At the annual meeting of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in June, a workshop addressed how churches can be "'the presence of Christ' among persons of same-sex orientation." From the reports I've read, this workshop could well be a good starting point for a frank and constructive discussion of what is really the critical question that these issues pose to the BGCT: What are the fundamentals of our faith?
What are the convictions that we hold, as Baptists, to be critical to calling yourself a Christian and, ultimately, a Baptist? That is, those essentials over which a church cannot disagree and continue to be in "fellowship" with the larger body. Or, in today's vernacular, "dealbreakers."
For some, calling a woman as pastor is a dealbreaker. When I was growing up, "use of intoxicating beverages" was a dealbreaker, prominently featured as such in the Church Covenant at the back of the Baptist Hymnal. Now? Not so much.
But back to Broadway and Royal Lane. Even those who agree that homosexual behavior is sinful disagree over whether practicing homosexuals should be permitted to serve in leadership positions. Is our position on these issues a fundamental of our faith, a dividing line that should break our fellowship, a dealbreaker?
Broadway's decision to leave simply tables the issue until it arises in the next church, and the BGCT will again have to deal with it. Whether you agree or disagree with Broadway's position, the BGCT needs churches like Broadway and Royal Lane to challenge us to discuss the hard issues . . . instead of sweeping them and their issues under the rug, we need to sweep them into a conversation that will challenge us to grapple with scripture passages whose meaning and intent depend on historical context, the audience at which they were aimed, nuances of language, and numerous other factors.
There are a few "dealbreakers" on which I suspect there would be little, if any, disagreement among Baptists: the sinfulness of humankind; the divinity of Christ; salvation by grace through faith in Christ; and believer's baptism, to name a few. But just how long is this list? And where do the treasured Baptist principles of priesthood of the believer, soul competency, and local church autonomy take over? For that matter, as Texas Baptists, don't we consider these Baptist distinctives themselves as fundamental to the integrity of our faith . . . dealbreakers, if you will?
This conversation needs to take place beyond the few who populate the BGCT Executive Board. It needs to take place among our churches and among those of us who fill Texas Baptist pews each Sunday. So I'll put this question to you:
What are – and aren't – Baptist "dealbreakers"? (and why?)