Fewer jokes and check your facts – those are two of the tips on handling homosexuality shared with Southern Baptist pastors gathered in Nashville.
The country’s largest protestant denomination is holding a first-ever summit on human sexuality this week. The Southern Baptist Convention typically avoids handing down dictates. But on homosexuality, the denomination is starting to get very specific.
“I just think we have to reject redneck theology in all of its forms,” pastor Jimmy Scroggins of West Palm Beach told ministers Monday night. “Let’s stop telling Adam and Steve jokes.”
A panel of five church leaders also told preachers to stop spreading falsehoods, like gay people were abused as children.
Overall, Greg Belser of Clinton, Miss., said pastors have to take particular care on this hot button topic.
“We’ve run off at the mouth, said things we shouldn’t have said. We’ve run around like a peacock all over the platform. We have said things because we were playing to the home team, and they all liked our act. On this issue, nobody likes our act, except the redneck factor.”
Belser says pastors should make friends with more gay people, whether their sexuality “agrees with our Bible or not.”
Still, the shrinking denomination isn’t giving ground on its position that homosexuality is a sin and that gay people who refuse to become celibate are not welcome as full members of Baptist churches.
One panelist suggested that the “culture war” is over on gay marriage and Baptists should become a “prophetic minority.”
Writer and theologian J.D. Greear said the denomination’s unpopular stance is “one of the biggest tests of faithfulness of this generation.”