Today, I was kicked out of the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona. Why, you might ask? Was I protesting? Causing a scene? Not at all. As an officially registered guest of the convention and as a former Southern Baptist myself, I was at the conference with Faith In America with only one goal- to have conversations with SBC Pastors about LGBT+ inclusion.
My first day at the conference was filled with wonderful conversations with pastors of churches, large and small, which were eager to hear my story and I, theirs. The conversations happened either by pastors approaching me because they were familiar of the work I did, or by me asking them if they would like to find some time to chat. Nothing about my presence, or the presence of my colleagues, was aggressive. We even hosted a free dinner and invited folks to come spend time with us in a non-threatening environment.
So why were my friends and I forcibly removed from the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting? I can only assume one thing.
That they are afraid.
It is my prayer that the love of God would break through the fear that enslaves the leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention.
And when we act from fear, we cannot act from love. And when we’re not acting from love, we’re not in step with the Spirit of God. When we act from fear, we cannot hear the heart or stories of those who differ from us. When we are afraid, we prevent any growth, empathy, or understanding from flourishing and we continue to perpetuate stereotypes and oppressive behaviors, because when we’re afraid, we cannot think logically.
It is this same fear that drives the Southern Baptist Convention to preach a message of non-inclusion to LGBT+ people and this same fear that is instilled in the hearts of Southern Baptist LGBT+ youth who are eight times more likely to attempt suicide because of the traumatic teachings they hear.
I traveled across the country to the Southern Baptist Convention with love as my goal, but when love is met by fear, fear causes people to take all manner of irrational and unjust actions. It is my sincere prayer that the love that is the very essence and nature of God would break through the fear that enslaves the hearts of the leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, so that they might be open and willing to hear the stories of those who see, think, and live differently from them. By removing us from the convention, they proved that they are not ready to engage in any meaningful conversation, but instead, desire to ignore and silence the voices of LGBT+ Christians.
Today was another sad day in the history of the Southern Baptist Convention. But I am encouraged by those conversations that did happen and confident that love and truth will have the final word.