The National Association of Free Will Baptists has released a study guide titled "Racism, the Bible, and the Church: A Biblical Perspective," after a Free Will congregation in Pike County, Ky., sparked national outcry over its independent decision to bar interracial couples from membership.
The study guide, which brands racism as a sin, was released by the NAFWB on Wednesday, Dec. 7, about two weeks after Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church passed the controversial proposal on Sunday, Nov. 27.
The proposal read:
"...the Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church does not condone interracial marriage. Parties of such marriages will not be received as members, nor will they be used in worship services and other church functions, with the exception being funerals. All are welcome to our public worship services. This recommendation is not intended to judge the salvation of anyone, but is intended to promote greater unity among the church body and the community we serve."
Gulnare's decision, which was approved with a 9-6 vote, was reported by The Christian Post on Nov. 30. On Dec. 1, NAFWB, along with various congregations in the area, immediately sought to distance itself from the church.
"The Free Will Baptist Treatise neither condemns nor disallows marriage between a man and woman of different races," the association said in a statement. "Free Will Baptists have historically championed the rights and dignity of all people, regardless of race."
Burden, along with Randall House CEO Ron Hunter, commented on the Kentucky church's reversal on banning interracial couples in a press release discussing the Bible study. Randall House is the publishing arm for Free Will Baptists.
"Free Will Baptists believe in the authority and supremacy of Scripture, and the Bible has a good deal to say about hte sin of racism," Hunter says.
The Bible study guide on racism, available for free download, aims to "challenge believers to overcome the sin of racism" by addressing such questions as: How does the Bible define race? Is God guilty of racism? What about being "unequally yoked?"
In addressing the final question, the racism study guide states:
God made restrictions for His people under the Law of Moses to remain separate from unbelievers (Exodus 34:12-16). That same principle is repeated in the New Testament. “Do not be unequally yoked . . . with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14).
To apply this Scripture to any other people group, culture, or ethnic group is a distortion of the Word of God. It tears it out of the context and produces a false teaching.
A careful reading of the entire passage makes it clear that God wants His people to be separate from those who do not share the same relationship with God (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). He makes no qualifications, reservations, or restrictions otherwise. Those who draw boundaries where God has not are guilty of the same sin as the Pharisees.
Pastor Bill Staggs of Meta Baptist Church, not far from the Gulnare house of worship, told CP in a previous interview that he was "very surprised" at his neighbors' decision on interracial couples.
"I can only tell you that from my perspective, the interracial issue should not be an issue associated with any church, period."
Staggs also expressed bewilderment as to how such a proposal could pass, considering the many "members of that church who are good, abiding citizens."
"In churches across America, Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week. For too long churches have not been as multicultural as they should be. But each church, and more specifically each believer, has a chance to change that," the NAFWB study guide says in its conclusion.
It adds: "God has given all of us the responsibility to take His gospel to all peoples. Whether that’s the native living in the remote jungles of Africa or the Korean family down the street, all people have been made in God’s image and need to hear the good news."