A REPLY TO DR. DELMAN COATES FROM PASTOR DWIGHT MCKISSIC,
CO-CHAIRMAN OF THE NATIONAL BAPTIST FELLOWSHIP OF CONCERNED PASTORS
APRIL 15, 2015
Dr. Coates, grace and peace to you in the Name of our Great King, Jesus Christ. Thanks for your thoughtful and thorough response to the National Baptist Concerned Pastors Press Release regarding three pro-gay marriage speakers who recently appeared on the campus of American Baptist College, Nashville, TN. The tenor and tone of your response posted at “Many Voices: Black Church Movement for Gay and Transgender Justice” seeks to communicate truth, wrapped in a veil of tenderness. As you know, with regard to same-sex marriage, you and I don’t share agreement on what the truth is. Nevertheless, it is my desire to “speak the truth in love” in reply to your response, just as you sought to do. When and if an opportunity presents itself, I too would welcome an opportunity to dialogue concerning this matter.
The National Baptist Fellowship of Concerned Pastors (NBFCP) believe that the Bible teaches that all sex outside of God’s plan for marriage, and sex between same-sex partners, married or unmarried, is sin. This is the historical tradition held by the Church and most societies on the planet for more than 5000 years. Therefore, if there is anyone pushing a divisive agenda, it would be those who are seeking to undermine and overturn 5000 years of established tradition. Dr. Forrest Harris, President of American Baptist College, in extending an invitation to three proponents of same-sex marriage that contradicts the published positions regarding marriage on the NBC website—is the one responsible for fostering division. Blaming those of us who are “currently contending for the faith that was once delivered to the saints” “for the potential division,” is simply a dishonest response to the facts.
Allow me to address your concern that our request to ask American Baptist College to rescind the invitation to Bishop Flunder “seems contrary to what one would expect from an institution of higher learning that seeks to encourage the free exchange of ideas.” You are correct, Dr. Coates: Colleges are historically places where “free exchange of ideas” is encouraged.
Just as there are limits on free speech, there are also limits on a “free exchange of ideas” even in a college setting. As you know, one cannot yell “fire, fire” in a movie theater or any similar gathering place, unless there really is a fire. One can’t articulate language that’s designed to incite a riot, while addressing an emotionally charged audience. These are well-known exceptions to the idea and principle of “free speech.”
Likewise, there are limits and parameters that contextually a Baptist college speaker must honor, respect and not violate. Prostitution is legal in certain cities in Nevada. Yet, it would be inappropriate to affirm prostitution on a Baptist College campus. Payday lending loans that carry exorbitant interest rates are legal in many states, and some are owned by Black investors. But, it would be inappropriate to affirm payday lending loans in a message at a Baptist College, with young impressionable minds having to sort through the pros and cons of such a loan. Consenting sexual relations between an adult male and a sixteen year old male is legal in some states. Again, it would be inappropriate to affirm that “legal” act in a speech at a Baptist college. Same-sex marriage is currently illegal in the state of Tennessee. It is inappropriate to affirm same-sex marriage that’s in violation of the laws of Tennessee. Currently, on the NBC website, chaplains are only authorized to perform heterosexual marriages. You get the point. Even on a college campus all “free exchanges of ideas” are simply not wise or appropriate. I’m sure that you would agree with me on this.
Dr. Coates, you are correct that National Baptists permit a wide range of views on many different doctrinal topics, to repeat some that you’ve named: “Speaking in tongues…whether women can be deacons or ordained to preach, the return of Christ, whether there should be Baptist Bishops; the list goes on and on.” Honestly, I love the diversity of theological views permitted by National Baptists. I find this compelling and attractive, more so than any other existing Baptist denomination that I am aware of. However, we don’t offer a “range of views” on the applicability of the Ten Commandments, the Deity of Christ, the virgin birth of Jesus, the sinless life, the bodily resurrection, and the return of Christ. We don’t offer a “range of views” on “For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Historically, we have not offered “wide range of views” on the sanctity of marriage, and marriage is a union between one man and one woman. The same holds true for each individual Commandment. There is no wide range of views regarding “Thou shall not kill. Thou shall not steal, Thou shall not lie. Thou shall not covet. Thou shall not commit adultery.” Dr. Coates, it is simply not true that National Baptists offer a “range of views” on any and all theological subject matters. And when it comes to same-sex marriage, you know and I know, National Baptists have offered only one view…just as there is one Lord, one faith, and one baptism (Ephesians 4:6).
