It has been a deep blessing to grow and strengthen relationships with my sisters and brothers in Christ toward the day when all people who claim the Baptist way will be free to live and express the fullness of their life in Christ regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. These conversations have reminded me that too often we see one another through the Gospel of Estrangement – a gospel long practiced by too many from all sides.
A gospel that only sees otherness and deviance and not similarity and family.
Don Ng, the current President of the ABC-USA and I have been talking about how much we value the ideals expressed in Rev. Martin Luther King’s Beloved Community and how much we feel called as American Baptists to embody this Gospel of Love and Inclusion – a gospel that says, “I see you, and I know you see me.”
We have been dreaming about the day when, in the ABC-USA at least, we can all gather as a family in our big tent and see one another as equals, partners in our mutual ministry of reconciliation. We dream about a day when, regardless of any theological difference, we will see one another and discover together how God is calling us to bring light and life to this broken world.
I have spent the better part of the last year reaching out to and inviting conversations with my American Baptist and Cooperative Baptist siblings because I believe that the Beloved Community cannot be achieved if we do not know one another.
I believe that my precious Baptist freedoms require me to step toward my family, not away from it.
I believe that in Christ we truly are a new creation and as such, I am compelled to see those who disagree with me through the Gospel of Love and Inclusion. I know no other way to interpret the Apostle Paul’s words in Ephesians, 2:14 “For he is our peace; in his flesh, he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.”
As I sit 30,000 feet in the air, making my way home from the Southern Baptist Convention’s “The Gospel, Homosexuality and the Future of Marriage” conference in Nashville, TN, I find myself reflecting on the call to dialogue that we delivered Monday night.
I wonder what the official response to AWAB’s invitation to engage on the topic of marriage will be?
The informal and private conversations I experienced over these last three days leave me feeling hopeful. I encountered many from within the SBC who are searching for understanding and desiring real relationships with people who disagree with them on same-sex marriage and gender roles.
I spoke with pastors and layity, consultants to the church and theologians, all at least willing to chip away at the wall between us for the sake of the Gospel. But I wonder how my Southern Baptist siblings will view this statement once the excitement dies down?
Will we seek reconciliation or will we once again practice the Gospel of Estrangement, pretending that we do not know one another?
I wonder if some whom I have met at this conference really want to live by the Gospel of Love even if we disagree on Romans 1:26-27 or 1 Timothy 1:10?
I wonder if we truly can be friends simply for the sake of being friends (as some of the speakers admonished us to do), or whether we will continue shoring up the wall of separation and alienation out of fear and anxiety over change.
No matter who responds to AWAB’s call for dialogue I still believe that I am called to seek reconciliation and peace. I believe I am to show forth the Love of Christ Jesus by seeking to bring about the Beloved Community in my Baptist family. And I believe that in order to do this I must allow myself to see my Southern Baptist siblings just as much as I desire them to see me.
This is how I have and will continue to believe out loud.
Photo via flickr user Adam Fagen