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Former Southern Baptist

Thomas Whitley

This morning Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, tweeted this:

It says, "Never more thankful for the word "former," as in "former Southern Baptist congregation." The link goes to this article about Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC.

Pullen Baptist Takes a Stand for Gay Marriage: The full congregation of Raleigh's Pullen Memorial Baptist Church voted Sunday to prohibit the church pastor from legally marrying anyone until she can legally marry same-sex couples under North Carolina law.

The congregants said in a formal statement that current North Carolina law - and the language proposed for a vote next year on an amendment to the state Constitution - discriminates against same-sex couples "by denying them the rights and privileges enjoyed by heterosexual married couples."

"As people of faith, affirming the Christian teaching that before God all people are equal, we will no longer participate in this discrimination," the church's statement says.

Pullen has taken a bold stand based on their conviction that all humans are created in God's image and that as the people of God they should do everything they can to fight for equality on all fronts. Al Mohler and the Southern Baptist Convention, conversely, have exhibited that they do not value historic baptist principles such as the autonomy of local congregations and Mohler took the opportunity to judge and find pleasure in no longer being associated with Pullen.

Just as much as I respect Pullen's right to bless whom they will and to voice their disgust with the current and proposed marriage laws in NC, I respect Mohler's right to his views that homosexuality is an abomination and that every church that does not agree with him does not deserve to be in a convention with him. So, even with as much as I disagree with Mohler on, today I too am thankful for the word "former," as in "former Southern Baptist church member." Besides the loads of southern baptist theology with which I disagree, it has been moves like this - moves to deny equality and full personhood to people they don't like, moves to treat so many people as second class, their desire to so quickly condemn people that disagree with them to hell, their insistence on their inherent rightness and everyone else's wrongness, their deplorable treatment of women - it is moves like this that long ago began pushing me away from the SBC.

I imagine that the SBC will, in time, soften on their position, if not change it entirely as they did regarding slavery, but it is abundantly clear that just as they were with slavery the Southern Baptist Convention is on the absolute wrong side of this position.

I still have a lot of friends who are quite at home in SBC churches and I'm happy for them, but I am in every sense of the word a former southern baptist. I simply can not bring myself to associate with an organization that does not share such a basic conviction as human equality.