Category: gay rights

Baptist conference on sexuality includes gay perspective

By Alan Bean

A conference on Christian sexuality in Decatur, Ga. has explicitly addressed the challenges and opportunities facing gay Christians.  What’s more, the conference was sponsored by Baptists!

In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that the divinity student featured in the lead portion of Bob Allen’s article in the Associated Baptist Press attends my home church, Broadway Baptist in Fort Worth, Texas. 

Here’s the crucial excerpt from Allen’s article:

Cody Sanders, a Ph.D. candidate at Brite Divinity School and member of Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas — a congregation kicked out of the Southern Baptist Convention for its full acceptance of openly gay members — said without homosexuality many Christians might never be forced to think about things like power inequalities in heterosexual relationships or how idolizing the traditional nuclear family marginalizes others like single-parent and extended-family configurations to a second class.

“Rather than a tolerable but undesirable ‘Plan B,’ LGBT relationships are stellar examples of covenant forged in the fires of oppression and marginalization,” Sanders said at a three-day [Baptist] Conference on Sexuality and Covenant co-sponsored by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Mercer University’s Center for Theology and Public Life.

I’m not sure that Broadway has come to the point of fully accepting gay members, but we have decided not to adopt the default Baptist position on the issue, and we have been kicked out of the Southern Baptist Convention for our trouble.  Broadway is a moderate church comprising a full range of conservative, moderate and liberal members. 

I can’t tell you how liberating it is to hear my Baptist brothers and sisters facing these difficult questions in such a thoughtful setting, even if we remain far from agreement.  Avoiding the issue is not a long-term option.  Please read Allen’s full article and let us know what you think.


Does it take courage to be pro-life and anti-gay in Baptist Alabama?

Confessing Church Pastors in Germany

Timothy George had recently departed Southern Seminary in Louisville when I arrived as a doctoral student in the summer of 1989, but people still spoke of him in hushed tones of respect.  At the time, George was a leading member of a new breed of Southern Baptist Calvinists who believed, among other things, that we are all born destined for heaven or hell and there ain’t a damn thing we (or God, it appears) can do about it.

Calvinism appeals to egghead evangelicals in search of a rigorously intellectual theological system draped in the mists of history.  And John Calvin, like the judgin’ exam in Peter Cooks Coal Miner sketch, is noted for his rigor.

Timothy George stirred a bit of excitement in 2009, when, in collaboration with luminaries like Charles Colson, he published a Manhattan Declaration, subtitled as “a call of Christian conscience”.  With a prison reformer like Colson on board, you might expect the declaration to touch, however briefly, on the shame of mass incarceration.  But no, the only topics deemed worthy of discussion were (you guessed it) abortion, gay marriage, and the purported persecution of the American Church.

Now, professor George is claiming that the 500,000 signatories to his bold confession are akin to the German churchmen who signed the Barmen Declaration opposing Hitler in the darkest days of the Third Reich.

Pardon me if I wince in embarrassment. (more…)

Progressives should be wary of Ron Paul

There is a lot to like about Ron Paul.  He opposes the war on drugs; he is anti-war, and he doesn’t like the Patriot Act.  Who could ask for anything more?

If you believe Adele M. Stan, progressives should be asking for much, much more.  Ron Paul’s libertarianism may overlap with the progressive agenda at important points, but it flows from a entirely different source.  Stan associates Paul with the anti-civil rights John Birch Society as well as the modern Reconstruction movement.  My research has reached similar conclusions.

Progressives contend that we’re all in this thing together; Libertarians say we’re all on our own.   Progressivism is consistent with religious altruism; libertarianism logically tends toward the moral nihilism of Ayn Rand. A philosophical difference that great can’t be mended with duct tape and baling wire.  Friends of Justice endorses a Common Peace Agenda that embraces the legitimate rights and needs of all people.  We aren’t satisfied with simply ending the war on drugs or reducing the size of the prison population; we seek what Martin Luther King Jr. called The Beloved Community. 

Those in search of the common good must choose their coalition partners with great care.  We don’t have to agree on every point, but we must be working toward the same broad goal.  What kind of America are we trying to create?  AGB (more…)

Dreaming a Christian aristocracy: The evolution and meaning of Dominionism

By Alan Bean

Our twenty-four hour news cycle doesn’t lend itself to careful analysis of complex social movements.  Rick Perry, the pugnacious presidential hopeful, raised eyebrows when he used a loose network of organizations associated with the New Apostolic Reformation to organize a big religious-political rally in Houston.  Interest quickened when the mainstream media learned that some of Perry’s friends were “Dominionists,” folks who want to bring secular politics (and everything else) under the dominion of God.

