Inclusion and Division

It's a pattern that is becoming familiar and will probably only become more so.

First Baptist Church, Greenville, SC, an historic and prominent church in Baptist life, has recently voted to adopt a "policy of non-discrimination on basis of sexual orientation or gender identity," immediately prompting the South Carolina state convention to ask them to leave.  So much for local church autonomy.

As a welcoming and affirming church, our stance is for full inclusion of all people in the life of the church and so we are proud of our brothers and sisters at First Baptist.  But I deeply wish change didn't have to come this way--through struggle, division, and bad blood.  The struggle is worth it, of course.  But just once, I'd like to hear a state convention, even those most opposed theologically, say something like: "It wouldn't be my decision, but it's not my church.  See y'all at the youth softball game."

I suppose this is at least part of what Jesus meant when he said those harrowing words in Matthew 10:

‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.’
— Matthew 10:34-36 (NRSV)

We live in a time of division, and I believe that if we cling to Love, we will come out better for the struggle.  But that doesn't make it easy.  So as we applaud First Baptist Church's decision, let's also pray for them as they feel the sting of separation.  And let's pray for those on the other side of this growing wall, because they are also God's children.

-Ben

For more information on First Baptist Church, Greenville, and on the growing controversy, read more at Baptist News Global.

**Just a note on the verse above--it's one that can be used in pretty much any direction you want.  Many would use it to reinforce the opposite point: that it proves that doctrinal "truth" is more important than inclusion.  I think it's an acknowledgement that following the path of Jesus, the path of love, isn't always easy and will sometimes turn even your closest friends against you.  I don't know that it has to be that way, but it often seems to.  I'm not a biblical scholar, so maybe I'm wrong.  But that's what it means in the context of this post.