NASHVILLE—A panel discussing homosexuality at the Southern-Baptist affiliated Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission created a stir on social media Monday night, after pastor J.D. Greear compared resisting gay marriage in the church to resisting slavery in the South in the 1860s.
"Preaching against homosexuality in our day is about as popular as preaching against slavery and racism in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1861," said Greear at the ERLC summit. "And back then, I'm sure the politically correct people were like, 'You're just creating a lot of waves that are unnecessary, just preach the Gospel.'"
"Oh man. Southern Baptists comparing their fight against marriage equality to the abolition movement. So ironic," tweeted Christian writer Rachel Held Evans.
SBC did support slavery in the the mid-19th century and segregation up through the mid-20th century, but the convention in 1995 overwhelmingly approved a formal apology at its 150th anniversary and asked for forgiveness from African Americans. The SBC currently has approximately one million African American members, and an African American president, Fred Luter Jr., who was elected unanimously.
ERLC Director of Policy Studies Andrew Walker moderated an hour-long dialogue, which included pastors Greg Belser, Jimmy Scroggins, Greear and University of Texas sociology professor Mark Regnerus. In the final event of the first day of three-day conference, they addressed myriad issues including whether to attend an LGBT son or daughter's wedding, how they might counsel a newly Christian married same-sex couple, and whether congregations should allow LGBT attendees church membership.
Because the ERLC offered a free livestream of the conference, many individuals who did not attend the conference in person used social media to chime in with their own thoughts on the perspectives shared by panelists. Some characterized the event as "awful" and "scary," while others commented positively on Greear's assertion. Some also questioned whether the "gay rights" issue is really similar to the long history of racial injustice in the country. Responding directly to Evans' charge of irony, Josh Gurkin tweeted, "No more ironic than comparing the 'equal rights' movement to the civil rights movement."
Others were bothered by the speakers' repeated references to LGBT individuals as homosexuals, the subject of a New York Times story last month which suggested that the term has become increasingly seen as pejorative by the community.
"It really is fascinating that @jdgreear seems to be avoiding the word 'gay' and only using 'homosexual' both as adj and noun," wrote Jeff Chu, the author of Does Jesus Really Love Me?: A Gay Christian's Pilgrimage in Search of God in America, adding that it reminded him of his time "with (Westboro Baptist Church founder) Fred Phelps, who refused to use the word 'gay.'"
Walker said this of the twitter conversy:"Closing thought of day 1 of #erlcsummit: If you want to see the coming hostility to Christian sexual ethics, look no further than twitter."
A link for the livestream of Tuesday and Wednesday's conference sessions is available here.
At the end of the evening, Walker announced that the ERLC will host a conference exclusively focusing on homosexuality in October.