On Saturday, March 6th, Sam Hodges of the Dallas Morning News broke a story about a ministry decision made by the Royal Lane Baptist Church of Dallas. His opening line captured the essence of the situation when he wrote:
“A church, like a person, can come out of the closet. And that’s what Royal Lane Baptist did recently.”
Royal Lane under the leadership of its Senior Pastor David Matthews posted on their website this description of their fellowship:
“Royal Lane Baptist Church is an inclusive, multi-generational congregation joined in Christian community. We are a vibrant mosaic of varied racial identities, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and denominational backgrounds.”
There is much right about how they described themselves in terms of their inclusiveness that reaches beyond many of the walls that separate us—especially on Sunday mornings. However, the disturbing statement about “sexual orientations” pushed the boundaries of the vast majority of Baptist churches.
In 1989, Cecil Sherman, pastor of Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, preached a sermon entitled:
“Homosexuality: Alternate Life Style or Sin?” In his sermon, he did a wonderful job wrestling with the issues raised by homosexuality in our society today.
Sherman was very insightful when he spoke of the challenges faced by the church today in responding to the hurts and needs of those who struggle with or have embraced a homosexual lifestyle. He noted wisely that historically the church has settled in one of three places:
“1. One part of the Church would say homosexuality is the worst of sins.
2. Another part of the Church is silent. These congregations are confused, mixed up, pulled in two directions. They want to be forgiving and open; they want to be faithful to the Bible. These people are waiting for some order or direction.
3. And a third part of the Church is ready to accept the view that homosexuality is not sinful and that the Church ought to weed out the judgmental people who would exclude.”
In response, it is my prayer the “silent” church will speak up and speak out. I personally feel the extremes hurt the cause of Christ, and diminish the hope of the gospel. However, for “silent” churches to end their silence the confusion must cease, and the gospel must light a path of grace and boundaries into the future. If ever the tension between the grace of God and the holiness of God were put to the test it is when we deal with any besetting sin that mars and redefines our understanding of personhood. Homosexuality is not alone in this impact on the human soul.
Please pray for the leaders of the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the leaders of Royal Lane Baptist Church that as they meet in the coming days, that the LORD will open a path before them that will be redemptive and offer hope to all who need hope while staying true to the Word of God.