James Merritt is a longtime SBC pastor, former President of the SBC, and current visiting professor at SEBTS. James Merritt has a son who is open and unrepentant of being a gay man. This is a fact, and nearly everyone in the SBC knows it. If stating this fact offends you, you’re not mature enough for public life. Furthermore, this post is not a discussion of Titus 1:6 and wayward adult children.
This post is not about Jonathan Merritt, and it is not really about James Merritt. This post is about SBC leaders and what we will permit among us.
Cutting through all the layers here, the questions before us are simple:
- Is it a sin to praise homosexual preaching?
- Is it wrong and shameful for an SBC leader to call homosexual preaching, regardless of the specific content, “brilliant and faithful to the gospel?”
If you don’t like that we have to publicly discuss a man’s comments about his own son, what other blasphemy are you willing to overlook due to the parent-child relationship? Our target audience here is other SBC leaders and pastors, so we won’t even bother with the relevant texts about faithfulness to Christ before even family. You know the Scriptures. You know Merritt’s behavior is wrong.
You know it.
We should not be surprised that we are here. The leaders of the convention can’t agree that it is a sin for a woman to preach.
Apparently now we cannot agree that it is a sin for a homosexual man to preach. Since almost no SBC leader thinks it necessary to confront James Merritt, this is the conclusion we draw. He does not believe it is a sin for homosexuals to preach. Or, Merritt publicly praises sin, which is an even bigger problem. If not confronted, we must conclude Merritt’s friends are OK with this.
Merritt responded that he is simply rejoicing in truth being preached.
Due to his current employment with a SBC seminary, we must ask our seminaries if they agree this is a valid application of Phil. 1:15-18 and 1 Cor. 13:6? We know these verses are not licenses to affirm apostate preaching. If this was the case there would be no limiting principle on what kind of blasphemy we can support in the pulpit, as long as a true word was spoken. Even demons know the truth.
“This should be dealt with privately.”
It is too late for dealing with this privately. Merritt’s serious error is public, and must now be confronted publicly. That was Merritt’s decision alone. If James Merritt’s “friends” dealt with this privately, it wouldn’t have to be public like this. But those friends are no friends at all.
Perhaps Merritt’s friends have contacted him privately. Their appeals have failed, and public confrontation is necessary.
What does it mean to have the conviction to lead? What does it mean to be trusted for truth? If these pithy phrases don’t mean confronting the clear and dangerous errors of friends and fellow leaders, they are meaningless.
“But this is just one man with his son, let it go.”
Yes, it is just one man and his son for now, and this is exactly how downgrade works. Those of us who pastor local churches in 2021 know that it is precisely through close family relationships that the enemy is breeding apostasy in our churches. It is no surprise to us paying attention that a situation like this is how this sort of error gains a foothold. What you allow you will get more of. You become what you tolerate. These are common leadership principles because they are true.
The SBC, as of now, supports and welcomes a leader who approves of gay preaching. It’s unbelievable, except that sadly these days it is not.
The State of the SBC
Why are we making a big deal about this? Critics say, “Yeah, that’s the SBC for you.” We don’t think that is true. We don’t think James Merritt’s actions here represent the SBC and its churches, or even most of its leaders. But we do think the SBC’s 11th Commandment is deadly. This matters because if we continue to allow among us serious sin such as praise of homosexual preaching, the downgrade will continue unabated.
The 11th Commandment of the SBC must stop. Our leaders must speak up and say, “No, we will not permit this in the SBC.” We either allow fellow SBC leaders to praise homosexual preaching, or we do not. There is no middle ground.