There is a big part of me that doesn’t want to write this. I love Southern Baptist cooperation and understand the need to cooperate with brothers and sisters with whom we have disagreements. I literally do not want to be “that guy” who is always pointing out problems. Too much of my writing in the last two years has been spent on pointing out serious issues in the SBC.
But the days we live in are culturally turbulent. The ship is blown about in so many directions. Under our very feet, the tectonic plates are shifting causing seismic rifts. Some of the core convictions on what it means to be a Baptist or even a Christian are at stake. Sometimes it’s blatant. And sometimes it’s subtle.
And there are real and serious issues in our beloved convention that the average, conservative, grassroots Southern Baptist needs to know about. Those who are less plugged in may not even be aware of some of the shifts happening. We continue to point at budgets, and buildings and baptisms to “prove” that we are still a conservative convention and that anyone who says there is any kind of drift is either absurd or just a rabble-rouser looking for attention.
Therefore, I write. And I hope you’ll share. For those who continue to say there is “no drift” in the SBC. For the faithful SBC church members tithing off their fixed income and believing in the Cooperative Program. For the bi-vocational pastor too busy to see all that’s happening in the SBC right now. And for the faithful Southern Baptist who just desires for our convention to remain biblically conservative and faithful to our Lord. For these people, I am committed to pointing the serious issues I see happening in the SBC. And for today’s post, I need to highlight a concern regarding the 2022 SBC Pastor’s Conference.
The SBC’s View of Homosexuality
The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 states in Article XV, that “Christians should oppose racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, including…homosexuality…” It has been the historic position of Southern Baptists that homosexuality in all its forms is a sin and ought to be opposed, called out, and repented of. There is grace in the gospel for all sinners. But when one embraces the gospel he or she turns from sin so as to receive a new identity in Christ. That is, being gay and being a Christian are not compatible with Scripture or the Baptist Faith and Message (see 1 Cor. 9:6-11).
The SBC has also issued a number of resolutions dealing with these issues at annual meetings. In 1988, Southern Baptists said that they, “deplore homosexuality as a perversion of divine standards and as a violation of nature and natural affections.” In 1996, “God makes it clear in Scripture that even desire to engage in a homosexual sexual relationship is always sinful, impure, degrading, shameful, unnatural, indecent and perverted (Rom. 1:24-27).” Again in 1996, “homosexual attractions are pathological, abnormal, and mostly if not entirely a matter of external influence.”
In 2017 the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood authored a statement known as “The Nashville Statement.” This statement has been signed by 5 of our current SBC Seminary Presidents: Al Mohler, Danny Akin, Jason Allen, Adam Greenway, and Jeff Iorg, and also by many other Southern Baptists. I do not mean to impugn any person who hasn’t signed. I thought my own name was on there but I couldn’t find it. I only mean to point out that the Nashville Statement is representative of the historic Southern Baptist position on homosexuality.
The statement says things like, “WE DENY that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption” (Article 7). Also, “WE DENY that sexual attraction for the same sex is part of the natural goodness of God’s original creation,” (Article 8), and “WE AFFIRM that the grace of God in Christ gives both merciful pardon and transforming power and that this pardon and power enable a follower of Jesus to put to death sinful desires and to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” (Article 12).
The historic and biblical Southern Baptist position on homosexuality, then, is that it is sinful to practice, sinful to desire, and ought to be opposed. There is hope for those who have committed sexual sin because of Christ. Praise God! Those who have sinned sexually are called to repent of their sins and believe the gospel. And in Christ, they are no longer the old person, but new and are called to live joyfully in that new identity. Additionally, there is hope for those dealing with same-sex attractions as they seek to walk in the grace of the Lord and mortify their sin.
Given our current cultural climate and the watching world, it is incredibly important that the Southern Baptist Convention maintains this stance on the sin of homosexuality.
Marcus Hayes and the 2022 SBC Pastor’s Conference
What does all of this have to do with Anaheim? One of the speakers for this year’s June 2022 Pastor’s Conference, the event that happens before the SBC Annual Meeting, is a man by the name of Marcus Hayes. It should be noted that the SBC Pastor’s Conference is quite influential. So, the men who preach at it are not inconsequential.
