It wouldn’t be a Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting if someone didn’t object to someone else lined up as a speaker.
This year’s prize goes to Rachel Gilson, an author and speaker whose testimony is about living with same-sex attraction she says she has subjugated to Christian faith and by marriage to a man.
But that is not enough for some in the SBC.
An East Texas pastor voiced his complaint about Gilson on Twitter May 18, drawing hundreds of comments and 151,000 views of a video clip he posted. He claims Gilson “views a homosexual ‘marriage’ as legitimate and any dissolving of that relationship has to meet biblical standards for divorce.”
One woman commented on that tweet: “Every single pastor at the conference should forbid their wives from attending her session.”
He claims Gilson “views a homosexual ‘marriage’ as legitimate and any dissolving of that relationship has to meet biblical standards for divorce.”
The “session” where Gilson is slated to speak is not a formal part of the SBC annual meeting in New Orleans next month. It is a luncheon billed as an “SBC Pastor’s Wives/Women’s Conference” with a theme of “Imago Dei: Created in His Image — Female.”
It is not clear from publicity who is sponsoring the conference, which overlaps with the SBC Pastors’ Conference — an all-male preach-a-thon.
Gilson earned a Ph.D. from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author of Born Again This Way: Coming Out, Coming to Faith, and What Comes Next. In that book, she recounts her own same-sex attraction and tells how after reading C.S. Lewis she came to Christian faith and realized she could not continue in same-sex relationships even though the sense of attraction did not go away.
Gilson denies believing what the Texas pastor and others believe she said in the video clip of her speaking some place that is unidentified.
In that clip, she says: “I met a woman recently in Saint Louis who was … in a marriage to a woman and was processing what to do because she had come to the Lord but her wife hadn’t. We need to recognize in this situation, right, that these are some very tender things and if we just walk around being like, ‘I’ve got some great ideas,’ you don’t know anything about what this relationship has been like, the joys that it has provided, the heaviness it has provided. We never approach these situations with swagger.”
According to her own life story and beliefs, Christianity is incompatible with same-sex relationships, she indicates. But Christian discipleship “is a process” and addressing same-sex marriage is not the first agenda to deal with when someone becomes a Christian.
“When we come to Christ, there are a lot of things that need attention, that need forgiveness, that need healing, that need adjusting, but I do hope that over the course of discipleship for someone in that position they’re going to have a chance to examine what the Bible says about sexuality and they’re going to have a trustworthy person to walk through with them what that means for their life.”
She later adds: “I do think that it’s pretty normal for someone who comes to Christ to see, ‘Oh, this isn’t the way God designed to use my sexuality.’ They don’t have to negate all the good things that they’ve experienced with the person they’ve been in a relationship with to recognize that God says something else about sexuality.”
“They don’t have to negate all the good things that they’ve experienced with the person they’ve been in a relationship with to recognize that God says something else about sexuality.”
She appears to advocate remaining in a relationship but being celibate as one possible option in such cases because “God hates divorce” even though “it is still sometimes allowed in the context of a broken world.”
What seems to have set off her critics is the implication that same-sex relationships can be considered “marriages.”
One person responding on Twitter said: “There’s NOTHING good about gay ‘marriage.’ The ‘joy’ that homosexuals had in their ‘marriage’ was an indulgence in wickedness.”
Other comments are more inflammatory than that, with some linking same-sex attraction and same-sex marriage to pedophilia — even though this false association has been soundly debunked.
Gilson issued her own response on Twitter, quoting from her own book by page number to say: “Same-sex marriages are sinful.”
She also cited a paper she presented last year at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society titled, “The Impossibility of Christian Same-Sex Marriage: Ephesians 5:22-33 and the Metaphor of Marriage.”
She adds: “Because same-sex marriage is always sinful, no Christian should enter such a union. If someone in a same-sex marriage becomes a Christian, the path of obedience is to end that marriage by divorce. This has been my consistent teaching.”
Her online critics were not satisfied with this response, with some claiming she needs to “repent” of what she says on the video and get her story straight between what she wrote and what she said.
This online spat illustrates how firmly entrenched the SBC is in anti-LGBTQ theology and in a quest for pure doctrinal conformity.
The most controversial agenda item for the SBC annual meeting itself is a proposed constitutional amendment to expel from the convention any church that calls a woman as pastor or gives a woman a job title with the word “pastor” in it. The second most pressing issue will be the ongoing response to mishandled cases of sexual abuse in SBC churches.
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