The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s decision to lift its absolute ban of hiring homosexual and transgender individuals has drawn diverse reactions from within the Fellowship — and predictions that churches on both sides of the ideological spectrum could break ties with the CBF.
“The reality is that we’re liable to lose some churches — on the left and on the right,” Steve Wells, a Houston pastor who served on the CBF committee that recommended revising the Fellowship’s hiring policy, told Texas’ Baptist Standard newsjournal. “I really don’t believe it will be that many.”
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. predicted a more severe division within the CBF, writing in an online commentary it “was evident from the beginning” that “the LGBTQ revolution would be the fuse that would detonate the CBF.”
The CBF was founded in 1991 as a fellowship of churches that objected to the ideology and methods of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Conservative Resurgence.
The CBF Governing Board voted Feb. 9 to open some positions with the Fellowship to “Christians who identify as LGBT” but to continue to restrict “leadership positions in ministry” and missionary roles to believers “who practice a traditional Christian sexual ethic.” The policy change was recommended by the seven-member Illumination Project Committee appointed in 2016 to chart a unified path forward for the CBF amid diverse views on human sexuality.
The new hiring policy and an accompanying implementation procedure replaced the previous CBF hiring policy, which prohibited “the purposeful hiring of a staff person or the sending of a missionary who is a practicing homosexual.”
Following the Governing Board’s vote, some more conservative voices related to the CBF — including the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) — restated their belief that sexual expression should only occur within a heterosexual marriage. Some progressive CBF voices — including homosexual pastors — said the Governing Board did not go far enough in revising the policy.
The BGCT — which allows churches to designate a portion of their gifts through the state convention to CBF — issued a statement Feb. 12 underscoring the convention’s “long-held position” that homosexual behavior is sinful.
“In light of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Governing Board’s vote to approve the recommendations of the Illumination Project, Texas Baptists reaffirms its long-held position on Biblical sexuality and marriage,” the BGCT stated. “While we understand the decision-making process undertaken, our position remains unchanged. We believe the Bible teaches that any sexual relationship outside the bounds of a marriage between a man and woman is sin.
“Texas Baptists values every human individual, and our churches continue to be loving, respectful and welcoming to all people,” the BGCT said.
Howie Batson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Amarillo, Texas, which cooperates with CBF, told the Standard, “CBF’s position is completely confusing. If same-gender sexual behavior is wrong — and Scripture says that it is wrong — then it is wrong for all employees, not just certain employees. The double standard is a sure formula for failure that treats staff members as second-class employees.”
Julie Pennington-Russell, pastor of First Baptist Church of the City in Washington, expressed a moderating view on the Governing Board’s action, writing in a Baptist News Global column, “The new hiring policy represents genuine change,” but “there is room for shared disappointment.”
“Those who regard LGBTQ inclusion as a sin issue may feel that these changes reach too far,” Pennington-Russell wrote. “Those who regard LGBTQ inclusion as a justice and hospitality issue may feel that the implementation procedure doesn’t reach far enough.”
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Source: Baptist Press