(Photo: Baptist Press / Bill Bangham)
Southern Baptist Convention President Bryant Wright met with a coalition of leaders from LGBT groups who wanted the Convention to apologize for what they described as the harm the SBC has caused by their teaching on homosexuality.
Wright, who is the pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., listened to them on Wednesday during the SBC annual meeting in Phoenix, Ariz., but stood firm on the Scripture.
A nine-person coalition, including representatives of Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, Faith in America and Truth Wins Out, protested outside the convention hall and after requesting to deliver 10,000 signed petitions to Wright, he sat down at a roundtable with four of them.
Baptist Press described the meeting as cordial.
While Wright refused to budge on the issue, saying the Scripture is clear, he did listen to the coalition’s concerns as they made repeated attempts to link racism and a stance against homosexuality.
Wright rejected the notion.
“Obviously, we don’t feel that there can be an apology for teaching sexual purity,” Wright said, according to Baptist Press. “As followers of Christ, our only authority for practicing our faith is Scripture, is the Word of God. ... As followers of Christ it would be very difficult for us to betray our faith by ignoring what God says about sexual purity.”
The SBC statement on sexuality reads: "Homosexuality is not a 'valid alternative lifestyle.' The Bible condemns it as sin. It is not, however, unforgivable sin. The same redemption available to all sinners is available to homosexuals. They, too, may become new creations in Christ."
Thom Hunter, a self-described Southern Baptist who has struggled with homosexuality and the author of Surviving Sexual Brokenness: What Grace Can Do, voiced his opinion about how the SBC should respond to the coalition’s petition.
“The petition should be met with a commitment to pray for the members of these groups and the many they lead astray,” Hunter wrote in a post on the SBC Voices blog (sbcvoices.com). “No apologies are in order, but our hearts should respond to their brokenness. What an opportunity to show love and grace ... and a commitment to our beliefs and the hope that endures for wholeness.”
Wright attempted to do just that by making the case that speaking against a particular sin doesn’t mean the speaker hates the person who is in that sin.
“When I teach from the pulpit about adultery, I don’t hate adulterers,” Wright said. “Just as we have people attending our local church that are engaging in homosexual activity, we have people attending our church who are engaging in adultery. I don’t hate those people when I speak about adultery. I am just, hopefully, loving them enough to speak the truth about what God desires for the best for that person.”
The coalition contended that ex-gay ministries were harmful, but Wright said there really have been people who left homosexuality through these ministries.
Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International – a worldwide ministry that helps believers who have unwanted same-sex attraction to live a life that reflects the Christian faith – says there are tens of thousands of men and women who once identified as gay, but they found that change is possible.
Hunter believes the petitions from the coalition “should create an urgency for SBC churches to educate pastors, leaders and members on how to minister to people who struggle with homosexuality.”
“Our members need to know how to move beyond Leviticus and into I Corinthians,” Hunter wrote. “Less abomination; greater grace.”
In the end, Wright was gracious in his refusal to apologize.
“Looking at sexual purity from Scripture, we’re not going to be able to come to common ground,” he added. “I hope you all would respect that we’re just seeking to follow Jesus.”