Dr. Coates, you are right again: the autonomy of the local church is a cherished Baptist freedom. American Baptist College is an institution whose charter clearly indicates that its Board of Trustees is to be appointed by the NBC and her President. Therefore, ABC should reflect the beliefs of the NBC.
If National Baptists allow any and all theological viewpoints, as your letter suggests, that literally means that a National Baptist pastor and church could embrace polytheism and bigamy; and based on your argument, the NBC should tolerate such a pastor based on local church autonomy, and the four “freedoms” referenced in your letter. Dr. Martin Luther King said “Freedom must always be within the framework of destiny.” What you are arguing for is an abuse of freedom in the name of Baptist autonomy.
With regard to the NBFCP not addressing other sins that clergy sometimes commit, my question to you is this: Of all the distinguished lecturers in the history of the Garnett-Nabrit Lecture Series, which one has publicly announced their sin, affirmatively preached their sins, and the congregation applauded their sin? I submit to you, Bishop Flunder is the only one that has come in and “worn her sin as a badge of honor,” to borrow language from Dr. Randy Vaughn. But to this extent I agree with you; when or if a lecturer comes to ABC and wear their sin “as a badge of honor” the NBFCP will be compelled to address that sin with the same tenacity that we’ve addressed Bishop Flunder’s. Please notify us if that happens, and we’ll get right on it.
At the heart of what it means to be an evangelical is to believe that the Bible is inspired and infallible. In my judgment, it is impossible for one to label himself or herself an evangelical while rejecting Matthew 19:4-6, where Jesus clearly taught the exclusivity of marriage between a man and a woman.
I don’t quiver or disagree with your distinctions regarding “civil law” and church law as it relates to marriage. In a Democratic society—as we see unveiling before our very eyes—indeed the democratic, legislative, and judicial processes may eventually redefine marriage in every state in the Union. It’s at that point that for the believer, God’s laws ought to trump man’s laws (Acts 5:29). There is a moral law for the believer that should supersede man’s law. And what you consider to be “marriage equality” the Bible would consider that to be moral insanity and gender identity confusion (Romans 1:14-32). It is baffling to me why preachers would quote and cite the Constitution in juxtaposition to the Bible.
Finally, “there may be indeed strong perspectives on all sides,” but ultimately the Word of God does not bow to contemporary culture; contemporary culture must bow to the Word of God.
I do not question whether or not one can be a Christian, and because of civil law, affirm same-sex marriage. I do question whether or not one can be an evangelical, and hold to a belief in same-sex marriage.
Regardless, though, I receive you as a Christian brother, I respect your success as a pastor, and your scholarship achievements. I respect your preaching/teaching gift. One of my members heard you deliver two messages at the ABC Lecture Series and was greatly impressed. She placed you in the tradition of C.A.W. Clark, E.K. Bailey and other great lecturer/preachers who’ve lectured at ABC.
I also humbly submit this reply in hopes that it will engender open dialogue and reflection. Compassionate faith and understanding are important traits for believers. I share your quest for these traits. If at any point that Bishop Flunder and/or yourself wish to dialogue further, I will gladly host. Dr. McMickle has offered to do the same at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School. I’m in Arlington, TX, in the DFW Metroplex. I will even provide first class hotel accommodations and meals, if you all travel here for a one-two day dialogue. We know going in, none of us are going to change our minds; but the understanding, love, “exchange of ideas” and various understanding of text, would certainly be informative. And I believe that we all are committed to mutual respect and compassion.
By the way, Bishop Flunder boldly stated that the press conference held by the NBFCP was “paid for by people who do not have our community’s best interest at heart.” For the record, Black pastors and Black Christians who want to preserve the sanctity of marriage in the Black community as being between one man and one woman, have paid for all expenses in total related to the travel, press conference and public relations firm. I would appreciate it if Bishop Flunder would retract this totally untrue misrepresentation.
817-468-0083, ext. 205
WILL LEE DANIELS, BISHOP YVETTE FLUNDER AND DR. FORREST HARRIS CONVINCE THE BLACK CHURCH/COMMUNITY TO AFFIRM HOMOSEXUALITY?
ORTHODOX CHURCHES MUST ADDRESS AND ADJUST TO THE NEW REALITY OF A GAY AFFIRMING AMERICA
By William Dwight McKissic, Sr.
