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‘We Want to Be Loving, Respectful and Welcoming, But …’

A man called our church in need of help last week.

Craig (not his real name) was making his way from Maryland back home to Los Angeles when he got sick. He has suffered with AIDS for many years.

Along the way, he ran out of medication, lost his train ticket and ended up in the hospital for two weeks in San Antonio.

He was stuck while waiting on friends from home to FedEx him a new ticket, new meds and cash.

Craig’s family rejected him 30 years ago when he told them he was gay. He went to Maryland to try to reconnect with them. It did not go well.

He called Woodland Baptist Church because it is a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) church.

After becoming a Christian a year ago, he joined a CBF church in Los Angeles. Now, he was stuck halfway across the country with no one to turn to.

Lance Mayes, one of our associate pastors, went and prayed with him and listened to his story.

Rejected by his parents for a second time while still mourning the death of his partner a year ago to the same disease that will most likely take his own life, Craig needed a minister to sit with him, listen and pray.

Craig didn’t call Woodland because it is a Texas Baptist church. And there is a good reason why not.

This week the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT, also known as Texas Baptists) governing board voted to revise its contribution forms to delete CBF as a Cooperative Program giving option and remove CBF Global Missions as a recognized designated offering.

The BGCT released a statement after the CBF governing board voted to accept a new hiring policy. The BGCT’s statement affirms its traditional view of human sexuality and marriage.

It also states, “Texas Baptists value every human individual, and our churches will continue to be loving, respectful and welcoming to all people.”

I do believe that is true. I have seen the compassion firsthand. Individually, the message of Texas Baptists is one of love and welcoming. But, collectively the message has been clear.

What most people have heard about Texas Baptists in recent years is its insistence in disassociating with any entity it perceives as gay-friendly.

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s governing board has accepted a new hiring policy, which mentions nothing about human sexuality.

This brings its hiring policy in line with other agencies like the BGCT, NAMB, World Vision and Christianity Today, among others.

But CBF also published an implementation plan – received by the governing board but not adopted as a formal policy – that restricts the hiring of LGBT persons from being hired in ministry leadership positions, as missionaries or as supervisors of missionaries.

Though the new policy may not be exclusive, the implementation plan is. This makes the BGCT’s move to separate itself from CBF all the more puzzling.

Is CBF’s decision to OK the hiring of LGBT people in administrative positions threatening to the theological purity of Texas Baptists?

Is a gay person answering the phone in Decatur, Georgia, this much of a threat to Baptists this side of the Sabine River?

This drive for collective purity seems antithetical to the gospel stories that shape our faith.

Jesus did not live his life in a constant state of anxiety about being defiled by those in his company. As Samuel Wells writes, “His holiness is highly infectious.”

And yet, the actions of denominations are teaching its congregations and congregants to do as they do: separate from those who might defile.

CBF closes the door on LGBT missionaries. BGCT closes the door on CBF. Churches gawk at welcoming LGBT people. Families are unsure how to respond to their own children.

I don’t know what Craig’s parents said as they closed the door to him in Maryland, but I wonder if it’s something like, “We want to be loving, respectful and welcoming. But…”

Garrett Vickrey is senior pastor at Woodland Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas.