A Follow-Up from Sunday
As I mentioned in Sunday’s sermon, Julie and I, along with a handful of others from our congregation, were in Dallas, TX last week for the annual General Assembly of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF).
As I hope was made clear in the sermon, I thought it was a very good week. Attendance was strong, programming was thoughtful, worship was engaging. This has been a difficult year for CBF in the wake of the release of the Illumination Project, the process surrounding CBF’s hiring policy concerning sexuality (I blogged here and here on the IP report and mostly stand by those initial thoughts). In short, the IP report struck all language about sexuality from CBF’s official hiring policy, but included a suggested “implementation plan” that still restricts LGBTQ people from being considered for what we might call “theological” positions within CBF: coordinators, field personnel, and so forth.
Since its release, some churches and organizations on both sides of the question of LGBTQ inclusion have publicly and privately left CBF. Perhaps most notably, the Baptist General Convention of Texas and Baptist General Association of Virginia have broken ties with CBF over this new policy, citing CBF’s openness to hiring LGBT people to any position as their irreparable concern.
The IP report was the topic of many conversations last week, both formal and informal. While it still feels like we're finding our collective voice in discussing these things on an official level, to its credit, CBF is in the process of formalizing a new Affirming Network, an official CBF network whose mission is to “create space and sustain an authentic voice and presence of LGBTQ congregants, leaders, and advocates” within CBF. The Affirming Network of CBF held a sold-out breakfast on Thursday morning of last week of about 140 people. It was a beautiful and historic gathering featuring only LGBTQ voices, marking the first time in CBF’s history that an openly LGBTQ person has been handed a microphone at a CBF General Assembly. It was such a beautiful and natural meeting of committed Christians that I couldn’t help but wonder, Is this what we were so afraid of all these years?
I will keep you posted about continued movement within this network as well as other matters CBF, which will be made easier by my joining the CBF Ministries Council this year. The Ministries Council, along with the Missions Council and Nominating Committee, are part of CBF’s leadership structure under the guidance of the Governing Board. Broadly speaking, the Ministries Council is responsible for connecting congregations with CBF’s resources and ministries. I look forward to serving in this way for a three-year term, and of course will provide regular updates on CBF in general and this committee’s work in particular.
I also would like to follow-up on the crisis along the border I lifted up on Sunday that so many of us have been tracking this past week or so as more information has come to light concerning the separation of children from their families in detention centers.
I take great care in how I address current events in my sermons and we as a staff in worship in general, especially those events or topics which popular cultural has deemed “partisan” in nature. I labored over whether or not to note my concerns about these policies on Sunday, but in the end felt the text and my own conscience were leading me there.
It pains me that we should even have to make the argument that, legal or not, it is not right or good or moral or biblical or Christian to separate children from their families indefinitely as is currently happening in these various immigration detention centers across the county. That so many diverse religious organizations and voices from across the political spectrum are speaking against this policy is encouraging (you can read CBF’s statement here). And yet I find myself lamenting that this is the bar we have created for ourselves as the church in America: that Christians being able to agree on the inhumanity of keeping children in cages, separated from their parents, and watched after by government officials who are not allowed to pick-up or touch them should be worthy of note. God help us.
Immigration is without question a complicated subject. There are no easy answers, and many competing demands. Though I do my best to stay informed, I don’t claim to have as firm a grasp on policy as I would like. Perhaps you feel the same. But I would hope the expansive biblical witness concerning the treatment of foreigners—and all vulnerable people—would lead people of faith to stand firm in our insistence on humanity along the border. This must be the absolute least we can do.
As we so often say, church is not a place to which we come to retreat from the world, but a people with whom we gather to equip each other in how to live more faithfully within it. I hope we did that in some way on Sunday.
As ever, my door is open to discuss these things further, but in the meantime I hope you will continue to join me in prayer for these children, their parents, our leaders, and our country as we continue to find our way through these troubling times, hoping the way we find will be God’s.