April 1, 2015
Most churches in America were birth in an era when consensual sex between two persons of the same sex was a criminal offense; same-sex marriage was illegal; and homosexuality was viewed as deviant behavior. Until 1974, the American Psychiatric Association literally classified homosexuality as a mental illness. The old adage is true; however, “Time brings about a change.”
In the dawning of this new millennium, homosexuality has burst out of the closet and into the mainstream of American life and society. Satan has strategically and successfully sought to secure sanctioning for same-sex marriage in every sector of American society. The same-sex marriage quest for success is now knocking at the door of God’s sanctuaries, seeking a seat at the leadership table, under the banner marked “justice” and “equality.”
Along beside Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, Evangelicals, Mainline Protestant Liberals—the LGBTQIA wants to be recognized, respected and seated at the table of Christian brotherhood under the banner of “Welcome and Affirming Churches.” To deny the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Allies—allies are persons like President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton who passionately support the LGBTQIA community—a place at the table is considered discrimination, bigotry, homophobic, theologically and biblically ignorant; and practicing Bible idolatry. Interestingly, when President Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Jesse Jackson said before the 2008 Presidential elections that they believed marriage was exclusively between a man and a woman, none of them were called or viewed as bigots. If today you hold such a view, you are considered by the LGBTQIA and—“welcome and affirming churches” as discriminating toward homosexual couples.
There are many denominations, churches, affinity groups, and divinity schools, who have granted the LGBTQIA community a seat at the table. The orthodox, traditional Bible-believing conservative, evangelical wing of the church has not recognized the LGBTQIA community as a valid social category, or denominational—similar to “welcome and affirming churches”—for three primary reasons:
- We believe that the Bible teaches that all sex outside of marriage is sin.
- We believe that the Bible teaches that no person is born a homosexual or with a homosexual orientation.
- We believe that the Bible speaks clearly, unequivocally, and eternally regarding homosexuality and strongly condemns same-sex relationships, married or unmarried, and condemns fornication and adultery as well.
Therefore, in the words of the old Negro Spiritual, “Just like a tree planted by the water, I [we] shall not be moved.” For evangelicals, to change the Bible would have to change; and obviously that’s not going to happen.
The lines are being drawn fast, hard, and irrevocably among church groups and denominations surrounding the issue of same-sex marriage. Historically and currently, the Black church has held to biblical standards on the subject of homosexuality, but we are now being tested from within and without. In the past 40 years, how did we move from homosexuality being a “mental illness” and a felony and same-sex marriage being illegal, to it being “justice” and “equality,” “welcome and affirming” and approved of by every sector of society, except the evangelical church?
Reportedly, major high profile charitable foundations, have donated several million dollars to gay-friendly, Black-led, non-profit educational, ecclesiastical, and “social justice” entities, in order to persuade the Black Community to accept homosexuality. Lee Daniels—the creator of “Empire,” who is also Black and gay—was bold and brazen enough to admit that the purpose of “Empire” was to “blow the lid off homophobia” in the African-American community, with a depiction of the show’s lead character’s hostile relationship with his gay son. “Empire” is phenomenally popular and shows on Wednesday nights—going head to head with mid-week worship, and winning.
Lee Daniels is quite transparent about his goals as it relates to converting African Americans to accept and affirm homosexuality. In a response to the question regarding a gay character in “Empire,” Lee Daniels offers the following in Time Magazine:
“There are so many themes, but part of [my goal with Empire] was really to address homophobia in the African-American community and in the impoverished community. To educate people. Not that this is a gay show, but it’s one of many subject matters we hit on. There’s so much homophobia in the hip-hop community. It’s the civil rights of our time, and I think I am making a little bit of a contribution, because I’ve seen people change who were homophobic, after seeing this. “
Slowly, but surely, we are beginning to see leaks in the dam in the Black Church as it relates to compromising on same-sex marriage. We recently witnessed Bishop Yvette Flunder—the face of the: I’m Black, I’m Gay, I’m a Christian and I’m Proud Movement—introduce her legal female spouse in a worship setting at the headquarters of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., in the Baptist World Center, on the campus of American Baptist College, to an enthusiastic applause from a primarily “welcome and affirming” audience. This was truly a historic hour in a Black Baptist worship context—one that I’d thought that I would never, ever see. It would be my guess that no same-sex couple has ever been presented publicly in a traditional Black Baptist Church setting before.
