When Policy Undermines Solidarity – A Call to End Homophobia Within the CBF

Dear CBF Leadership,

On June 12th, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) issued a statement in regards to the Orlando shooting massacre, saying, “We join with the City of Orlando and especially the families of victims in sincere prayer and acts of support in the aftermath of this violent and senseless massacre.  It is truly beyond reason. Precious lives have been ended and more than 100 families are today horrified by death and injury. We come together for their consolation and to stand with law enforcement and other faith leaders in strengthening the bonds of community.”

 I believe the intent behind this statement was genuine and it was indeed a compassionate message of solidarity to the Orlando community.  Yet as an openly gay, Baptist minister, I find the statement shallow and hypocritical in regards to the CBF’s current policies.  The CBF explicitly denies homosexuals employment based solely on their innate sexuality.  The policy also states that the CBF, “does not allow for the expenditure of funds for organizations or causes that condone, advocate or affirm homosexual practice.”  I ask you to consider how difficult it is for a LGBT person to accept your statement of solidarity when your policies, prior to this massacre, would have denied every one of the forty nine people murdered employment because they were gay or lesbian.   These policies are homophobic and have been since the day they were created.  They stand in stark contrast to any form of solidarity with the LGBT community.

 I write this letter out of a love that is covered in deep spiritual scars.  Like so many other LGBT folk who were raised in the church, I’ve struggled to truly love myself despite the homophobic theology I was indoctrinated with growing up.  Now as a Baptist minister myself, I see clearly the work that still must be done to eradicate the CBF of any remaining vestiges of homophobia that prohibit it from fully realizing the radically inclusive love of Jesus Christ for all people.  We can’t say one thing but then have our policies reflect something completely different.  If we do, then we’re guilty of hypocrisy and that is something I don’t want for the CBF.  It is because I love you that I raise this issue once more.

For years I’ve encouraged CBF leadership to affirm and include LGBT folk in your hiring policies but I’ve been repeatedly placated with individual off-the-record statements of LGBT support that never manifest into real policy change.  I was very discouraged when the CBF held a workshop at last year’s general assembly to discuss the LGBT issue but didn’t include any voices of gay or lesbian clergy.  Instead, two heterosexual ministers discussed the biblical reasoning behind including or excluding LGBT folk in faith communities as we sat right there in front of them.  I ask you out of love to consider how humiliating and dehumanizing that is to your fellow LGBT brothers or sisters.  We’re not even given the dignity to be able to speak for ourselves when the topic of our exclusion or inclusion in faith communities is discussed. 

With all due respect, the times of letting the LGBT issue simmer on the back burner are over.  I believe the CBF is at a spiritual crossroads in terms of your policy and your leadership on the LGBT issue.  God has given us the redemptive choice to correct our course in the name of Christ’s love by removing homophobic policies and encouraging the full inclusion of LGBT folk in CBF churches.  I’m well aware that Baptist churches are autonomous and that the CBF doesn’t seek to interfere with individual church policy but we can agree that leadership brings with it the responsibility to lead by example.  That is what I’m asking you to do today.  Lead by Jesus’ example and truly take a stand for your LGBT brothers and sisters at this time in history.

Your brother in Christ,

Rev. Gator Blanchard

Your policy I have referenced above is listed below:

As Baptist Christians, we believe that the foundation of a Christian sexual ethic is faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman and celibacy in singleness. We also believe in the love and grace of God for all people, both of those who live by this understanding of the biblical standard and those who do not. We treasure the freedom of individual conscience and the autonomy of the local church, and we also believe that congregational leaders should be persons of moral integrity whose lives exemplify the highest standards of Christian conduct and character.

Because of this organizational value, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship does not allow for the expenditure of funds for organizations or causes that condone, advocate or affirm homosexual practice. Neither does this CBF organizational value allow for the purposeful hiring of a staff person or the sending of a missionary who is a practicing homosexual.