Baptists: how many bad apples ruin the whole barrel? And who put them in there?
I have lost count of the number of conversations I have had over the last few days that include the phrase: ‘I don’t know how long I can remain in the Baptist Union.’
The vision of the Union is to: Grow healthy churches, in relationship, for God’s mission.
I would argue that we are ultimately failing on all of those measures. That’s not the fault of the current Leadership, I have huge affection of Lynn Green and many people working at Baptist House. It is however a systemic problem which means our ministers and members find it acceptable to be homophobic, sexist and racist and hide behind the caveat of it being ‘theological difference.’ I’ve long held the view that if your theology backs up your prejudices, then your theology needs changing.
I recently challenged a homophobe on the Baptist Facebook group, Baptist Collaboration UK. This particular person has been openly sexist in the past and was now being homophobic by calling LGBTQ+ people a ‘deception.’ It was argued by the admin that the writer was calling being LGBTQ+ is a deception and not the person themselves…obviously the admin has a different view of identity to me. The two LGBTQ+ people on that particular post called him out over this and put a laughing emoji to show our utter frustration at this. As the saying goes, if I didn’t laugh I would cry.
I am now suspended from this group because that was seen to be rude. The sexist and homophobe remains a member of it. How much this is sums up the experience of non-white evangelical males within the Baptist Union.
When I was going through Min Rec, at no point was I asked about my attitude on social issues. I was asked about what I viewed the role of the church, church structure, church leadership, preaching but never about my views of the world.
Now that could be a slippery slope, do we only allow in to training those whose views of the day we find acceptable? But on the flip side do we allow in people whose views are abhorrent even without knowing it because we never ask?
I have been dismayed at the level of debate and discussion in Baptist groups regarding the Black Lives Matter movement. This should not be a contentious issue. Often with issues of justice there is nuance, however there is a point where you are either on the right side of history and the wrong one.
My theological and spiritual views are on a very different plane to that of our current President but I was in absolute agreement with him recently when he shared an image which said: 'If you ever wondered what you'd do during slavery, the Holocaust or other civil rights movements; you're doing it now. Complicit?'
So often in the Baptist Union it is always the minority that has to be courteous at the expense of the white evangelicals not being so.
Why can white people say racist things and people of colour are told to gently and nicely tell them why that's hurtful?
Why can straight people say LGBTQ+ people are a deception and it’s the LGBTQ+ people who have to be nice and explain why that's painful?
Why are women told they can't lead this church by men because they are women and it's the women who have to accept that nicely and be calm and say thank you? Why are we funding sexist churches through Home Mission?
Why can't the majority for once accept that they need to listen and learn?
I am very much at the point of saying sod being courteous all the time, if I ever was. I am bored of it. It's got is virtually NOWHERE so far.
Unity in name only is not a way of moving forward as a union. We aren't 'together' as Baptists, we are poles apart but why pretend we aren't? We aren’t healthy when people of colour, women and LGBTQ+ people are often at their whits end having to explain themselves all the time.
These are not actually issues of theology, but of prejudice. Each one different, most certainly, but each one covered in some mystic theology to make is seem acceptable. It's not acceptable.
|These are not actually issues of theology, but of prejudice.|
The whole barrel is rotten and only getting rid of the bad apples will cure it. Otherwise the good ones will find other barrels to go to. And we need to be careful not to fill it with more bad apples simply because we are worried it's getting a bit empty.