The objection to Bishop Flunder’s coming was based on her same-sex marriage and practicing, proud lesbian lifestyle which was/is in violation of the Bible. Dr. Harris does not deny what the Bible says, but makes it relevant only for the First Century. Dr. Harris’ adamant stand in support of gay marriage is in defiance of the accrediting agency that has accredited ABC for the next ten years. The Association for Biblical Higher Education—the accrediting agency—requires that schools that they grant accreditation to affirm the following statement:
“We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.”
For a college president whose accreditation requires that he believe the Bible is “infallible,” his invitation and defense of the Flunder invitation is simply incomprehensible and impossible to reconcile with a belief that the Bible is “infallible.” The Bible cannot be “infallible” and irrelevant simultaneously. Harris’ view of intolerance must bow to the infallibility of Scripture.
It is impossible to reconcile the above requirement confession of the ABHE with Dr. Harris’ view of the Bible. Dr. Forrest Harris, President of ABC, defended Flunder’s appearance as a matter of not tolerating intolerance (“The Tennessean” article):
“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.’”
Reported by The Associated Press supporting Dr. Forrest Harris:
“In a phone interview, Harris noted the college’s long commitment to social justice. ‘We will not tolerate intolerance,’ he said.’”
It is a high, high probability that by late June of this year, the Supreme Court of the United States will sanction same-sex marriage in every State in the nation. Currently, it is approved in 37 states. The only hope that same-sex marriage does not become the law of the land this calendar year, is that the church comes together across racial and denominational lines, and hold a solemn assembly, seeking God’s face to Divinely intervene and prevent this from happening. Nevertheless, the Church needs to be prepared to address our position on homosexuality regardless to the decision that the Supreme Court takes.
Every Evangelical church needs to be prepared to provide rational and biblical answers for the following questions before 2015 ends:
- Are acts of homosexual behavior sin?
- Is it discrimination to fail to perform a wedding ceremony between two people of the same sex?
- What will we do if a same-sex married couple seeks to join our church next Sunday?
- What will we do if a same-sex engaged couple wants to rent our facility for a wedding?
- What would we say/do if we are asked to perform a wedding for a same-sex couple?
- What would we do if the legal spouse of a same-sex partner wants to be recognized by name in a funeral program because they are related to a deceased family member?
- What would you do/say if you are asked to allow your facility to be used to hold a funeral service for a same-sex married partner?
- What if you’re asked to perform a dedication ceremony for a same-sex couple who adopt a child?
- Do you already have policies in place to address these inevitable scenarios that are going to become real life, real soon?
- What are the legal ramifications of the decisions that we make, if any?
Orthodox evangelicals who hold to a biblical view of marriage are going to have to answer these questions soon, and very soon.
The major social question that had spiritual, theological, ecclesiastical, and political ramifications that America faced the first 200+ years of her existence—that took a war to partially resolve—was the question of civil rights for people of color.
The next major social question that America and her churches will face the next 200+ years if the Lord tarries His coming—is the question of should the LGBTQIA community be recognized by churches and in every realm of society as a distinct social category deserving the same kind of constitutional and ecclesiastical rights that people of color are entitled to? Resolving this question will not result in another civil war, but I predict it will produce a social/ecclesiastical war the likes of which we’ve never seen.
The difference between the rights of the people of color, and the non-rights for the LGBTQIA is this: This is not a color issue, it is a character issue; this is not a justice issue; it is a righteous issue. The Orthodox Church has to decide if she is going to view the act and sin of homosexuality as a “skin color-like” issue, or a character issue? Will we view it as a “justice issue” or a righteousness issue? Dr. King not only talked about his four children not being judged by the “color of their skins…he also talked about them being judged by “the content of their character.” Dr. King not only sounded a clarion call for justice, but also for righteousness. On this issue, the Black, White, Hispanic, and Asian Church ought to be able to stand together across color and denominational lines. What we didn’t do together during the Civil Rights Movement, we have an opportunity to do together now. Let’s pray that God raise up some anointed men and women of God who would call the Orthodox Churches of this nation to a solemn assembly. May God’s hand be upon His Church as we must now address and adjust to the new reality of a gay-affirming America! Will we let Lee Daniels, Bishop Flunder, and Dr. Forrest Harris change our minds? HEAVEN NO!!!