A strategist for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) issued a statement this week condemning the recent comments made by two pastors, both of North Carolina, regarding homosexuality.
Bob Stith, Southern Baptist Convention's national strategist for gender issues, clearly identified the pastors as belonging to independent Baptist churches which are unaffiliated with the SBC in his Wednesday statement, published by the SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
"From the video clips it would appear that both men lead fairly large churches. I wonder how many people in those congregations were gripped with the fear that their personal struggle might be discovered," Stith wrote.
"And how many have loved ones involved in homosexuality? I wonder about the loneliness and isolation they must have experienced, knowing they could never share those burdens," he added.
Stith is referring to two separate incidences, the first occurring from an early May sermon by Pastor Sean Harris of Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville, N.C., and the second from a more recent sermon from Charles Worley, pastor of Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, N.C.
In a sermon leading up to North Carolina's mid-May vote on same-sex marriage, Harris told congregants that if their sons start acting effeminate, they should use physical force to adjust their behavior.
"The second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist," Harris said in the sermon, as posted in a viral video on YouTube. "Man up! Give him a good punch, OK? 'You're not going to act like that. You were made by God to be a male and you are going to be a male,'" he added, advising fathers on what they should say to their sons.
Harris apologized shortly after his sermon went viral online, saying that although he did not choose the best words, he was trying to convey the ultimate message that homosexuality is not what God intended for mankind.
"Those were not the best choice of words. If I had to do it over again I would not choose those words. I was using hyperbole in an effort to communicate the importance of the gender distinctions that God created," he said.
"I would offer an apology to anyone I have offended. I don't make an apology for those gender distinctions that are the Word of God," he added.
In his sermon on May 13, Charles Worley said that homosexuals should be rounded up into an electric fence and left eventually to die.
"Build a great big large fence 50 or 100 miles long," Worley said, according to the viral YouTube video of his sermon.
"Put all the lesbians in there. Fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals. Have that fence electrified so they can't get out. You know what, in a few years, they'll die out. You know why? They can't reproduce," he added.
Worley has not apologized for his comments, and many of his congregants have come forward in support of his controversial statements.
"He had every right to say what he said about putting them in a pen and giving them food," congregant Geneva Sims, told WCNC.com, adding, "The Bible says they are worthy of death. He is preaching God's Word."
Sims added that she has been listening to Worley's sermons since the 1970s. In a 1978 sermon, Worley referenced lynching when speaking on homosexuals, as the New York Daily News reported the sermon's audio clip.
Stith, who has been head of the SBC's gender issues department since 2007, noted the irony in Worley's remarks.
"Ironically, one pastor seemed to be arguing for a genetic causation. How else to explain his statement that the death of all homosexuals in one generation would eliminate future struggles with homosexuality? Even the American Psychological Association no longer argues for strict genetic causation. The sad truth is that the attitudes reflected in these comments are far more likely to exacerbate problems than to help them."
Ultimately, the SBC leader said, the extremeness of these pastors' comments "stand as reminders to us – not only pastors, but all believers – that above all else we must represent the heart of Christ."
His goal is to help Christians "develop compassionate hearts for those who struggle and their families."
Stith also seeks to remind pastors that in this digital age, all they say in church may end up going viral on the Internet "within minutes."
"Paul says, 'Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt' (Colossians 4:6). Will your words meet that standard? Will they hold out hope to anyone in bondage? Will they bring honor to Christ?" Stith concluded.
The SBC holds the position that "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."