Broadway Baptist Church of Fort Worth, Texas, has ended its 125-year relationship with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, saying it doesn’t want to be distracted by questions concerning the congregation’s position on homosexuality.
Pastor Brent Beasley said the church will direct the majority of its mission dollars through the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and will also send money directly to Texas Baptist institutions. He said:
Our finances are strong — our giving is ahead of expenses and well ahead of last year; the spirit of the congregation is positive and healthy; our worship attendance is on the rise; new families and individuals are finding their place at Broadway. We continue to serve those in need in a multitude of ways. We are focused on our mission in the present and beginning to look to the future, which is exciting.
Last fall, the church postponed confrontation by choosing not to send messengers to the last BGCT annual convention.
Broadway was nonetheless found not to be in friendly cooperation by the Southern Baptist Convention last year because it was deemed to “approve and endorse homosexual behavior” as a result of a confrontation provoked when it published photographs of same-sex couples in the church directory.
Broadway’s expulsion by the SBC was an assertion of the kind of Cathist inflexibility that independent demographic analysis predicts will frustrate achievement of expansive evangelism goals like those pursued by the SBC’s Great Commission Resurgence Task Force.
Broadway’s departure is part of a slow parade of strong Baptist churches out of the BGCT and the SBC. The BGCT stepped back from Royal Lane Baptist Church over the same general issue in March, and before that in 1994 from University Baptist Church.
Marv Knox gave himself to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s Republican presidential aspirations in a well-phrased column which is flawed only by failures of documentation, overlooked facts and broken logic.
Knox is editor of the Texas Baptist Standard, whose Web presence is probably the most commanding among the state Southern Baptist newspapers and chief strategist of a four-publication [1, 2, 3, 4] online partnership.
Knox framed Huckabee’s issue as the “tension between Christian compassion and the duties of citizenship.” Yet Knox began by speaking directly to former Southern Baptist pastor Huckabee’s motivations in granting clemency to Maurice Clemmons, who as a result, Knox writes, “was free to walk into a Lakewood, Wash., coffee shop and murder four police officers.”
It’s a vacant example, robbed of force by Huckabee himself. On Dec. 1, before Knox’s piece was published on Dec. 5, Huckabee wrote about the Clemmons matter for Human Events, saying:
Religion had nothing to do with the commutation. It’s been erroneously expressed that my own personal faith or the claims of faith of the inmate factored into my decision. That is simply not true and nothing in the record even suggests it.
The overarching record of Huckabee’s 1,033 (or 1,058 if you prefer the Arkansas Secretary of State’s number) clemencies is itself a muddled mess of inconsistencies and so does nothing for Knox’s argument. They are variously:
- Without useful explanation because none is apparent and Huckabee refuses to explain. In one case Huckabee is reported to have laughed aloud at a request for explanation.
- Fraught with contradictory, factually inaccurate accounts, like those Huckabee gave in the case of Arkansas rapist and murderer Wayne Dumond.
- Capricious: Huckabee pushed through a pardon for Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards’ 1975 reckless driving conviction 31 years after the fact on the apparent basis of Richards’ guitar playing skill.
- Fundamentally irrational albeit recommended by a fellow pastor. That was the case with Huckabee’s offer of clemency to Glen Green, “a madman who beat an 18-year-old woman with Chinese martial-arts sticks, raped her as she barely clung to life, ran over her with his car, then dumped her in the bayou … .” And Huckabee abandoned that one amid a firestorm of public pressure.
- Apparently driven by the recommendations of family and/or personal acquaintances as in the case of “Samuel W. Taylor, convicted on a drug charge. A prosecutor said the man had told him Taylor’s sister had gone to school with Huckabee.”
- Well-deserved, as Jeralyn wrote, “particularly for drug offenders serving excessive sentences. A Governor’s use of clemency and pardon power is a good thing.”
Although Huckabee has busily tried to excuse himself and shift blame to others for variously motivated Arkansas gubernatorial decisions which resulted in rape and murder. While Carter appears to have been without similar blemishes on his record governor of Georgia, has been effective if controversial in diplomacy, won a Nobel Peace Prize for work after leaving the presidency and has at times been frank in accepting blame. Most recently, Carter issued an apology (Al Het) for any harm done the Israelis by his words or deeds. Thus Knox’s is an apples to asteroids comparison. Strained.
