A moderate Baptist ethicist cautioned Cooperative Baptist Fellowship leaders about how to respond to growing demands that the organization reverse its 16-year-old ban on hiring non-celibate gays.
Robert Parham, executive director of the CBF partner Baptist Center for Ethics, editorialized June 30 on the BCE website EthicsDaily.com that an “illumination project” adopted by the CBF Governing Board just prior to the recent CBF General Assembly in Greensboro, N.C., raises a host of questions.
“Why prioritize the LBGTQ issue given the multitude of issues that need addressing and around which consensus exists?” Parham asked. “Why is there the need for such a project now? Who really needs illumination?”
While acknowledging renewed criticism of an organizational policy adopted in 2000 disallowing the “purposeful hiring of a staff person or the sending of a missionary who is a practicing homosexual” since the June 12 mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., CBF leaders insisted the process of “discernment and accompaniment” adopted in Greensboro is not in response to a single problem.
“It is designed to ‘provide more light, less heat’ in situations where the Fellowship finds itself in conflict or has differences of opinion,” CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter said in a CBF press release.
The Illumination Project document, finalized in executive session, does acknowledge that in today’s cultural climate CBF as a “denominetwork” is manifesting “tension in recent discussions about the hiring policy.”
Support Conversations That Matter.
Donate to our Annual Fund.
More than 450 individuals sympathetic to CBF have gone on record opposing the hiring policy in an online statement of solidarity with the LGBTQ community repenting of “our complicity in systems — even and especially our own — that perpetuate bias and discrimination against LGBTQ persons” and pledging to work “for full inclusion of all people at every level of religious life.”
Parham, whose organization celebrated its 25th anniversary during the CBF gathering in Greensboro, questioned how changing CBF’s hiring policy on gays might affect affiliated churches.
“Given what has happened with mainline Protestant churches, what evidence is there that such illumination will lead to church growth and expanded global mission efforts?” Parham asked.
Parham quoted a CBF press release on the Orlando shootings acknowledging “CBF is not a like-minded fellowship about matters related to human sexuality.”
“Perhaps a word of caution is needed as CBF wades into yet another ‘conversation’ about revising the tradition of the church to validate culture’s sexual mores,” Parham said. “Passing a resolution, making a statement, is always easier at a national convention than in one’s own local church.”