Just got back from coffee with Michael, the pastor at Abiding Way. I'm not really sure how I've been coming across with regards to Southern Baptists on this blog, so let me just say that I think overall Baptists are wonderful people and the minister at Abiding Way is a great example of a great Baptist. My youth leaders when I was in high school were actually a Southern Baptist couple from Tennessee who ended up at our church because they couldn't find a Southern Baptist church to go to.
I had no idea that Marin Coffee Roasters was so busy and loud on Saturdays! Luckily, we were able to find a table outside to have our conversation. I opened by telling him that I did not want to go to church at Abiding Way under false pretenses and that I had been wanting to talk to him so that we could have a discussion about homosexuality and tell him that I am gay. I wanted to hear from a Southern Baptist minister what the "official Southern Baptist stance" on homosexuality was. He explained that while he believed that it was something that the Bible states needs to be changed in a person, it is no different from the way that every single individual needs to be changed by the Bible's message and that Southern Baptists have wrongly been focusing on the issue of homosexuality.
While I appreciate him saying that, it does not change the fact that they do believe and preach that homosexuality is wrong. So, my follow-up question to that was how that should be presented to the gay community. Now, I have to say this is the point where he answered in the typically naive way that when a gay person hears such a message, that it will cause him or her to reevaluate the way they have been living their life. I tried to explain to him that by proclaiming homosexuality to be an abomination, people were being turned away from the church and causing strife within it, undermining what I believe to be the primary function of the church, which is to spread the good news of God's eternal love for us and Jesus Christ dying on the cross for our sins. He countered that by saying that "proclaiming truth" was a function of the church that is on par with evangelism.
I tried, unsuccessfully I think, to explain that by "proclaiming truth", some people in the church were actually undermining the church's ability to evangelize, but because of our fundamental differences in theology, while he may understand the concept to a degree, I don't think he is capable of fully agreeing with it.
Afterwards, we talked about what it's like to be a pastor and the differences in beliefs between our two denominations in regards to baptism. It was a very pleasant conversation, and while I think we both walked away with our personal beliefs intact, we now have a much better understand of where the other person is coming from. We hugged goodbye and I told him that I would see him in church tomorrow.
Of course, my friend Jeff was watching all of this from less than 3 feet away on the other side of the window from inside the coffee shop.
So, we each walked away with our irreconcilable differences, yet we still respect and care about each other. What a concept, huh? If only our churches could be so accommodating.