone indefinitely” the resolution regarding homosexuality. The pastor of another Alliance church was named an honorary alumni by Truett Seminary this year. I am no fan of “guilt by association,” but I believe paying to be affiliated with an organization which advocates same-sex marriage borders on condoning the practice.

    My concern is that the BGCT leadership will move further toward the “local church autonomy” principle and, while espousing their disagreement with the homosexual lifestyle, will welcome individual churches which condone homosexual behavior. I agree with the messenger from South Main that the BGCT should cease from passing resolutions regarding homosexuality. Instead, the Executive Board should make a publicly announced decision not to accept financial contributions from any church which they find condones the practice. Without action in place of resolutions, I believe we will continue to see declining financial support.

  3. Bruce,

    Thank you for your insightful analysis and thoughts. I believe you have given us a great deal to think about.

    I hear your call for action. I would covet your prayers as we seek to move forward from Houston. The benchmark has been set for where we stand on the issue of sexual ethics. Of course, this stand is not so much ours as it is the one taken by our LORD in His Word.

  4. Brice,

    As someone who is a member of a church you cited in your comment that is affiliated with both the BGCT and Alliance and as someone who has written the history of the Alliance currently featured on their website, I have a couple of thoughts.

    First, is there room for disagreement within a Baptist organization? Do Baptists tolerate dissent? When Dr. Lowrie was presiding over the resolution votes, did all Texas Baptists speak with one voice? Or was there a little bit of disagreement on some resolutions?

    I certainly do not support each and every resolution passed by the Alliance – and they have passed dozens and dozens in recent years. Meanwhile, I definitely am not in lock-step agreement with every position taken and decision made by the BGCT. However, I’d like to think that I can support both organizations.

    The only line that *might* contradict the BGCT’s Resolution on Sexual Ethics is the very last line of the Alliance resolution. 99% of the resolution is dedicated to supporting the civil rights and legal protections of gays and lesbians from a constitutional perspective. Certainly one can hold that biblical marriage is between one man and one woman while maintaining that gays and lesbians should have the right to “marriage” in our civil context. I know more than a few people who are not affirming of homosexual behavior but are also proponents of same-sex civil marriage. I do not find these two views to be inconsistent.

    I do sense a bit of guilt-by-association with your mention of Truett which is not needed.

    One last thought: The Alliance’s resolutions on homosexuality date back to the early 1990s. At least a few BGCT churches were founding members of the Alliance. For 15-16 years the ability of those churches to cooperate with both organizations has not been an issue and I do not think it needs to become an issue now.

    What you’re calling for of the Executive Board sounds a little like a witch-hunt of sorts or at least that’s how it would play out. No need for that.

    I hear that attendance was up among young folks at the BGCT this year thanks in part to STREAM. I had plans to attend but ended up having school commitments that I could not get out of. The last thing that a struggling Baptist organization needs to do is get in the habit of investigating this and that and ultimately disfellowshipping congregations. Do that and the BGCT will be featured one day as a case-study in some sociological dissertation on how to kill a denomination.

    Young Baptists are still questioning the value of Baptist denominationalism and the Baptist brand in general. Give them a good reason and they will leave.

  5. Brice Mandaville

    Aaron,

    In answer to your question: Is there room for disagreement within a Baptist organization? Yes.

    My own question: Should the BGCT have any doctrinal parameters for member churches, or should any doctrinal parameters apply only to BGCT employees and the ministries supported by the BGCT?

    If the answer is that there should be some doctrinal parameters for churches, the follow-up question is whether or not condoning or endorsing homosexuality should lie beyond the parameters. The resolution passed at the convention stated that “we maintain the consistent position of past convention statements and actions which affirm the biblical sexual ethic of fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness.” The only past action in this area which I am aware of which the convention has taken is the disfellowshipping of University Baptist Church in Austin, and as such I would take the resolution to imply that the Executive Board would take similar action in the future should the situation warrant.

