By Bob Allen
A 21-year-old movement advocating full inclusion of gays in Baptist churches voiced concern that a Southern Baptist Convention resolution on transgender identity will spawn methods similar to “ex-gay” ministries harmful to transgender youth.
The board and staff of the Association of Welcoming an Affirming Baptists said the underlying message of a resolution passed June 11 in Baltimore — “if you pray and give your life over to Christ you will be ‘healed’” — is the same one told to gay and lesbian people for decades.
“This practice has spawned the ‘ex-gay’ ministry movement as well as the pseudo-psychology of reparative therapy,” AWAB leaders said in a statement June 12. “These practices have caused significant harm to individuals, their families and the churches that they are and have been a part of. The resolution on transgender people passed at the 2014 annual meeting of the SBC will surely spawn the same kinds of ministries and practices aimed at the transgender community.”
Robin Lunn, executive director of AWAB and an ordained American Baptist minister, criticized the resolution in a blog as “yet another attempt by a shrinking group of mostly older white folks to maintain a world view that is crumbling around them.”
“The SBC of the past that held sway in board rooms and the White House is no longer so important,” Lunn commented. “The mid-20th century worldview of ‘Father Knows Best’ and suburban utopia are merely blips on an historic screen.”
The SBC resolution affirms “God’s good design that gender identity is determined by biological sex and not by one’s self-perception — a perception which is often influenced by fallen human nature in ways contrary to God’s design.”
It professes love for transgender persons and condemns abuse or bullying against them, while opposing treatments like cross-sex hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery along with all legal and cultural efforts to “validate claims to transgender identity.”
Russell Moore, head of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, told reporters in Baltimore the resolution is needed and wise.
“The cultural mindset is that gender is something that is constructed by the individual,” Moore said in comments quoted by Baptist Press. “So it’s disconnected from how the person is created.”
“Right now we’re living in a situation where Time magazine just two weeks ago talked about the transgender issue as the new civil rights movement, the new frontier of the civil rights movement,” Moore said. “We have to be prepared to give a witness and to give an answer from the Scripture on that.”
Lunn said the SBC resolution fails to understand “that gender and sexuality are complex constructions that go well beyond the limitations of a simple man-woman ‘and they lived happily ever after’ ideal.”
“Our global reality has shown us that this creation is filled with variations of all kinds and that we need to take seriously the idea that being made in the image of God is complex and ever unfolding,” Lunn said.
The AWAB statement said God’s command to love your neighbor as yourself “includes all humanity, even those whom we do not understand or disagree with.”
“Therefore, we humbly call upon the Southern Baptists to recant this resolution and to allow God’s healing grace to be present in the life of the SBC,” the AWAB officials said.
The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists was organized in 1993 during a biennial meeting of American Baptist Churches USA. It includes about 100 member congregations and cooperates with groups including the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America and the Alliance of Baptists.