Give me Twenty Four People
I haven’t written much about Baptist life this summer. I’ve been on my own journey of discovery and redemption, but I haven’t written about the corporate life of my tradition, and it’s not because of a lack of material. But today, I happened across something, via the ABP, that made my blood boil: The Daviess-McLean Baptist Association of Kentucky voted 242-24 to remove Journey Fellowship Church from its body. Big deal, right? I mean associations disfellowship churches all the time, right? The Reluctant Baptist wrote about it just a week or so ago. I honestly don’t know how often it happens, but the situation surrounding this particular insistence is particularly ugly. The Association punished Journey Fellowship for allowing a Kentucky chapter of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), to meet in its building.
I said earlier that this made my blood boil. That was an understatement. This made me livid. I’m still livid, nearly eight hours after reading the original story. I’m so livid that I am literally shaking at my keyboard. There is a passionate desire for justice in me like I have never felt before. And so I continue.
I ask you, who but the local congregation has the right to determine who can meet in their building? Who but the worshipping body can extend their sacred space to another group of fellow humans in a beautiful and tender moment of true worship? What right does the association have to forbid a church from demonstrating the love of Christ to members of the community? Jesus invited people into space all the time, and now certain people would deny people entry into the very place where this inviting Jesus is worshipped. It disgusts me.
And why are they doing this? Well, because allowing PFLAG to meet within the walls of Journey Fellowship ONCE A MONTH is considered “implied acceptance of homosexuality, which the majority of the association views as sinful.” You know what PFLAG is all about? Promoting the health and well-being of LGBT individuals, educating the general public about LGBT issues, advocating for the civil rights of the LGBT community, and working for a society in which all people are viewed as equals and treated with the dignity and respect that we all deserve as human beings. God damn me straight to Hell right now if I’m wrong, but not one of those things even approaches sin. In fact, I’d say the goals of PFLAG are pretty holy.
It gets worse. Jerry Tooley, executive director of the Daviess-McLean Association, claims he was just trying to “take [a] stand for the truth that God’s word teaches.” Tooley, however, clearly means only certain truths. He wants to support what he believes is anti-gay teaching in scripture, but you can be damn sure that he would never disfellowship a church for holding a divorce support group, despite the fact that Jesus forbids divorce on all grounds except for infidelity. Tooley wants to defend the “plain truth” of verses like Romans 1:27 while ignoring the reality of the parallel verse in Genesis: “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Tooley and those like him are dictating the terms of God’s grace, and the time has come to stop.
After all that, you might be tempted to despair. I know I certainly was (and, to an extent, still am). But I noticed something last night when I finally sat down to write this. Twenty four people in the Daviess-McLean association voted against removing this church from their fellowship. Twenty four. Forget the 242 who voted to kick this church out. Give me the twenty four who voted to keep them, and we can change the world. Give me twenty four brave, prophetic, loving, unashamed souls, and you will see the Kingdom. Give me twenty four people who actually mean “on earth as it is in heaven,” and God will show us love like we’ve never seen.
So keep the faith, Journey Fellowship Church, and know that at least twenty four brave men and women stand with you. After all, didn’t God offer to spare even Sodom on account of ten righteous people? If God was willing to do even that, how much more can he do in a place like Owensboro, where God’s work is being done, and where there are at least twenty four righteous people?