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Gay leaders meet with SBC president
Michael Foust, Baptist Press
June 16, 2011
5 MIN READ TIME

Gay leaders meet with SBC president

Gay leaders meet with SBC president
Michael Foust, Baptist Press
June 16, 2011

PHOENIX — A coalition of homosexual leaders and their allies

met for more than 30 minutes Tuesday with Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)

President Bryant Wright, with the leaders demanding an apology from the SBC and

Wright refusing to budge, saying that scripture is clear on the issue.

The remarkable meeting — cordial the entire time — took place between the

morning and afternoon sessions of the SBC in Wright’s annual meeting office at

the Phoenix Convention Center.

Photo by Kent Harville

Bryant Wright, president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), center front, meets with members of a coalition of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups including GetEQUAL and Truth Wins Out, who hand delivered a petition to Wright asking the SBC for an apology for its biblical beliefs regarding the lifestyle of LGBT people. Coalition members at the table include, left to right: Anthony Spearman; Brent Childers, executive director of Faith in America; Wayne Besen, Truth Wins Out’s executive director; Mitchell Gold, founder of Faith in America; and Jack McKinney, a former pastor and counselor. The meeting took place June 15 at the Phoenix Convention Center between sessions of the SBC annual meeting.

The nine-person coalition included representatives of the Association of

Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, Faith in America and Truth Wins Out. They

protested outside the convention hall and requested to deliver petitions to

Wright, who decided to turn the event into a dialogue. Several members of the

media also attended.

“We’re a coalition of groups asking the SBC to acknowledge and apologize for

the damage that the convention has done to lesbian, gay, bisexual and

transgender people,” Jack McKinney, a heterosexual married man told Wright at

the beginning of the meeting.

McKinney is a spokesperson for Faith in America

and a former Southern Baptist minister. McKinney and the other leaders

repeatedly made parallels between racism and a stance against homosexuality.

Sixteen years ago to the day, McKinney said, Southern Baptists passed a

resolution apologizing for past racism.

“We feel like the convention is making the same mistake in the way it has

demonized (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people,” said McKinney, who

handed Wright a packet of 10,000 signatures. “We come today to ask for an

apology for that and for a pledge that those kinds of teachings would come to

an end.”

Wright, sitting at a roundtable with McKinney and four of the other leaders,

rejected the parallels.

“Obviously, we don’t feel that there can be an apology for teaching sexual

purity,” Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., said.

“As followers of Christ, our only authority for practicing our faith is scripture,

is the Word of God. … As followers of Christ it would be very difficult for

us to betray our faith by ignoring what God says about sexual purity.”

The Bible condemns both homosexual sex and heterosexual sex that is outside the

bonds of marriage, Wright said.

“When I teach from the pulpit about adultery, I don’t hate adulterers,” Wright

said. “Just as we have people attending our local church that are engaging in

homosexual activity, we have people attending our church who are engaging in

adultery. I don’t hate those people when I speak about adultery. I am just,

hopefully, loving them enough to speak the truth about what God desires for the

best for that person.”

Similarly, when Wright preaches about the Bible’s prohibition on premarital

sex, that doesn’t “mean we hate teenagers,” he said.

Mitchell Gold, Faith in America’s founder, then spoke.

“I remember during the 1960s similar words justifying a position against

integration and justifying a whole attitude toward black people. Part of what

we are saying to you is, you really made a big mistake before and you

apologized for it, you recognized it,” Gold said.

“There’s an enormous amount of harm” done to teens by the SBC’s stance, Gold

said, handing Wright a book written by Gold, Crisis, that details stories of

people who grew up homosexual.

Although some of the leaders said ex-gay ministries were harmful, Wright

disagreed, saying “there really have been” people who have left homosexuality

through the various ministries.

“The standard of scripture for heterosexual single adults” and for homosexual

single adults is “no different,” Wright said. Both groups are, he said, to

abstain from sex.

Wayne Besen, a leading homosexual activist and a former Human Rights Campaign

spokesperson, interjected, “You’re asking for people to surrender their

humanity.”

Wright drew the conversation back to his Christian faith.

“Jesus Christ came to die for all of our sins, whether it’s heterosexual sin or

whether it’s homosexual sin. … For a society to come along at this stage in

history and all of a sudden say that one of the … areas that Christ has no

power” over is “homosexual behavior is really elevating the importance of that

behavior above the power of Christ.

“Looking at sexual purity from scripture, we’re not going to be able to come to

common ground. I hope you all would respect that we’re just seeking to follow

Jesus.”

Wright began drawing the meeting to a close with a personal plea.

“Christ loves you Wayne, He loves you Mitchell, He loves Robin (Lunn of the

Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists), He loves me in spite of my

incredible amount of sin,” Wright said. “… But He does not desire for us to

continue to engage in sinful behavior that He very clearly says is not good.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)