But who is Marcus Hayes? I do not know him personally. I was introduced to his existence during the FBC Naples situation in the Fall of 2019 when that church was accused of racism for not calling him to be the Senior Pastor (see below). I cannot speak to the hearts of the people at FBC Naples. But I do know there is evidence that many opposed Marcus, not because of his skin color, but because of his positions on things like homosexuality. In one interview, Marcus Hayes said, “Homosexuality is a sin. Same-sex attraction, I don’t know. I would say that’s not a sin.” (The video evidence of him saying this is linked at the bottom in order to keep the flow of this post moving.)
It is true that Marcus is just one man and that everything spoken on the stage at the SBC Pastor’s Conference does not necessarily mean it is endorsed wholesale by the Southern Baptist Convention. I would even venture to say that the subject of same-sex attraction probably won’t come up in Marcus’s sermon in Anaheim, or any of the other speaker’s messages I’m sure. The issue is, though, that this represents a shift in Southern Baptist thinking.
I’m sure 100% of Southern Baptists would affirm that blowing up hospitals is a sin. I would likewise assume that the same percentage would also say it is a sin to desire to blow up a hospital even if that is not being acted upon at the moment. A person who desired to blow up a hospital would be rebuked and counseled to repent and mortify such a horrid desire. And, frankly, I am sure any pastor who publicly stated it wasn’t a sin to desire to blow up hospitals would not be invited to be on stage during the SBC’s Pastor’s Conference.
Or, if this analogy doesn’t work for you because it doesn’t deal with “attraction” then take this one: What about the adult person who is attracted to a child? A man is not fit to be a pastor if he says that an adult being attracted to a child is anything other than twisted and wicked sin.
Why, then, is homosexuality given a pass? I believe it is because of the enormous pressure we have on us from the outside world. And I think it may be indicative that perhaps for longer than many of us realize, some key leaders in the SBC have been “Side B” on the issue of homosexuality. That is, Christians can “be gay” so long as they do not act out on these desires. This would be a seismic shift in how conservative Christians have historically understood the issue. Additionally, “Side B” is only a temporary stop to “Side A” which is the full embracing of homosexuality.
Only heightening this concern is the recent endorsement of James Merritt of the preaching of his openly gay son, and the public affirmation of James’s actions by Send Network President, Vance Pitman, and SEBTS President, Danny Akin. Thus, it is difficult not to wonder if the SBC is adapting its historic stance on the issue of homosexuality right before our eyes. Or, perhaps this is already the position, and these recent events are bringing it more and more to light.
Sadly, it seems that Southern Baptists are so concerned with how the world might think of us that we have forgotten the most important thing is what God thinks of us. And that to capitulate on His Word is to besmirch His glory. And ultimately, to back off of the Scripture’s teaching on sin is damning to the world around us. It is essential that the Southern Baptist Convention remain strong on these issues.
The Clarity of Scripture
The Fall of Adam and Eve was a result of the Serpent’s desire to obfuscate the Word of Yahweh. We talk a lot today about the SBC’s need to uphold the sufficiency of Scripture and to bow to the authority of Scripture. But we must not forget that the perspicuity of Scripture is also under attack. So, when it comes to same-sex attraction and whether or not it is a sin, some brothers and sisters use phrases like “I’m wrestling with this issue” or “it’s complicated” or “it’s controversial” or “good people differ on this issue” or “we can just agree to disagree”, etc. When in reality, this “nuance” is in the service of Satan.
The Scriptures are clear that homosexuality is a sin. The Word of God is clear that “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:24). This doesn’t mean Christians never have any sinful desires. But it does mean when sinful desires, whether it’s same-sex attraction, greed, covetousness, lust, etc., rear their ugly head, they must be mortified (cf. Rom. 8:13) and not celebrated or passed off as “that’s not a sin.”
To nuance the issue of same-sex attraction or to outright say that it is not a sin, is ultimately an attack (intentional or not) on the clarity of the Scriptures. And given the current cultural climate in America, it is quite a statement for the Southern Baptist Convention to platform someone who says that same-sex attraction is not a sin. Hopefully, Pastor Marcus has grown in his understanding of this issue and will clarify that homosexuality and same-sex attraction is a sin. If he does not, it will be extremely disappointing to see him take the stage in Anaheim. It will represent more of the shift toward liberalism that so many of us have been sounding the alarm for for some time only to be told we are “divisive” and that there is “no drift.”