    I would beg to differ with you in your separation of “biblical” and “civil” marriage. As believers, I think that our biblical beliefs should impact our stances on civic issues.

    Certainly there are many churches affiliated with conventions who don’t agree with all of the statements which those conventions make. Regarding churches which are members of the Alliance, it would seem a simple matter for those churches to declare that they are not in agreement with the Alliance’s statement regarding same-sex marriage.

    While the BGCT may choose not to disfellowship any churches, the Future Focus Committee reported that over the past ten years 1069 churches have chosen to disfellowship themselves and the total drop in “contributing churches” during that span was 1,153. We will not long be able to support our institutions at that rate. The inclusion of Truett was to make the point that they receive a sizable amount of funding through the BGCT in the form of student scholarships, and that the BGCT leadership should not be surprised if CP contributions drop when the de facto seminary of the BGCT singles out the pastor of one of the very few Alliance churches in the state when it comes time to bestow an honor.

    • “Should the BGCT have any doctrinal parameters for member churches, or should any doctrinal parameters apply only to BGCT employees and the ministries supported by the BGCT?”

      I’ll let more active Texas Baptists than myself sort that out. Assuming the answer is yes, the bigger question is what qualifies as “condoning” or “endorsing.” Does affiliation with an organization that has taken a welcoming & affirming position regarding homosexuals qualify as “condoning” or “endorsing”?

      My dad votes for the Democratic candidate in just about each and every election. His position on abortion is EXACTLY the same as the position of Texas Baptists as described by Randell Everett at the Convention this year.
      Does my dad’s support of and affiliation with the Democratic Party mean that he “endorses” or “condones” abortion? I think not.

      I can give ten reasons to support the Alliance that have nothing to do with homosexuality: They are actively egalitarian, actively pro-peace, pro-separation of church and state, pro-liberty of conscience, pro-ecumenical cooperation, pro-interfaith dialogue, pro-missions (especially in neglected regions), pro-theological education, pro-equality (against institutionalized inequality and discrimination in society), and pro-environmental stewardship.

      And I do agree that our biblical beliefs should impact our stances on civic issues. My personal Christian faith does indeed influence my politics. And my “freedom theology” to quote one Baptist historian demands that I extend freedom in the form of rights and legal protections to those whom I may disagree with.

      My parents do not drink. They taught me not to drink. However, while my parents were abstaining from alcohol and teaching me by example not to drink, not once did I hear them advocate that the freedom to drink should be denied to those who wished to have a beer or a glass of wine.

      I have incredibly strong feelings about tobacco. The smell of smoke often infuriates me especially when I’m in a no-smoking area and someone lights up. Sometimes I wish smoking was illegal. However, I do not wish to impose my convictions on the rest of society and I would not support legislation that made smoking illegal everywhere.

      Many people that I know who do not condone homosexual behavior believe that the loving and Christ-like thing to do is to extend legal protections and rights to homosexual couples. I’m not going to fight to deny homosexuals equality under the law (law and the Bible are completely different).

      You of course are free to do so and I respect that freedom.

      Back to the Alliance, it sounds like you are advocating that Alliance-affiliated Texas Baptist churches be subjected to a litmus test in order to PROVE that they ARE NOT affirming of homosexuals. That does not sound fair. A church should not be called out, put in the spotlight and made to defend itself against accusations merely because it affiliated with an organization whose view on one particular theological issue is not in agreement with the position of BGCT messengers.

      If the BGCT intends to enforce doctrinal parameters, it should do so in a manner that is consistent with its past actions regarding University. But if an Executive Board should investigate any allegations made against a church on something as tenuous as affiliation, the Executive Board would also need investigate other churches regarding their actions on other issues. See Christa Brown’s book, This Little Light.

      If CP contributions drop because Truett made my pastor (in addition to Dr. Lowrie, I believe) an honorary alumnus, that drop would probably have more to do with the fact that SHE is one of the few ordained women filling a Texas Baptist pulpit on a weekly basis and not the fact that the church she serves is affiliated with the Alliance in addition to the BGCT and CBF. It is my understanding that this church (the church I recently joined) was a founding member of the Alliance in 1987 during the tenure of Roger Paynter.

