While the national conversation focuses on gun violence, the Baptist General Association of Virginia addressed same-sex marriage. In an Executive Board meeting on Feb. 26, they decided to stop receiving gifts designated for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. They sent out a “Special Edition” of their newsletter Advance Notice. The message had the urgency of a time-sensitive decision — except, it was not time-sensitive or timely.
The homepage of the BGAV website has stories about the CBF’s Illumination Project (covered here, here, and here on Baptist News Global), a blog post advertising Ken Kessler’s coaching, a story about Billy Graham, news of the Baptist World Alliance, and some other stories. A search of the BGAV website reveals no mentions of “Parkland” or “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.”
On the entire BGAV website, there is one mention of the phrase, “mass shooting.” It comes from June 13, 2016, when Executive Director John Upton offered a short statement of condolence for the mass shooting in Orlando, Fla. For the Oct. 1, 2017, massacre in Las Vegas, Nev., the BGAV offered another condolence, labeling the mass shooting a tragedy, which it was, but not mentioning the use of high-power assault rifles, bump stocks or gun violence.
At this moment, why is the Executive Board talking about human sexuality? Yes, the CBF recently released their Illumination findings. And the CBF faces criticism from the right and the left for it. Right now, who cares? High school students are leading the conversation about their own safety. Lawmakers continue to fumble responding and cannot accomplish anything to protect students. Meanwhile, we Baptists stand on the sidelines.
Refusing donations directed to the CBF will not change the mind of someone who accepts same-sex marriage. Likewise, accepting donations for the CBF will not make someone who opposes same-sex marriage suddenly accept it. This subject is as timely as debating the number of angels who can dance on a pinhead.
We have a biblical mandate to respond: “You shall not kill” (Exodus 20:13). Jesus told his disciples to put their swords away (Matthew 26:52-54). Paul says not to avenge wrongdoing (Romans 12:19). Arguing against violence and murder seems like the logical place for all Christians to stand.
What could the BGAV do? It could release a full-throated condemnation of bump stocks. Even the NRA is favor regulating bump stocks. In a statement on their website, they say, “the NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations.” The BGAV could release a soft condemnation of assault rifles. It could set up a committee to explore the role of the church in supporting gun safety. It could partner with an organization like Sandy Hook Promise to educate students on preventing mass shootings.
But focusing on human sexuality? The BGAV is missing the national conversation.