December 27, 2008

What Does The Other Guy Think

At many formal occasions, there are both an invocation at the beginning and the benediction at the end. In regards to Barack Obama's Inauguration, all the attention has been focused on Rick Warren, who is giving the invocation. Perhaps we should be paying more attention to who is giving the benediction, Rev. Joseph Lowery, a civil rights icon who supports most civil rights for GLBT people. From the Washington Blade:

Lowery, 87, a founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, was the first to mention Coretta Scott King’s support for gay civil rights at her funeral in February 2006 at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, reminding the audience that she "frowned on homophobia."

Lowery supports rights for gay couples, but stops short of calling for same-sex marriage.

"I support civil rights for all citizens and this includes gay and lesbians citizens. I support civil unions and full benefits (visitation, insurance, etc) for partners in same sex relationships," he said in a written statement to Southern Voice. "Because of the deep seeded roots concerning marriage — in our hearts and minds — for a man and woman, many people, including me, have concerns about the concept/term 'marriage' and experience a degree of cultural shock when faced with same-sex partners. Nevertheless, I am strongly opposed to propositions or amendments that put into law any discrimination against citizens because of sexual orientation."

This is the same kind of forthright response that would have saved Rick Warren some trouble. Instead of trying to nuance his way through, Rev. Lowery was clear that he still had a problem with same-sex couples using the term "marriage." Unfortunate but understandable. More importantly, he is strongly opposed to placing any additional barriers in front of same-sex couples and wants all GLBT people to have a wide, if not entirely complete, range of civil rights.

Perhaps it is worth focusing on the positive presence and participation of someone like Rev. Lowery and releasing some of the frustration regarding Rick Warren's.

Click here to read the rest of the Washington Blade article.

Here is more on Rev. Lowery in the Washington Post "On Faith" section article "Rev. Joseph Lowery, the Anti-Warren."

December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Brenda and I want to take a moment and wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas!

While I don't get upset when people say "Happy Hollidays!" instead, I still encourage everyone to remember what Christmas Day commemorates--the birth of our Lord and Savior, who came into this world an an innocent little baby to provide a path to salvation for you and me.

If you don't have someone to be with over the holidays, know that Brenda and I are thinking about you and praying that you connect with the love that Christ wants so much to offer you.

December 22, 2008

The Decline of the Southern Baptists

For years leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, to which I belonged for much of my life, crowed about that the decline in membership of mainstream denominations like the Lutheran and Presbyterian churches, blaming it on what they considered liberal theology.

Well, sometimes what goes around comes around. From the Washington Post:

Times are tough, even in the salvation market. After decades of growth, the nation's largest group of Protestants, the Southern Baptist Convention, is reporting losses (in church membership and recorded baptisms) for the third year in a row. Baptisms are at a 20-year low, a figure liable to put an eternity-conscious church into a severe depression.

The writer offers several reasons for this, but here's the one that I think really hits the mark:

The brand is less appealing. After 30 years of theo-political warfare within the denomination and the culture, which has included the merciless purging of evangelical moderates and even conservatives from all Southern Baptist school and agencies, not to mention strong public support for the Republican Party and Administration, the words "Southern Baptist" carry more negatives than positives. The largest and most prominent Southern Baptist congregation in America -- Rick Warren's Saddleback Church -- doesn't even use the word Baptist in its name.

There are some wonderfully devout Southern Baptist Christians who love the Lord and love people but are simply lacking the revelation about God's acceptance of GLBT people. The leadership of the SBC, however, seems to go of its way to put forth a public image of judgement and condemnation of anyone who deviates even slightly from the denomination's doctrine.

People are not inherently stuipd. Many of them will figure out what a load of crap their "hate the sin, love the sinner" approach is when the emphasis invariably falls on the hate part. Those who are truly seeking God are usually well acquainted with hate and don't need to get up early on a Sunday morning and drop some money in the collection plate to get more of it.

People are seeking love, therefore they are seeking the Lord who is love (1 John 4:8). When they find hate and judgement of man instead, they are likely to take their checkbooks and look elsewhere.

I did and have not regretted it. I learned doctrine and scripture in the Southern Baptist churches I belonged to, but I then met the Holy Spirit in an independent gay-affirming church.

When they change churches back from republican campaign headquarters to houses of worship, they might turn this trend around, and in the process maybe gain a better understanding of God's love and acceptence.