Knox takes flight from that illogic, demolishing, resurrecting and abandoning a straw man argument that some people of faith should not permitted to hold “specific offices.” He refutes unnamed, undocumented “extremists” and asserts without proof the views of “most citizens.” Knox finally concludes that the role of faith in public policy decision-making will be a key issue in the next presidential election, and Baptists have much to offer.
They do, as Carter continues to demonstrate.
They have of course provoked some support and more rebuttal [as you can see in the video].
If you know about Southern Baptists in Texas you know that Texas Baptists Committed (TBC) was organzied to preclude the conservative takeover which racked every other state with a significant Southern Baptist presence, and that strategy is widely regarded to have worked.
From Spiritual Samurai we learned that TBC was going to ” Restructure, Relocate, and Refocus.” That plan included keeping David R. Currie on a director emeritus, with some unspecified authority and salary.
Widespread mourning may not have been the rule among blogging Texans. Ken Coffee wrote:
TBC has become what they profess to have hated in others. You have become manipulative control freaks. I would hope, for the sake of the Kingdom and the BGCT, that you would want to change that perception.
Dramatic tension was mantained by Samauri’s blog asking just what Currie’s “director emeritus” status would mean. Key questions were what authority and pay did the new status entail.
Whereupon Currie really resigned “Sept. 28, effective immediately,” as head of the “political organization two decades ago to resist a “fundamentalist takeover” of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.”
Lee at Deep In the Heart reviews the difficulties faced by narrowly focused organizations like TBC during times of transition. The issue about which he tactfully walks is whether, original purpose gone, they will survive. Or whether they should.
The Rev. William Thornton offers a concise, powerful review of Christa Brown’s book, This Little Light: Beyond a Baptist Preacher Predator and His Gang.
Thornton’s summary of what follows Ms. Brown’s decision to seek justice after having been emotionally and sexually molested by a Baptist minister, is searing [links added]:
What you get is: a lot of people wishing you would go away, a lot of people just ignoring you, some people in the BGCT making promises and then silently letting them slide by; you get hardball tactics from church and BGCT attorneys, mellifluous words from some Baptist leaders in private but never in public; encouraging words from SBC Executive Committee members in private, but followed by “you can’t ever tell anyone I said that”; you get a lecture from the clergy sex abuse expert in the denomination; you get snubbed by some denominational leaders and rudeness from others. You get called a liar and a long list of other things, none good. You learn that there is BGCT money to help abusers return to ministry but none for victims. You learn that the BGCT accepts reports of abuse by clergy, but only from churches and not abused individuals. You get to hear the SBC pronounce that there were 40 cases of abuse in 15 years, at about the same time you have difficulty in managing your email in-box from other abused individuals telling you their stories.
What should happen when a 16-year-old girl is sexually abused by a Baptist minister and decades later, after she has fought her way out of the predator’s brainwashing, seeks justice and proves her case?
In 2008, the SBC made Number Six on Time Magazines list of under-reported news stories by refusing to create a central SBC database of church staff and clergy convicted or indicted on charges of molesting minors.
State Rep. Leo Berman (R-Tyler) proposes to exempt private, non-profit educational institutions from the authority of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB). All so the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) can grant Master of Science degrees.
Think of it as an economic development incentive intended to make Texas a world leader in the manufacture of academically worthless diplomas created by fly-by-night enterprises.
Because it would create a new class of institutions which don’t have to meet THECB standards in order to issue a degree. Such degrees would be, one might argue, of dubious value, and might tend to reflect poorly on legitimate Texas college degrees.
Ethics Daily’s Robert Parham calls Christian Right endorsement of Rush Limbaugh’s moral vision “a betrayal of the moral vision found in the biblical witness, ” and not “an American value.”
Limbaugh told the 2009 Conservative Political Action Conference:
See, this is something liberals will never understand about the United States of America and it’s right under their noses, right in front of their faces, we are a competitive people. . . . The liberals have made efforts to shut that aspect of our nature down. Wherever you live, I am certain that you, when you were a child or your kids today in youth sports are told not to keep score, because the losers, it’s just not fair. They’d be humiliated, especially if one girl’s basketball team can defeat another one 100 to nothing. And let’s fire the coach who put that game together. It’s so unfair. So let’s not keep score. Well, here’s the dirty little secret. The kids are keeping score. [Applause] . . . We’re competitive people. Adults are doing the same thing.
