An online petition calls on Baptist leaders “to denounce all hate speech and the use of the pulpit as a weapon of terror against the LGBT community.”
By Bob Allen
The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists called June 1 for Baptist leaders across all traditions to denounce rhetoric from Baptist pulpits promoting violence and even genocide against gays.
Robin Lunn, executive director of the Kensington, Md.-based group that promotes full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons within Baptist communities of faith, noted a “stunning increase in hate speech coming from Baptist pastors in sermons, interviews and podcasts” since President Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage.
She cited Charles Worley, pastor of Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, N.C., who suggested gays and lesbians should be rounded up in concentration camps, and Curtis Knapp, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Seneca, Kan., who said the government should enforce Old Testament laws that say gays should be put to death.
AWAB posted an online petition urging “penitence and prayer” for harmful remarks and calling on Baptist leaders “to denounce all hate speech and the use of the pulpit as a weapon of terror against the LGBT community.”
“As followers of Jesus we are called to stand with the least, the last, and the lost (Matthew 25:44) and to see the image of God in each human being (Genesis 1:27),” the statement reads in part. “Jesus calls us to this no matter how we feel or think about someone’s ‘lifestyle’ or their interpretation of scripture. We are all children of God and deserve to be treated as such.”
The association said it “does not believe there is room for hate speech against our neighbors, no matter how strongly we disagree on the interpretation of these same texts.”
“As Baptists, we stand firmly in the belief that each person has a right and responsibility to discern the word of God,” the statement concluded. “When we engage humbly and respectfully in faithful dialogue, we are following the teachings that say, ‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.’ (Romans 12:2)”
Lunn said the petition and signatures will be sent to all major Baptist organizations in the United States and to the Baptist World Alliance.