Southern Baptists and Gay “Evangelicals”

The New York Times has printed a provocative piece today titled “Gay and Evangelical, Seeking Paths of Acceptance.” Like me, I’m sure you read that headline and can see that the oxymoron in the title betrays the bias of the author. Properly defined, there is no such thing as a “gay evangelical,” if one means by that moniker that someone can embrace homosexuality and Jesus Christ alone as Savior and Lord. Yet it appears that this is precisely what this article is suggesting:

Gay evangelicals seem to have few paths carved out for them: they can leave religion behind; they can turn to theologically liberal congregations that often differ from the tradition they grew up in; or they can enter programs to try to change their behavior, even their orientation, through prayer and support.

But as gay men and lesbians grapple with their sexuality and an evangelical upbringing they cherish, some have come to accept both. And like other Christians who are trying to broaden the definition of evangelical to include other, though less charged, concerns like the environment and AIDS, gay evangelicals are trying to expand the understanding of evangelical to include them, too.

Is it really true that a converted person can embrace the very sin that Jesus died to deliver them from? The answer to that question is “no” if you are an evangelical. The heart of evangelical conversion is repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ as Lord (e.g., Mark 1:15; Luke 13:3; Acts 3:19; 17:30; 26:20). Apart from that kind of a conversion, one does not become an evangelical, much less a Christian. Thus “gay evangelical” is about as non-sensical as “round square.” It’s a contradiction in terms.

But one thing that really concerns me about this piece is that two of the “gay evangelicals” interviewed for the article are Southern Baptists, people from my own denomination. We are a denomination that professes to believe the Bible, yet still this kind of confusion exists in our pews. How does a Southern Baptist come to the conviction that a lifestyle of homosexuality can coexist with obedience to the Lord Jesus?

I am not surprised that there are Southern Baptists who don’t understand what obedience to the Christian gospel means. This kind of misunderstanding is not just a problem of the Southern Baptist pew, but is endemic to large portions of an American evangelical culture that is forgetting what the evangel is. No one should be surprised that evangelicalism-lite has now given birth to evangelicalism-gay. This kind of thing always happens when clear biblical exposition gives way to fads and entertainment.

There is a message here for Southern Baptists and for everyone else who claims to be followers of the Christian gospel. Our churches should be places in which the biblical gospel is taught and preached with clarity and conviction. Sadly this kind of preaching is scarce in congregations across our land. But concerned pastors, leaders, and laymen should be rising up to insist upon a reformation that returns evangelicals to the biblical revelation as the norming norm.

Evangelicals and Southern Baptists need to be reminded of the message that Jude gave to a compromised congregation in his day:

I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ (Jude 3-4).

May the Lord grant us such a reformation, and may He grant that the so-called “gay evangelicals” might come to a repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus.

23 Responses to Southern Baptists and Gay “Evangelicals”

  1. Paul December 13, 2006 at 12:37 pm #

    Here’s a thought though…

    Why single out gays? Certainly, there are people (ummm, all of us) that embrace other sins that are far more harmful to the rest of the congregation.

    Look at two cases. Of course there are more. This assumes that these two are even really Church-going Christians.

    1) Ken Lay: I don’t mean to pick on the dead, but then again, he probably didn’t mean to pick on the hundreds of thousands of people hurt by his schemes, either. Both the Old and New Testaments clearly teach against greed and the lust of money. But, here was Ken Lay, greedy enough to bilk his own employees and his investors out of millions of dollars, wiping out pension plans, jobs, mutual funds and starting a ripple effect throughout the rest of the economy. But we don’t complain about the greedy in our church, we eulogize them.

    2) Tom DeLay: we’ll leave aside whether or not he’s guilty of money laundering for a second. I think you’d have to be pretty dense, however, to say that he wasn’t at all power-hungry. In the same way that others lusted for money, he lusts after power, and in the worst turn of events, he does it in Christ’s name. That same sort of hunger for power that Herod had, or that Caesar had, DeLay also has. And yet he’d be welcomed into any evangelical church in America. And yet, here he was, embracing his sin.

    I do not at all doubt that some gays too want the peace of Christ in their lives. Yes, they’re living in sin, but so do many others in our congregations. And while we don’t hammer on the greedy, the power hungry, or those who are stumbling blocks to others, we hammer on the gay folk.

    I think that frankly, the reason why the Times focused on the gay evangelicals is because they’re the only ones left who embrace their sin wholeheartedly that haven’t been accepted yet by the church.

    In other words, complain about every ill, or complain about none of them. But making pet causes out of one or two issues does nothing good for us as a Christian community.

  2. Jason December 13, 2006 at 1:55 pm #

    I knew when I saw that there was one comment about this post it would be Paul turning it into a political Democrat v. Republican debate.

    I’d like to say I’m surprised, but alas, I am not.

    Thanks for keeping things predictable Paul,

    Sincerely,

    Jason

  3. Paul December 13, 2006 at 2:18 pm #

    It’s not at all about Dems and Reps here, it’s just that those two are famous for being both claimers of Christianity AND being something other than Christian in practice.

    If YOU want to make that out to be a Dem vs. Rep issue, that’s your decision.

    Find me Dems that claim to be both Christian and act like scumbags, and we’ll talk.

    Sincerely,

    Paul

  4. sb December 13, 2006 at 2:35 pm #

    Interesting story. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  5. dennyrburk December 13, 2006 at 2:40 pm #

    No problemo, sb!

  6. Billy December 13, 2006 at 3:09 pm #

    In response to #3: Bill Clinton!

  7. Mark December 14, 2006 at 11:11 am #

    Paul you make a great pioint, and I think alot will agree with you, but when you said:

    I think that frankly, the reason why the Times focused on the gay evangelicals is because they’re the only ones left who embrace their sin wholeheartedly that haven’t been accepted yet by the church.

    I guess by “the only ones left” you mean homosexual. Of course all Christians sin in varying degrees and need God’s grace, but “embracing our sin wholeheartedly”? Let us accept our sins and get on with our lives and faith b/c we all sin?

    I think it is obvious that the ‘hammering’ you notice is the fact that anyone wholeheartedly embracing any sin in their lives should expect a little more attention.

    You can speculate one is greedy, but if they come out and flat admit it and ask for ways for the Bible to give them a mulligan for it, there is a problem.

  8. Debbie December 14, 2006 at 12:46 pm #

    I know that all sexual sins are an abomination to God and if you don’t repent (turn from it) than you will face eternal damnation.

  9. Paul December 14, 2006 at 1:11 pm #

    Mark,

    thanks for the compliment. I agree that anyone wholeheartedly embracing their sin needs attention focused on them, and frankly, I have nothing against people getting booted out of a church if they will not repent their sins and try their best to change their ways. The thing is, that not only includes homosexuals in a southern baptist congregation, but it also includes my other two examples, as well as Billy’s mentioning of Bill Clinton. But we’ve only focused on the gay folk.

    As for your last point, we agree that if you repent, that’s good and well. The problem is that Ken Lay always just acted as if all of his problems were hoisted upon him for no reason. And still, many people’s lives remain ruined by his deeds. That doesn’t seem to be living in accordance with Christian principles to me. Nor did DeLay’s redistricting of Texas to even more disenfranchise the poor look too Christian to me, either. But we have yet to complain about those who put their gods before God. Unless they’re homosexual.

    And that seems a little short sighted to me, that’s all.

  10. Paul December 14, 2006 at 1:12 pm #

    Debbie,

    so are sexual sins the ONLY ones that are an abomination to God? If so, that’s news to me.

  11. Mark December 14, 2006 at 1:38 pm #

    Maybe media spotlight has heightened the attention it gets and arguably one of the hottest topics, but I am not so sure the church has only focused on homosexuality.

    I think something explicity condemned in the Bible and is being explicitly forced onto the church to accept should receive strong push back.

    If you can get someone to admit their sin, make no apology about it, then ask to find ways for the church to accept it, then that someone has a seared conscience and is divisive. (Scripture references can be provided if necessary) :O)

    Grace and peace,

  12. Debbie December 14, 2006 at 1:51 pm #

    Paul, I am just using that as an example. There are others of coarse. I think hatred, slander and all manner of evil speaking, murder are part of it too.

  13. Paul December 14, 2006 at 3:14 pm #

    But not greed or lusting after power?

  14. Debbie December 14, 2006 at 3:50 pm #

    yes paul,

    I can’t remember everything you know.

  15. Jason December 14, 2006 at 6:22 pm #

    Paul,

    So if we started complaining about Bill Clinton’s lust and Nancy Pelosi’s support of Man-Boy love as well as homosexuality we’d all be on the same page?

    Jason

  16. Paul December 14, 2006 at 8:09 pm #

    Jason,

    sure, but we’re dealing with different things here. Nancy Pelosi doesn’t claim to be a Christian, and Bill Clinton never did his crimes claiming he was doing Christian deeds. That’s something that DeLay did, homeboy.

    If you want to go tit for tat on who votes for the more morally just party, I guarantee I’ll win.

    The biggest problem that I see here is that no one has stepped up to the plate and said that all “wholeheartedly embraced sins” should be worthy of scrutiny. And that’s a shame.

  17. Erin Toler Landrum December 14, 2006 at 10:58 pm #

    How odd to stumble upon your website, Mr. Burks. You may not remember me from LaTech, but I remember your wife. She had the BEST alto voice ever, and I still remember you sitting under one of the oak trees in the quad talking about theology. Strange how time flies. I know you probably know the Smiths in Peru as well, they lived close to me before they left the states. Glad to see you enjoy your Reformed Theology, my husband would like your book on Greek. Isn’t it wonderful what God can accomplish with our pens and minds. You can tell Susan that her grandfather’s house in Zachary was recently sold again–the large homeschooling family who lived in it moved to Mississippi (father was in the ministry). I believe another Christian family bought it, so that is quite a legacy for that one house. I used to live just a block from it growing-up, so I still vaguely remember Susan’s grandfather. Anytime we’re back visiting my parents I think about that house, her, and Louisiana Tech. BTW, Sandi mentioned to me a while back that y’all had married, hence my knowledge of your personal life. Hope your family is well and that you enjoy your academic/theological pursuits.