He was referring to a 100-0 win by Dallas-based Covenant School over Dallas Academy: A member of “Council of Exceptional Children, International Dyslexia Association, Learning Disability Association of Texas, and Orton Dyslexia Society.”
Specifically, Barry Horn of The Dallas Morning News wrote:
Dallas Academy is known for its work with students who have learning problems, such as short attention spans and concentration. Dallas Academy headmaster Jim Richardson said those problems sometimes manifest themselves on the court.
Broadway Baptist Church’s views on homosexuality have brought it to be brink of expulsion from the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Homosexuals have not been excluded, you see. Same-sex couples in the church directory. Yet homosexuality is not endorsed, Broadway argues.
Short shrift has not been made. Clarification has been asked by the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee to which the matter was referred by the SBC annual meeting last June. Action on the historic Fort Worth, Texas church’s case, delayed.
Hope is seen in this. Lyn Robbins, a Broadway member and the church’s general counsel, said after the vote:
We believe that we are in friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention. Our purpose here today was to express that and also to share who Broadway is and what we are about.
The president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, who journeyed to Nasheville to stand with Broadway Baptist, wrote:
At the end of the day work still needs to be done before there will be resolution, but this was a good day in Baptist life. I believe we took some of the stones from the walls we have used to divide us to build bridges across which we can work together for the cause of the Great Commission and the Kingdom of God.
Will this be the beginning of the end of a key division, or further diminishment of the SBC through Cathist inflexibility?
Christa Brown notes how the possibility that a church has acted in ways which “affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior” is seen here to merit SBC Executive Committee attention. Yet clergy sexual abuse is not given similar attention, because “Every Southern Baptist church is autonomous.”
The burden falls upon the Southern Baptist Convention messengers who at their annual meeting in June referred this debate over homosexual members at this one church to the executive committee.
Yet famously rejected the creation of a pedophilia database. And although abusers were found on an official church web site, took no other action to protect church members from sexually predatory clergy.
Brown’s comment is here.
Visit Austin Legal for the fire and brimstone community reaction in comments, directed at the church.
An execution-eve reprieve was granted Larry Swearingen by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans on Monday [01/26/2009], giving his lawyers time to present evidence that he did not commit the 1998 Texas murder.
Swearingen faced lethal injection Tuesday in Texas for the death of Melissa Trotter. Yet four forensic pathologists agree that he could not have committed the murder, because he was in jail when it occurred.
Harris County Medical Examiner Dr. Joye Carter is one of the four.
In the words of the court:
At trial, Dr. Carter testified that Trotter’s body had been left in the forest for approximately twenty-five days, which was consistent with the State’s theory that Swearingen murdered Trotter on December 8, 1998, and left he body in the forest. In her affidavit, Dr. Carter does not address the correctness of her original testimony based on decomposition and fungal growth, but states that if she had been provided certain additional data, she would have testified that the findings of her autopsy “are consistent with a date of exposure in the Sam Houston National Forest within fourteen days of discovery, and incompatible with exposure for a longer period of time.”
Those results indicate that Swearingen was in jail on outstanding traffic warrants when the 19-year-old’s body was left in the forest south of Huntsville, Texas. Specifically, he was in jail when the body was discovered on Jan. 2, 1999, and had been in jail since Dec. 11, 1998. Even using Dr. Carter’s maximum of 14 days, the body was placed two days after Swearingen was jailed.
Thus the court goes on to say, “… that but for the alleged constitutional error of the State sponsoring the false testimony of Dr. Carter, no reasonable juror could find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.” (The full decision is here [.pdf]).
Texas state courts had refused to hear the issue:
Instead, the court dismissed Swearingen’s petition for violating state laws that limit death row inmates to one petition for a writ of habeas corpus unless lawyers uncover information that was not available when the first appeal was filed.
Swearingen’s attorneys now return to federal court to seek a new trial or release from prison.