In 20 years, my wife and I have preached about 950 sermons from the pulpit of Park Road Baptist Church. (Amy and I have been co-pastors in Charlotte since 2000.) We’re both manuscript preachers, and we try to hold a…
Christian history is replete with the expulsion of persons from the church; times when sin, sex, orthodoxy and “special needs” all run together and somebody or some bodies had to go. Perhaps we should add an asterisk to “Everybody is Welcome” on our church signs.
Sure, Black Panther is a fantasy film about action heroes, but it’s not so far from real life either. Citizens of the continent of Africa are strong. They are hardworking. They are dreaming big about their future and would like us to see them that way.
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The 150-year-old Peace Cathedral in the Republic of Georgia has claimed the mantle of Christian peacemaking, investing in a vision of inclusive and merciful community. Established as First Baptist Church of Tbilisi, it serves as the mother church of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia, an Alliance of Baptists’ Active Hope Partner.
I understand the need to be culturally sensitive when making hiring decisions, and I understand that applies whether you are sending missionaries to Nigeria or New Jersey. But the existing bylaws of the CBF leave those hiring decisions in the hands of the executive coordinator, and I trust Suzii Paynter. I trust her to be culturally sensitive, but I also trust her not to discriminate.
I do not expect a denominational body to reinforce all aspects of my conscience any more than I expect a congregation to match my convictions in every way. Most people don’t expect a perfect match — just space to grow together. So I’m not bothered by a conviction that differs from mine. I am bothered by the centrality given to a conviction that makes no space.
Our congregation went through 18 months of intense study, prayer and dialogue about LGBTQ inclusion, and we have the scars to show for it. And we would have had scars regardless of which way the decision went. But we are better for choosing the good over the easy.
Illumination makes things clearer for those willing to look where the light is shining. And these are a few lessons I’ve learned from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s Illumination Project.
While scrolling through the pages of the Illumination Project Committee report, my opinion pile began to grow: Good decision; bad decision. I like this; I don’t like that. This is progressive; that is regressive. But as I quieted my own internal committee and let myself become still, I felt the Spirit pressing a cool cloth to my fevered, dualistic mind. “God is at work and more will be revealed” is the word that came.