  18. Tyler December 15, 2006 at 6:06 am #

    I’m sorry this thread has become a bit politicized, because I think Paul is making an excellent point.

    In the original post, Dr. Burk says, “No one should be surprised that evangelicalism-lite has now given birth to evangelicalism-gay. This kind of thing always happens when clear biblical exposition gives way to fads and entertainment.”

    By “evangelicalism-lite”, I assume we are referring to evangelicals being “lite” on theology, expository preaching, intellectual rigor, church discipline, masculinity, cultural critique, discipleship, etc. etc. etc. etc…. But I’m also strangely suspicious that it is a hidden slap at those who have chosen to reach out to the culture by engaging it. This at times includes loving, sympathetic critique, but it is a far cry from the long-since lost culture wars.

    While I resonate with some of the endless critique of evangelicals coming from within (just pause and think about how much ink has been spilled on this, not to mention in the blog world!)–I wonder if many of us have been guilty of focusing on the “hot-button” issues over and above the simple call to discipleship issued by Jesus–come follow, come die.

    All of could use a bit more personal holiness and obedience, right? Paul is right to mention greed—when is the last time you’ve heard a convicting sermon on that topic? It’s been awhile for me. I’ve heard a few on giving, and a couple on the dangers of debt. I’ve heard plenty of critique of the prosperity gospel. But where is the passion that would put things like greed and pride and covetousness and arrogance and gossip up there with the list of “deadly” sins? Why do we find it so easy to condemn promiscuity of all kinds in the culture, yet so hard to be gracious to the faceless strangers who serve us every day?

    I once heard Danny Akin preach at SBTS about the shame of Christians who don’t tip their servers, or give them tracts instead. I loved it. I was convicted, and to this day, I have tried to do better. We need more sermons like that. Convicting. Relevant. Enough of the political boilerplate that is designed to get more “Amens” than conviction of sin.

    Let’s get serious about sin alright. But first let’s get serious about our own. Then maybe the culture will take notice for a change, rather than rolling it’s collective eyes and tuning us out altogether.

  19. Jason December 15, 2006 at 10:21 am #

    All church members that embrace sin with an unrepentant heart should be removed from the congregation until true repentance takes place. Churches do not practice church discipline anymore, just ask Joel Osteen, lol.

  20. Kris December 18, 2006 at 1:54 pm #

    John 4:23

    I will agree that some within the Church are ready to condemn homosexual behavior without reaching out in love to these they condemn. This is what the pharisees did.

    BUT, those who claim the name of Christ and still embrace any sin as not sin(including homosexual sin) and assume the favor of God is still upon them, are greatly decieved.

    John 1:17

    Grace & truth were realized through Jesus Christ. There can be no grace realized without the background of truth.

    The scripture you quoted in Jude is right on and still rings ever true today. The MCC church and others who embrace sin and pervert truth have fallen away from the faith that has been entrusted to the saints and have perverted the grace of our God and Creator, who is forever praised.

    Thanks for the post, Denny.

  21. Debbie December 18, 2006 at 5:45 pm #

    What I try to explain to people is that when Jesus encountered a sinner he told to go and sin no more or they felt compelled to do.

  22. Debbie December 18, 2006 at 5:45 pm #

    What I try to explain to people is that when Jesus encountered a sinner he told to go and sin no more or they felt compelled to.

  23. Brad January 7, 2007 at 2:33 am #

    When reading through the comments and replies and the debating that somehow turned to repubs vs the other party I thought of something that no one as a Christian can ignore. Check these verses out.

    ————–CHRIST OR JUDGEMENT
    Hebrews 10:
    26 For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,
    27 but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES.
    28 Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
    29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?
    30 For we know Him who said, ” VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY ” And again, “THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.”
    31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. ——

    No homosexuality is not the only sin in the world. To have no remorse, and to not repent would mean we are doing the very thing that Hebrews is talking about. It would mean that we are following the creature rather than the creator, which it also talks about in Romans 1 when God hands over people to a depraved mind. When you go on in your sin with wreckless abandon and have no remorse at all, it means the sacrifice of sin is null and void. The Gospel is easy when it says to repent, and turn to Christ…because we are sinners and are evil with only one way to having a relationship with God. That doesn’t mean that the new covenant through grace is easy though. it points out all this so that we might live life in fear and trembling of the God most high that has the power to destroy us if he will, but chose to love us instead. We cannot profess our faith in Christ and then on the other hand teach openly something that is defiant of the Word of God and what Christ taught.

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