A DEFINING MOMENT FOR THE NATION AND THE NATIONAL BAPTIST CONVENTION

Ten Reasons Why American Baptist College President Forrest Harris Should Rescind Lesbian Bishop Yvette Flunder’s, Garnett-Nabrit Lecture Invitation

By William Dwight McKissic, Sr.

Discussions, deliberations and decisions, regarding the legality and morality of same-sex marriage—have wound their way through courts of justice, halls of Congress, city councils and county governments, local school districts, voting booths and the office of the President of the United States. These discussions have been a part of American families’ table talks for many, many years, because many American families are impacted personally by an immediate or extended family member who is engaged in a same-sex relationship, or contemplating and evaluating their sexual identity.

The Supreme Court of the United States of America is scheduled to debate the legal fate of same-sex marriage in the United States on April 28 (http://www.wsj.com/articles/supreme-court-to-hear-same-sex-marriage-arguments-on-april-28-1425573877).  They are likely to issue an opinion before they adjourn this summer. Consequently, gay marriage could be legal throughout the length and breadth of America by the end of June. The Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage will be a defining moment for our nation; and their decision will have a trickle-down effect, and incredible influence and impact on every other sector in society. Gay marriage will then be the law of the land.

Not only are these discussions, deliberations and decisions taking place in the secular realms of society—they have also landed on the doorsteps of America’s churches and denominations, Christian colleges and universities. Needless to say, these are serious and often uncomfortable conversations for the Christian community to hold and process. Nevertheless, the changing culture in our society has made these discussions, deliberations and decisions absolutely necessary.

The Southern Baptist Convention has gone on record many, many times, officially, by way of resolution, declaring a non-negotiable, non-compromising, emphatically clear position that marriage is between one man and one woman. President William J. Shaw and President Julius Scruggs (immediate past presidents) have gone on record declaring personal convictions in writing, that the NBC believes that marriage biblically is between a man and a woman; but there has never been an official declaration, voted on by the NBC in their annual session that specifies that the NBC believes that marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman. I was present in Jackson, MS, at the NBC Mid-Winter Board Meeting, this past January when the newly elected President (September 2014) of the NBC, Dr. Jerry Young, announced that he will appoint or already had appointed a resolutions committee to develop a resolution/position statement to be voted on by the NBC later this year, on the subject of same-sex marriage. It is certainly high time that the largest organized body of Black Christians anywhere in the world take a definitive, official stand on this subject.

Previously, the NBC had issued a statement instructing its’ chaplains to only perform marriages between a man and a woman. I am so grateful and proud of President Young for making a decision to lead the NBC to adopt an official position on same-sex marriage. I anticipate that we will get an update on this resolution in June in Detroit, at the Annual National Baptist Congress gathering, or in September of this year, in Memphis, at the Annual Session of the NBC. We certainly need to be in prayer for President Young as he guides our beloved NBC through these turbulent and unchartered waters related to developing a resolution/policy on same-sex marriage.

In the meantime, Dr. Forrest Harris, President of American Baptist College in Nashville, TN—a school we are often told during the NBC Annual Session, is owned and operated by the Convention—has very aggressively made his decision regarding affirming persons in same-sex marriages. For the second consecutive year, Dr. Harris has invited lesbian bishop, Yvette Flunder, to serve as a guest lecturer and worship leader at the 58th Annual Garnett-Nabrit Lecture Series, held on the campus of ABC, and in the World Baptist Center facility, that’s owned by the NBC.

The land that ABC and the World Baptist Center sit on in Nashville, TN, was purchased by Negro Baptists in the first quarter of the 20th Century. The Black Baptists of that era were adamantly opposed to same-sex relationships based on biblical grounds. It is a dishonor, and an act of disrespect to those sainted souls, for President Harris to now host a lesbian bishop on those hallowed grounds.

Bishop Yvette Flunder, the lesbian bishop invited by Dr. Harris, and Dean Emilie Townes, the lesbian Dean of Vanderbilt Divinity School, where Dr. Harris also works, are both on record stating that the Bible does not address consensual same-sex relationships. It is disheartening to discover that Dr. Harris is introducing this false and heretical teaching to the campus of ABC. By extension, he is associating and influencing the Baptist students at ABC, and all the NBC churches to Flunder’s, Townes’ and Harris’ point of view that the Bible does not address same-sex relationships. This is a very serious matter. Bishop Flunder is expected to lead worship, preach and deliver a luncheon lecture on March 17-18, on the NBC, ABC campus. What a horrible day to trample on the history of those who sacrificed to buy the land for ABC, and to validate the heretical teaching of Flunder and Townes, that the Bible does not address homosexual relationships.

Bishop Flunder’s UCC denomination validates same-sex marriages. Emilie Townes’ Vanderbilt School of Divinity affirms same-sex marriage and homosexual relationships. Forrest Harris’ American Baptist College has not sanctioned same-sex marriages, nor has the NBC, that Harris is accountable to. Dr. Harris’ NBC constituency does not sanction and support gay marriage as does Flunder’s and Townes’ affiliations; therefore, the NBC must hold them accountable for this breach of trust.