      Targeting churches based on their affiliation will most definitely not help the decline in CP contributions. The only way that the BGCT can stop the bleeding is by finding a way to reinvent itself and appeal to future generations of Baptists – laity and ministers. That’s easier said than done (assuming it can be done) in this post-denominational world.

  6. Brice and Aaron,

    Thank you for your respectful dialogue on this issue. After the convention, Dr. Everett suggested to me that dialogue (like the ones during the G5 conference) might be a better forum for understanding that resolutions.

    Aaron, I particularly appreciated your noting the strong points of the Alliance.

    You pointed out the Alliance stands on:
    I can give ten reasons to support the Alliance that have nothing to do with homosexuality: They are actively egalitarian, actively pro-peace, pro-separation of church and state, pro-liberty of conscience, pro-ecumenical cooperation, pro-interfaith dialogue, pro-missions (especially in neglected regions), pro-theological education, pro-equality (against institutionalized inequality and discrimination in society), and pro-environmental stewardship.

    Over my 27 years of ministry, I have had the honor of being the pastor to numerous people who struggled with homosexual behavior and feelings. Even though I believed and most of them believed their behaviors and temptations were sinful, we were able to have redemptive relationships with each other. Often my first encouragement to those I minister to is this, “do not define yourself by what you do or feel. See yourself as God sees you.” Those who struggle with homosexuality in many ways are victims of our society and too often the scapegoats used by legalistic leaders within the church to define what is wrong with our nation.

    If I read Romans 1 correctly, homosexual behavior and temptations appear to emerge from a society consumed with sexual indulgence which leads to broken homes, sexual abuse, and in many cases abandonment of children by their fathers.

    As followers of Jesus we must reach out to those who struggle with all consuming and controlling passions and sinful tendencies. The doors of our church in Canyon is open to all who struggle. The primary challenge is being welcoming without redefining or condoning sin. The old adage rings true “love the sinner, hate the sin.” My “sin” is not as obvious as others, but just as hideous as any sin Jesus had to die for.

    We have some road to travel together. Grace is messy. Relationships are complicated. As I read your respect comments I sensed the tension we all feel on this subject. I pray the Lord will help us to live in this tension, and find common ground at the foot of the cross.

  7. Brice Mandaville

    Welcoming? No
    Affirming? Yes

  8. Brice Mandaville

    That is:
    Is it wrong to be welcoming? No
    Is it wrong to be affirming? Yes
    Thanks for the responses.

  9. I agree that there is naturally tension when it comes to such discussion.

    And I do like the idea suggested by Dr. Everett.

    The format of the sessions during the annual gatherings of the BGCT, SBC, and CBF definitely do not lend itself to free-flowing dialogue. And Baptists need as many opportunities as we can get to dialogue with one another.

    I’m just not a big fan of what Bill Tillman once described as “resolutionary Christianity.” The CBF made the intentional decision upon forming not to pass resolutions. I think that decision was wise as it has helped avoid unnecessary conflict and put greater emphasis on other means of discussion that promote understanding. Although, the CBF certainly does not have all of the answers when it comes to dealing with divisive issues.

  10. Brice,

    But perhaps the central question regarding the Broadway controversy was over the definition of “affirming.” Southern Baptist messengers and Broadway leaders were defining that term in different ways.

  11. Brice Mandaville

    David,
    I’ve noticed that one of your blog entries on this stream has vanished. Is it just my computer, or did you go back and delete one of your previous entries in the conversation?

  12. Dear Brice,

    Yes, I did go back to edit my post about visiting the Alliance site. As I shared earlier. I visited the Alliance site and had concerns with their stated positions on homosexuality and same sex marriage.

    Thanks for catching that error in not re-posting my ideas and thoughts.

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