The questions couldn’t be avoided.  If elected, will Rick Perry pack his cabinet with Christian preachers?  Since that didn’t sound likely, the pundits too-easily assumed that politicians like Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann are just standard-issue conservatives with close ties to the religious right.  (more…)

Gay at Baylor: A Christian Challenge

This piece originally appeared in the Huffington Post

By Mark Osler

This past October, I wrote a piece in the Huffington Post entitled “Repentance of an Anti-Gay Bigot.”  Among the dozens of responses I received were many from my former law students at Baylor University, where I taught for ten years.  They were heart-wrenching, revealing the pain of attending Baylor in fear of being found out and expelled; of isolating themselves from their classmates; and ultimately their alienation from Baylor and even Christianity.  Baylor bars gays and lesbians from the faculty, and has fought hard to keep any gay student support groups from gaining recognition.  It has done this in the name of Jesus Christ, claiming the authority of the Bible.

I don’t teach at Baylor anymore.  This week I am starting my second year as a professor of law at a Catholic school, St. Thomas, in Minneapolis.  Though smaller than Baylor, it is similar in many ways.  It is strong in its faith identity, and the majority of faculty (at least in my department) and students are more conservative than you would find at most other schools.  Yet, there are differences, and at least one may be crucial to Baylor’s future.

 After a few weeks of teaching sentencing at St. Thomas, one of my students stopped by to see me right before lunch, so I invited him to join me.  He had a genuine interest in criminal law, and in particular wanted to work for the U.S. Department of Justice, my former employer.  I love talking about the DOJ, and asked him which division he would like to work in.

 He immediately told me he wanted to work in the Civil Rights Division in Washington, an important and often controversial office.  Looking over my sandwich at this middle-aged white male, I asked “Why Civil Rights?”

Mark Osler

He immediately responded, “Well, I’m gay.”  He then began to describe some of the work he had already done in the area, but I barely knew he was talking—after ten years at Baylor, I was in a state of shock to hear a student openly admit this to a professor in a public place.  I looked behind me to see if anyone we might know was around, and felt relieved when there were only strangers.

I need not have worried.  St. Thomas has a gay and lesbian student organization, my administrative assistant is openly gay, and two of my colleagues who are full professors are also openly gay and are welcome to (and do) bring their partners to law school events.  Yet, not only does the school survive, but the fact that we are welcoming to gays and lesbians does not in the least seem to be read as any kind of statement on the part of our sponsoring body, the Archdiocese of Minnesota.  We are a community that includes gay men and lesbians as faculty, staff, and students, and stand proudly together as Christians.

Baylor can accept gays and lesbians without sacrificing anything.  Yes, the student code of conduct bars pre-marital sex, but gays and straights are equally susceptible to breaking that rule; if potential for sexual relations is a reason to bar anyone, it is a reason to bar everyone.   That rule should be enforced evenly.  All evidence now is that it is enforced in the dorms, but not elsewhere.  If that is the case, then enforcement should be consistent, gay or straight.

Former Baylor President Abner McCall once told a good friend of mine that “Baylor can’t be a Christian.  Only people can be Christian.”  As Christian people we must be both honest and loving.  Honesty tells us that there have been, are now, and will be gays and lesbians at Baylor.  If the plan has been to exclude them, Baylor has done a lousy job.   Given that gay men and lesbians are and will be students at Baylor, love instructs us to help them grow in faith and to welcome them, rather than exclude or demean them.

 The time has come for Baylor to hire gays and lesbians who meet all other requirements; to lift the veil of fear from student life; and to allow gay and lesbian groups to establish themselves on campus.  Baylor is strong, proud, and Christian, and all of those qualities make such a change possible without a loss of identity.

 To remain an engaged and relevant institution, Baylor must change.  Its message to gays and lesbians has to be something other than what is perceived on campus now:  That if you are gay, there is no love for you, on Earth or in Heaven.  Christ promises more, and so should Baylor.

Osler: Repentance of an anti-gay bigot

Mark Osler

Wow!  This took a lot of guts.  The national gay debate features plenty of allegations and counter-allegations, but very few words of confession and repentance.  Law professor, and Friends of Justice board member, Mark Osler is a blessed exception to the general rule.  AGB

Repentance of an anti-gay bigot

By Mark Osler

In the wake of several suicides of gay teenagers, one response has been through the “It Gets Better” project, which tells the story of gay and lesbians who have a story of hope — one in which things, over time, got better for them. (more…)