There were some rough moments in this conference. Some of the rhetoric from the stage was representative of the “gay-agenda” fear-mongering that I was really hoping the conservative church had outgrown. The latest iteration of the SBC’s anti-marriage-equality rhetoric includes some truly troubling understandings of marriage, and a deeper investment in “traditional” gender roles- it seems that in this time of cultural change, much of the leadership of the SBC has elected to cast their lot with patriarchy. Unsurprisingly, this played well to a room of 1300 people, 95% of whom were white men. I applaud the dedication to the Gospel espoused by many of the speakers in the front of that room, but I hold them in concern and prayer- it seems some of them are serving two masters.
But, I bring you good news as well. First: I was blessed to minister at this conference in partnership with Rev. Robin Lunn. Together, we got one of the SBC leaders to commit to examine the denomination’s curriculum on LGBT youth, towards preventing youth homelessness. I also got to witness Robin reach out to a wide variety of SBC folks, including Rev. Andy Stanley. Andy is the pastor of Atlanta’s North Point Community Church, the largest congregation in the SBC. Hundreds of SBC leaders witnessed a hallway conversation between Andy and Robin, and I can only imagine the formal and informal impact those words will have.
Second: there were some signs of collaboration. The head of Focus on the Family brought a word about collaborating with The Gill Foundation against human trafficking, and many others were interested in building relationships across theological lines. When the left and the right can put aside our respective fear-mongering and work together to build friendships and to seek justice, then we proclaim a particularly timely Gospel.
Finally: it was a joy to bring your names to the Southern Baptists. As I drove down to Nashville, as I stood in a room of people lamenting how scary my ‘agenda’ is, as I talked one on one to kind-hearted pastors and confused counselors: I knew I was standing in the Great Cloud of Witnesses. We brought a list of about 400 names, calling for dialogue across our divisions. And I came with my church: all the queer and just-plain-weird believers who share a common faith with me, all the Baptists and non-Baptists who feel God calling them to something more, all the holy fools and the Risen Lord Himself: I was the only one wearing a rainbow button in a lot of crowds in Nashville, but I was never alone.
May God continue to lead us all to greater love and faithfulness.