Editorial: Casting Stones?
It happened last week in Greensboro. During the NC Baptist State Convention more than 2,000 delegates voted – in an overwhelming show of hands – to oust Charlotte’s Myers Park Baptist Church from its ranks over the issue of homosexuality.
The Charlotte church, which has been a part of the state convention since 1943, admits homosexuals to its congregation, which the group deemed “not in friendly cooperation with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.”
YES! Weekly has no stake in the solidarity of the Baptist Church, nor do we have any special knowledge of its inner workings. And it is not our desire to question the NC Baptists’ interpretation of scripture – they are secure in their right to worship as they see fit, as are we all.
But because the story has a Greensboro dateline, we feel the need to weigh in.
It seems like the NC Baptists are thinning their ranks even as they are tightening their entire ship; this same convention saw a movement towards severing ties between five state Baptist colleges and the NC convention, and some debate about whether to continue association with Baptist retirement homes and the Women’s Missionary Union. Whether this move towards separation represents an effort to achieve administrative efficiency by eliminating bureaucratic red tape or a move towards maintaining theological purity, we do not know.
But it’s interesting to see some dissolution among the ranks of Christians who have become in recent years an influential voting bloc and social force.
And it seems to us that denying homosexuals the opportunity to worship as Baptists is… well, not very Jesus-y.
After all, there’s just one passage that can be interpreted as anti-gay in the New Testament: a bit by Paul in Corinthians that denies entrance into the Kingdom of God to the “effeminate” and “abusers of themselves with mankind,” which means Andy Dick is definitely out.
But there’s quite a bit about loving one another, helping the poor and the sick, false prophets, feeding the hungry and condemning moneylenders.
If we were to take the Bible literally, which we don’t, we’d have to extrapolate that the stuff Jesus hit on a bunch of times is more important than that which gets only passing mention by one of his later apostles like Paul, who likely never had the pleasure of actually meeting Jesus.
Paul was an interesting figure – a tentmaker who held the coats of those who stoned St. Stephen to death before his conversion on the road to Damascus. He himself was also stoned nearly to death, imprisoned several times and eventually became a victim of capital punishment when Nero cut his head off in Rome.
Myers Park Baptist Church pastor Stephen Shoemaker may have been thinking of Paul when he made his case for inclusion in the NC Baptist Church.
“[We ask that] our unity not be based in particular matters of biblical interpretation, whether it be homosexuality, speaking in tongues… or the death penalty,” he said.
The NC Baptists work in cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention, which, it should be noted, supports the death penalty by virtue of Genesis, where the great flood is interpreted as a form of heavenly ordained capital punishment.
But there’s quite a bit in the New Testament about mercy towards prisoners, too.
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