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?

  1. What a powerful reaction to a powerful situation. May we all be one of the twenty-four.

      • aaroncarr72
      • August 22nd, 2011

      Amen, sister! The ELCA is welcoming and affirming, yes? (Or whatever other adjectives they might use).

    • Gilbert M. Barnett, Minister of the Gospel of Christ
    • August 21st, 2011

    The Daviess-Mclean Association did not in any way vote to tell Journey what they could or could not do. Each church in the association is autonomous, and is able to and has the right to do as they wish. The vote to disfellowship was not to say no you can’t have this group meet in your building, but that the association did not want to be in fellowship with them, if it appeared that they were supporting them. By the way, I want you to understand that I don’t have a dog in this fight, because I don’t belong to a church in the asssociation. Just as Journey had the right to do what they did, so did the association. Each church that had representatives at the meeting, is autonomous and has a right to express their particular views of scripture, and stand where they believe to be according to scripture. It is my understanding that Journey had already disfellowshiped themselves from the association, so all that took place at that meeting was in answer to journey’s action. Furthermore, why would Journey want to be a part of a group that did not agree with, or believe the things they do. It must be understood, that this works both ways. So, if Journey should be allowed to do what they see as proper, then should the association not be allowed the same privilege? Again, I want to say that I do not speak for the association, or for any entity of the same, these are my personal observations of a situation, looking from the outside in. I will say that I as a Baptist minister do believe that we must find a place to stand and stand there. It has been said, ” If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything”. I don’t have the time nor the desire to get into an argument about the differences in divorce, and homosexuality, but they are there. Yes Jesus did fellowship with all manner of sinners, and the reason for that was not to draw attention to their cause, but to show them the way to salvation. God’s Word has among It’s pages, God’s thoughts on homosexuality, and divorce, as we as many other things.
    It is up to each individual Christian to decide what they believe about the contents of God’s Word, but it must be understood that on a day appointed to us all, we will answer for our personal translation of what it says. So I would urge and challenge each one to be very careful what you believe, and what you say. God Bless you and know that I love you, whoever you are in the Love of Christ Jesus our Lord, Yours in Christ, Bro. Gilbert M. Barnett

      • aaroncarr72
      • August 22nd, 2011

      Rev. Barnett,

      I fail to see any distinction between the two points you try and make in your first paragraph. While I suppose it is true that disfellowshipping and forbidding are semantically two different things, they carry the same connotation. Daviess-McLean disagrees with what Journey Fellowship is doing, and has taken all available measures to their disagreement and opposition. It is my belief they did not forbid Journey’s actions simply because they cannot.

      Which brings up my second point (cut from the original draft of this post) that the traditional Baptist conviction is autonomy of the local church, not autonomy of the regional congregation. Yes, the association has autonomy in that exists as an entity with the right to decision making capabilities, but the locus of interpretation, authority, and expression of faith has always been within the local body. An association is not a local body, and thus Daviess-McLean is attempting to circumvent their culpability by claiming an interpretation of autonomy that has historically never existed.

      As for Journey’s motivations in remaining a part of Daviess-McLean, I can think of several. One, they desire continued fellowship with Baptists in their area and possibly reconcile relationships and educate those who may not know much about LGBT issues. Two, it is extremely difficult for independent Baptist churches of any kind to obtain important resources that are easy to access as a member of a wider association (just ask independent Baptist pastors in New Orleans about their experiences post-Katrina). There are probably more, but you’d have to ask the folks at Journey about them.

      I am thankful that you have “found a place to stand,” as you put it. Please understand that I, and (apparently) the folks at Journey, have found such a place as well. I (and I assume they) have certainly heeded your warning about carefully interpreting the word of God. This is not a subject I approach lightly (indeed, as I was writing this piece, I must admit that I felt more than a little prophetic) and I appreciate that you do not approach this lightly either. As for answering for mt interpretation of scripture, I’m a little more worried about Matthew 25: 31-46. : )

      Thanks for your thoughts,

      Aaron

    • Bro. Gilbert
    • August 24th, 2011

    Dear Aaron, I did not try to make a point, the point was already made. To forbid means you are saying, you can’t do that, to disfellowship means I will not do it with you. Each group made a choice. Each church, and each individual had the free will to do as they chose. Autonomy of the association stems from the autonomy of the individual voter. Each voter, whether pro or con made their choice, and as it is in our country, the majority prevailed. I hope that it continues to be so in our country. The autonomy of the individual promotes the autonomy of the church, and the autonomy of the church , is the autonomy of the association, The idea of the association is the banding together of people, and churches with like beliefs and values. Just like some people are democrats and others republican. There are definite differences in the values of the two the parties, and they don’t play well together. Also the representatives of each church, with authority given them by the church, did exercise that right and speak out for what they believed to be right. The vote expressed the wishes of the majority. Our country was founded as a democracy, and I believe still is a democracy. It was also founded to protect religious liberty, that is why we have a multitude of different religions in our country today. They band together in groups that have similar beliefs. Methodists, Assemblies of God, Catholic, etc. etc. etc. all separated by belief. As to journey wanting to be a part of the association to reap financial benefits, and I am just using your thought, is it fair to expect that when they don’t agree with the association. By the way I know about Independent baptist churches, one of my best friends was an independent baptist pastor. They choose to be independent, and in doing that they are able to do as they please. There is however a grouping together of independent baptist, and if you are southern baptist, you can’t belong. Is that unfair, no I don’t think so. That is their right as an autonomous body. I have friends from many denominations, and I love them, as they love me. Not because of who I am, but in spite of it. We just agree to disagree. I love them, but I will not attend church with them, because I believe differently than they do. It is because I have found a place to stand that I do that. I want to say again that I do not speak for the association, I speak only for myself. Finally I would like to say that God’s Word in the book of Amos, chapter three, verse three says, ” Can two walk together, except they be agreed”? If you and I try to work together, but we can not agree, how will we get anything done, if we are walking different directions. Please hear me when I say that I do respect Journey’s right to believe and do what they wish, I respect your right to believe and do what you wish. Please give me and the association that same right. Believe what you want, do what you want, be prepared to reap what you so. God Bless you, Bro. Gilbert

  1. August 22nd, 2011

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