AN OPEN LETTER TO THE ABC BOARD OF TRUSTEES
“Who Left The Gate Open?
THE AMERICAN BAPTIST COLLEGE BOARD OF TRUSTEES
By William Dwight Mckissic, Sr.

How is it possible that an unrepentant lesbian bishop, legally married to a female, be invited to preach and lead the Tuesday night worship service, at the prestigious 58th Annual Garnett-Nabrit Lecture Series, on the campus of American Baptist College, Nashville, TN?  Who opened the gate and let Bishop Yvette Flunder, for two consecutive years, come and preach/lecture to impressionable students—while she is arguably the face of the rapidly growing—“I’m Black, I’m Gay, I’m a Christian, and I’m Proud”—movement?  This is a critical question that National Baptists must answer, address and redress:  Who left the gate open? How did we get here?

If National Baptists don’t close this gate, now—and I mean “soon and very soon”—we will see more and more episodes of same-sex married partners leading worship and in any and all capacities in our churches. Does Bishop Flunder’s appearance at ABC signify the future for our churches, or is this simply an unfortunate and momentary lapse in administrative judgment?

While contemplating this clear question of responsibility and accountability for National Baptists and ABC, I recalled an applicable story told by the revered and fondly remembered Dr. Mack King Carter, one of our beloved, now departed colleagues in the NBCUSA, out of Ft. Lauderdale, FL.  On the floor of an Annual Session of our Congress back in the late ‘90’s, amidst a different, but yet highly publicized controversy, Pastor Carter cited an illustration similar to this:  The owner of a country meat house discovered early one morning that a fox had come in overnight and ravaged his shop. He also noticed on his way to the meat house that the butcher assigned to secure the facility had failed to do so the previous night.  While assessing the damage, he thought to himself, “I actually don’t know who is to blame; the fox that ravaged the spoils, or the butcher who left the gate open.”

As many of us contemplate the question—“How did we get here?”—I am much like the country meat house owner; I’m trying to figure out who actually is to blame: The fox that ravaged the meat or the butcher who left the gate open!

Bishop Yvette Flunder did not invite herself to ABC.  Regarding any responsibility or accountability for her invitation, Sister Flunder is certainly most innocent. There is no attempt to make her out to be a villain in this real live case scenario, or “reality show.” Who, then, is ultimately responsible and should be held accountability for Bishop Flunder’s dubious appearance? Clearly, a gate has been left open, our trust has been violated, and history alone will sadly reveal the incalculable damage resulting from this tragic blunder!

Ultimately, the American Baptist College Trustee Board are the individuals responsible for Bishop Yvette Flunder—a lesbian bishop, married to Shirley Miller—preaching and leading worship at the Garnett-Nabrit Lecture Series. The ABC Board of Trustees has remained silent during this whole discussion. Not only are they silent, but to the public at large they are invisible. But, back to the question, who left the gate open? Namely, ABC 2015 Board of Trustees:

Dr. Albert G. Berry, Board Chair
Berry Consultants
Nashville, Tennessee

Bishop Lawrence Kirby, Board Vice Chair
St. Paul Baptist Church
Racine, Wisconsin

Rev. Dr. Julius R.Scruggs
First Missionary Baptist Church
Huntsville, Alabama

Mr. Frank C. Davis
Frank C. Davis & Associates
Nashville, Tennessee

Ms. Linda Rose, Esq.
Rose Immigration Law Firm
Nashville, Tennessee

Dr. Iva Carruthers
Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference
Chicago, Illinois

Dr. Karen Brown Dunlap
President Emerita – Author – Educator – Lecturer
St. Petersburg, Florida

Mr. Dennie Marshall
Sun Trust Bank
Nashville, Tennessee

Rev. Samuel Hale
Zion Baptist Church
Springfield, Illinois

Rev. Dr. Wilma Johnson
New Prospect Baptist Church
Detroit, Michigan

Rev. Don Darius Butler
Tabernacle Community Baptist Church
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Ms. Sherri L. Neal
Hospital Corporation of America
Nashville, Tennessee

Rev. Dr. Darrell Drumwright
Temple Baptist Church
Nashville, TN

Mr. Webb Campbell, Atty.
Sherrard & Roe, PLC
Nashville, Tennessee

Ms. Latrisha Jemison
Regions Bank
Nashville, Tennessee

Rev. Derrick L. Jackson
First Baptist Church of Gallatin
Nashville, Tennessee

Rev. Tellis J. Chapman
Galilee Baptist Church
Detroit, Michigan

James A. Crumlin, Jr., Attorney
Bone McAllester North, PLLC
Nashville, Tennessee

These prominent and good-hearted men and women of God, owes it to their National Baptist family, answers to the following questions:

1. Did you and do you support the decision of President Forrest Harris to have invited Bishop Flunder for two consecutive years? And, if so, why?

2. What are the governance, ownership/proprietary, and legal relationship between ABC and NBC? The technical, accurate, actual, functional, and working answer to that question, seems to be shrouded in mystery and uncertainty?

3. Just as Vanderbilt School of Divinity makes it absolutely clear on their website that they affirm same-sex relationships; and it is promoted, protected, and respected…if this is now where ABC is as a school, is this a matter of official policy as it is at Vanderbilt? Or did ABC simply morph into this pro-gay agenda during the Forrest Harris administration?

