In private meetings and one-on-one encounters during the week, Southern Baptists and gay-rights advocates said they established relationships they hope will carry both sides through a time of deep cultural change, particularly as the church navigates issues such as the increasing acceptance of same-sex marriage.
Southern Baptists took their first steps towards their eventual acceptance of same-sex marriage by meeting with members of the LGBT community at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission 2014 Conference in Nashville. While neither side relinquished their position, most in attendance agreed that a shift had indeed taken place.
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (KJV)
NASHVILLE, Tenn.—A gathering of Southern Baptists here opened this week with Albert Mohler, stalwart head of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, apologizing for “denying the reality of sexual orientation,” but saying orientation “can change.”
It closed with a pastor saying “no one goes to hell for being homosexual,” but he added Christians must remind gay friends and family members that “the day of judgment is coming.”
The statements from the largest and one of the most conservative Protestant denominations made waves in the religious and gay communities. Some praised the Southern Baptist Convention for softening its tone and message when discussing homosexuals. Critics complained that nothing really had changed.
But others who attended said a shift was taking place. In private meetings and one-on-one encounters during the week, Southern Baptists and gay-rights advocates said they established relationships they hope will carry both sides through a time of deep cultural change, particularly as the church navigates issues such as the increasing acceptance of same-sex marriage.
Mr. Mohler this week met with Matthew Vines, an openly gay Christian author who argues the Bible doesn’t prohibit lifelong same-sex marriage. Mr. Mohler wrote a response to Mr. Vines’ book, “God and the Gay Christian.”
“It was a gracious, honest conversation. I think all evangelical Christians are having to learn anew how to discuss these issues,” Mr. Mohler said.
The pair agreed to keep in touch over email, and alert each other if one ever felt wrongly portrayed by the other.
“This was an amazing event,” said Mr. Vines. “Not for the public sessions but for the private meetings. It’s not like anyone is suddenly pro-gay,” said Mr. Vines. But, he added, “it feels like a new era.”