Sunday, February 11, 2018

Two More Resources re: Non-LGBTQ-Affirming Policy of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Shane Claiborne's Refusal, as a "Progressive Evangelical," to Affirm Queer Folks Unambiguously


Two items I'd like to share with you today as a follow-up to yesterday's posting noting what's now happening in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, as the church creates a two-tiered structure for its employees that allows rights and privileges to straight folks denied to queer ones. In addition, my posting yesterday focused on the controversy that has ensued after Shane Claiborne, a "progressive evangelical" who refuses to affirm LGBTQ people unambiguously, announced that he and his Red Letter Christians will be sponsoring a revival of "progressive evangelicals in Lynchburg, Virginia, in April.

The following is a response by Wendell Griffen, who pastors New Millennium Baptist Church in Little Rock, to the new CBF policy. New Millennium is affiliated with CBF, and is a largely African-American congregation. Wendell's statement is from his Justice is a verb! blog and is entitled, "FOLLOWING JESUS BY LOVING LGBTQ PEOPLE, NOT RELIGIOUS EMPIRE: A Pastoral Response to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Decision to Discriminate in Hiring Decisions Involving Married LGBTQ Followers of Jesus." He writes, 

I sent the following email message on February 10, 2018 to more than seventy persons in response to a decision by the Governing Board of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship to discriminate against married LGBTQ followers of Jesus in hiring persons for missions field personnel and supervisory positions.  Because I serve as pastor of New Millennium Church, a congregation affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) since it was organized in the spring of 2009, I am publishing the email message on my social media platforms.   
After engaging in an almost two-year process, yesterday the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship adopted a policy that bans married persons who are LGBTQ from being employed as missions ‎field personnel or in supervisory positions. This policy is unjust. It reinforces bigotry towards LGBTQ people. It violates the Great Commandment of Jesus that we love our neighbors as ourselves. As pastor of New Millennium, I denounce the announced policy as unworthy of our support. 
I will request that New Millennium meet to discuss the CBF decision. Pat Griffen and I were involved in the CBF co-sponsored Conference on Sexuality and Covenant in 2011 that convened in Decatur, Georgia. Our congregation co-sponsored and hosted a conference in April 2016 titled "Embracing Diversity and Inclusion of LGBTQ Persons in the Black Church." We are in active fellowship with the Church Within A Church Movement, a voluntary association of followers of Jesus committed to LGBTQ equality and inclusion, and Pat Griffen and I were presenters during the 2017 CWACM gathering in Washington, DC.  We are the only Arkansas church in the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists (AWAB). Our Holy Saturday seder observances intentionally include and reference solidarity with persons who are LGBTQ.

Plainly, CBF and New Millennium Church disagree about  LGBTQ equality and inclusion. The Illumination Project process and the CBF decision on yesterday proves that CBF does not choose to be, plan to be, or desire to be walk with LGBTQ people and with us concerning this love and justice imperative‎. New Millennium Church now must decide whether to keep faith with our affirmation to welcome all persons in God's love, or walk away from our open and unapolgetic solidarity with Jesus and LGBTQ persons for equality and inclusion. 
I will not support continued funding or involvement in CBF initiatives. CBF has chosen love of its purses above love of God's LGBTQ people. I am unwilling to follow that path as pastor of New Millennium Church. If our congregation is to keep faith with the love and justice imperatives in the gospel of Jesus, we should not be seduced by claims about following Jesus to carry out the Great Commandments and Great Commission by a body that consciously and proudly celebrates a decision to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, and marital status. 
I am sending this message to our congregation, to persons with whom we have fellowship relationships in CBF, to leaders in the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, to local and national leaders in the Church Within A Church Movement, AWAB, and other faith leaders with whom I have been in dialogue and fellowship about LGBTQ equality and inclusion. I do this to make my pastoral position clear. Some people will disagree with or disapprove of my position. No one should be unsure about it.
Please share this message with anyone in our sphere of ministry I may have omitted. I will reprint it on my personal blog and social media platforms, and ask that it be posted to the church website and social media platforms. 
Wendell Griffen
Author, The Fierce Urgency of Prophetic Hope
Pastor, New Millenium Church 

Second, there's this incisive and powerful Twitter thread from Rev. Broderick Greer, a priest at Saint John's Cathedral (Episcopal) in Denver. Broderick is writing in direct response to Shane Claiborne. The tweet at the head of the posting precedes the following thread of tweets:

As Broderick Greer reminds us, Christians and churches that stand in solidarity with LGBTQ human beings quite frequently pay a price for doing so. My posting yesterday included an excerpt from David Gushee's book Still Christian: Following Jesus Out of American Evangelicalism (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2017). In previous postings discussing that book, I've noted passages in which Gushee, a Southern Baptist minister who moved to the CBF before leaving evangelicalism behind, speaks of the price he himself has paid for standing in solidarity with LGBTQ people — including the price he has paid at the hands of the CBF itself.

I want to be very clear about the fact that I stand with Rev. Wendell Griffen and the people of New Millennium Baptist Church, which has offered loving hospitality to Steve and me on numerous occasions, as they stand once again for love, justice, and mercy in response to the recent CBF policy statement — unambiguously so — fully aware that there is a price to be paid for taking such a stand.

I hope readers of this blog will stand with New Millennium Baptist Church, too.

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