November 16th, 2007
Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, TX, is a moderately welcoming church. Although they have had gay members for many years, they seek to neither “endorse or condemn homosexuality.” This neutrality has served them well, allowing gay people to feel welcome but also allowing those Texas Baptists who’s religious convictions persuaded them of homosexuality’s sinfulness to join in worship without direct confrontation.
But sometimes confrontation comes unexpectedly, as it did for Broadway Baptist. The church decided to celebrate its 125th anniversary with a book describing its missions and displaying pictures of its members.
But when a gay couple showed up to have their picture taken for the directory, Betty Price, the directory coordinator, was having none of it. She raised a stink and spread her discontent – even calling the General Baptist Convention of Texas – before resigning from the position.
So now the church is having to face the decision of how to treat their gay brothers and sisters. Would they include the couple as a family, would they include individual photos, or would they decide that gay members are not worthy of inclusion in a directory.
The pastor, Brett Younger, discussed the problem at a Wednesday night church service (Star-Telegram):
Younger said that the church has had gay members for decades but that no couple had ever been pictured in the directory. He said to change directions would understandably be “troubling to many.”
On the other hand, Younger wrote that other church members think that the congregation’s gays, who “worship, serve and give just like everyone else,” should not be treated like “second-class members.”
The response has been varied. The church staff recommended to exclude them from the directory. The deacons considered letting families decide for themselves who was in their family, but voted that down and could come to no further decision. Those attending a monthly business meeting voted to present the idea to the congregation (for their vote) to list the couple together in the telephone directory but to show two separate photographs. The vote will be on December 2.
One of the more interesting aspects of this story, to me, is the attitude of the couple in question. They refused to allow their names to be published and they willingly took separate photographs because they did not want to be “poster child[ren] for a division in the church”.
“We are at the church to learn and to serve,” one of the men said. “There are people out there who are destined to be activists. I don’t feel like one of them.”
Often it is those who are quietly living their lives with integrity that most impact the world around them.
As a side note, perhaps it is not surprising that the pastor at Broadway Baptist from 1992 to 1999 was Rev. Stephen Shoemaker, currently the pastor at Myers Park Baptist.
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Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"
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