4. Shouldn’t the ABC Board of Trustees come to the floor of the NBC and in a transparent and truthful manner report to the NBC, ABC’s current pro-gay philosophy and practice mindset?

5. How are board members appointed at ABC? Are they appointed by the NBC, or are they internally appointed?

6. Most, if not all, Christian colleges have an official doctrinal statement. What is ABC’s doctrinal statement?

7. How much money has the NBC donated to the ABC over the past five years?

8. Does the following quotes by President Harris as they appear in a Nashville, TN, newspaper—the Tennessean—accurately reflect the thinking and theology of ABC?

Pastors Oppose Lesbian Bishop Speaker at Baptist College

A Baptist college president in Nashville said Tuesday evening that people should not use “idolatry of the Bible” to discriminate against homosexuals.

“It’s sad that people use religion and idolatry of the Bible to demoralize same-gender-loving people,” American Baptist College President Forrest Harris said in response to criticism involving the decision to allow a lesbian bishop to speak there.

What does Harris define as “idolatry of the Bible?

“When people say (the Bible) is synonymous with God and the truth,” he said. “We can’t be guided and dictated by a first-century world view.”

The decision by the Nashville college to schedule a married, lesbian bishop to speak at the school next week has enraged some conservative black preachers who believe homosexuality is a sin and have called for the college president to rescind the invitation.

The National Baptist Convention, the largest predominantly African-American Christian denomination in the United States and the one with which the Nashville college is affiliated, has promoted the event on its official website.

American Baptist College has defended its decision to invite Bishop Yvette Flunder to speak at the annual Garnett Nabrit Lecture Series at the school, March 15-18. She is scheduled to speak about her work advocating for the rights and needs of people suffering from HIV and AIDS. The event will be the second time Flunder has spoken at the school, a historically black college with many connections to leaders in the Civil Rights movement.

The National Baptist Fellowship of Concerned Pastors, also affiliated with the National Baptist Convention, questioned Harris and the president of the National Baptist Convention.

“For a Baptist college president to invite a lesbian bishop legally married to a woman, to be a guest speaker and worship leader on a Baptist college campus is irresponsible, scandalous, non-biblical, and certainly displeasing to God,” the news release said.

The group asked Harris to rescind Flunder’s invitation, for National Baptist Convention President Jerry Young to release a statement revealing his stance on Flunder and for Young to remove promotion of Flunder’s appearance at the college from the National Baptist Convention website.

If Harris and Young refuse to rescind Flunder’s invitation, the groups asked that the event be moved from American Baptist College facilities.

Reverends Randy Vaughn and Dwight McKissic, co-coordinators of the conservative pastor group called Harris’ words “disheartening” “heretical,” and said he “trampled on the beliefs of the school’s founders.”

“It is so disappointing and disheartening that at the American Baptist College, where the land was bought and paid for by Baptists who took the Bible literally, their blood, sweat and tears are being trampled on,” said McKissic, senior pastor of the Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas. “We believe the Bible and its teachings. We believe homosexuality – as a matter of fact all the Bible talks about as sin – is sin.”

Vaughn, pastor of the Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in Port Arthur, Texas, said the moment can’t go forward without there being a recorded protest.

Both pastors said more than 150 conservative National Baptist Convention Christians have joined their group.

But Harris said the group of pastors that has criticized his decision does not understand and has misinterpreted the theology of the large Baptist denomination to which they belong.

“I think they have misappropriated the theology of the National Baptist Convention which says that churches and individuals can hold their own theological beliefs about what they think is right and wrong,” Harris said. “It’s tragic these conservative pastors are in opposition to what education ought to be about, to expose students to critical moral thinkers and a broad education.”

The concerned pastors want Young and Harris to alert students, parents, alumni and all National Baptist Convention pastors and churches that Flunder has been invited to the school for two years.

Harris has said the demands of the group of pastors and their requests “fly in the face of everything that ABC stands for as an institution of higher education rooted in the cause of social justice and equality for all,” according to a news release sent to The Tennessean on behalf of the of the school Tuesday.

Harris also said the American Baptist College has received federal funding and expresses “neither favor nor disfavor of positions, groups or individuals (who speak at the school) in accordance with state and federal laws prohibiting discrimination.”

Reporter Jordan Buie can be reached at 615-726-5970 or on Twitter @jordanbuiehttp://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2015/03/10/pastors-oppose-lesbian-bishop-at-baptist-college/24727465/The Tennessean

9. Do you support the following quote in a letter in support of President Harris and Bishop Flunder which says the following:

“American Baptist College is dedicated to educating students to be strengthened in believing, practicing and proclaiming the liberating gospel of Jesus. The students of American Baptist College deserve to know that the gospel of Jesus is believed, lived and preached by faithful people, who are in committed, same-sex relationships in the same way the gospel of Jesus is believed, lived, and preached by faithful people who are in committed heterosexual relationships.”

10. Again, do you approve or disapprove of the decision of Forrest Harris to invite Bishop Flunder, and his belief that we cannot be guided by a “first century worldview”—a reference to the Bible?

There are 200 supporters who’ve signed petitions, thus far, in disagreement with the Bishop Flunder invite. I respectfully await your answers as to whether or not you agree.

“Who Left the Gate Open?”

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