There are ten reasons why Dr. Harris ought to rescind the invitation of Bishop Flunder to speak at ABC. It is also my prayer that Bishop Flunder would respect the history and biblical traditional beliefs of the NBC on this subject and voluntarily refrain from fulfilling Dr. Harris’ invitation.

  1. Bishop Flunder’s presence and preaching at ABC gives a false legitimacy to gay theology, gay apologetics, and gay exegesis. Her false views regarding what the Bible says and does not say regarding same-sex relations are validated by her welcome and acceptance at ABC.
  2. Bishop Flunder is legally married to Shirley Miller. Her presentation at ABC as a partner in a same-sex marriage makes an “incarnational” powerful statement to the students at ABC that her lifestyle is accepted and affirmed by the ABC administration and their denominational affiliation—NBC.
  3. Consequently, Bishop Flunder’s presence raises serious questions about the belief system, doctrine, and practices of the NBC constituency with regard to same-sex relationships. It is not a stretch to believe that Bishop Flunder would not be invited unless her “marriage” was thought to be approved of by the NBC.
  4. Bishop Flunder’s presence advances the gay agenda within and outside of the church. Does the NBC really want to play a role in that advancement? If practicing homosexuality is approved by the Black Baptist church—and her presence implicitly says that it is –on what basis then do we proclaim that fornication and adultery is wrong?
  5. Bishop Flunder’s presence presents a model of family life that the Bible does not support.
  6. Bishop Flunder’s presence exposes a lack of accountability structures in place within the NBC. Almost without exception, every NBC pastor, including our President Dr. Jerry Young, does not support Bishop Flunder’s appearance; yet, we are all powerless to stop it. That’s a huge problem and one that needs to be fixed in short order.
  7. Bishop Flunder’s coming represents a departure from the faith of our fathers, including Martin Luther King. King wrote a statement disapproving of same-sex relationships that can be accessed here: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/16/what-did-mlk-think-about-gay-people/.
  8. Bishop Flunder’s presence as a lecturer reinforces the false notion that gay-rights, civil rights, and justice issues are synonymous and compatible. ABC is aiding and abetting the gay community to hijack the language of the Civil Rights Movement with their affirmation of Bishop Flunder’s same-sex marriage.
  9. Bishop Flunder is scheduled to address the subject of AIDS at the prestigious Nannie Helen Burroughs Luncheon. Does ABC really believe that a person who affirms and advocates same-sex relationships is the most qualified person to address this subject?
  10. Bishop Flunder’s presence calls into question, if ABC and NBC could affirm the following statement adopted by Erskine college after two male athletes on their campus involved in a same-sex relationship became public knowledge:

“Christ affirms that marital union is to be between a man and woman (Matt 19:4-6). The Bible teaches that monogamous marriage between a man and a woman is God’s intended design for humanity and that sexual intimacy has its proper place only within the context of marriage (1 Thes. 4:3-5, Col. 3:5-7). Sexual relations outside of marriage or between persons of the same sex are spoken of in scripture as sin and contrary to the will of the Creator (Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 1 Tim. 1:9-11).

We believe the Bible teaches that all sexual activity outside the covenant of marriage is sinful and therefore ultimately destructive to the parties involved. As a Christian academic community, and in light of our institutional mission, members of the Erskine community are expected to follow the teachings of scripture concerning matters of human sexuality and institutional decisions will be made in light of this position.” (Emphasis mine)

Our current structure and system can’t stop a college president who does not believe that homosexuality is sin, from advancing his non-biblical views and pro-gay agenda on the students at ABC. Many of those students will become pastors and staff members at our churches. They will ultimately bring a different viewpoint to the people in the pews, than what National Baptists have historically believed. That is why Bishop Yvette Flunder’s coming is an ill-thought idea. Perhaps Bishop Flunder will do ABC and the NBC family a great favor and save us from this national embarrassment and scandal, by simply deciding that she will not appear at the Lecture Series at ABC. And prayerfully, the resolution/position statement that the NBC will adopt will convey to the College a clear position that the NBC does not in any way, shape, form or fashion endorse gay marriage. Consequently, if the College respects the position/statement of the NBC, “institutional decisions will be made in light of this position” and this kind of decision will never happen again. If Dr. Forrest Harris insists on following through with the invitation of Bishop Flunder, he needs to be forced to resign or be fired by the Board of ABC for violating the trust, the Bible and beliefs of the vast majority of National Baptists. Contrary to the thinking of Dr. Harris, Bishop Flunder and Dean Townes, the Bible is crystal clear on the subject of same-sex relationships. By comparing the Civil Rights Movement with the gay rights movement, they are comparing one people’s sin with another people’s skin. To do so is tragic, sinful and shameful. And this is what Forrest Harris is leading the American Baptist College to do, partially funded by NBC dollars. National Baptists need to rise up and let their voices be heard on this issue.

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