Last week the Religious Herald reported the recent ordination at a Richmond church. According to reports, Ginter Park Baptist Church ordained (September 16) an openly gay man to the Ministry. As a result of the ordination, Ginter Park Baptist Church was asked to voluntarily withdraw membership from the Baptist General Association of Virginia. I affirm the decision and action by the Virginia Baptist Mission Board’s Executive Committee.
Neither the ordination nor the Executive Committee’s response surprise me – it’s the day and time in which we live. What did trouble me was the subsequent lengthy conversation by the Virginia Baptist Mission Board members debating the Executive Committee’s response. I’m concerned with the rationalizing voices on Virginia Baptist Mission Board. One member voiced we’d lose churches to another convention if action wasn’t taken. Maybe true, but when has fear been a basis for solid decision-making? Leadership demands principled decision-making and not from a fear based reactionary mindset. Talk principles and not fear. Another member either blatantly or unknowingly misconstrued a dearly held Baptist distinctive (Priesthood of the Believer) in an attempt to avoid the issue all together. You cannot entertain the Priesthood of the Believer without the Priesthood of the Believers. Priests live in (accountable) covenant community. The Priesthood of the Believer isn’t a license nor is it something to hide behind. The “autonomy of the local church” argument was quickly inserted into the argument. Yes, every Baptist church is autonomous and can decide its actions accordingly. A church cannot expect to maintain an affiliation with an association of churches when its actions contradict the association’s guidelines, principles, and practices.
The more I read in the Herald, the greater my concern grew. In my opinion, there is a significant leadership void on the Virginia Baptist Mission Board. We can’t afford fearful reactionary leadership! We cannot afford misguided leadership. We need fearless competent leadership! Where are the Baptist leaders in our state? We can do better! We must do better! We desperately need a governance change to alter the way Virginia Baptist Mission Board members are vetted.
As I look to the Annual Meeting in Roanoke, I’m looking for real leadership in officer nominations. The notion of alternating clergy and laity compounded by unwritten service expectations is craziness. Let’s just elect the best leaders. Why penalize an organization due to archaic unofficial processes? Are we going to elect a president who served twenty-five years ago again just because he’s familiar with big numbers (that are dwindling annually)? While I think the nominee to be a good man, I believe we need a fresh wind. It is time for change!
Why this and why now? Someone has to say what others are thinking and talking about behind closed doors around the state. There needs to be voice and I believe WE can do BETTER!