Permit me, please, some time to grieve. My denominational family home of almost 30 years isn’t home any more. The locks haven’t been changed, but the message on the welcome mat outside the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) has been changed … again.
For years I have sat on the floor of the annual convention meeting, listening with chagrin to the hoots and hollers and catcalls of those who cheered every effort to take money from the Biblical Recorder, to exclude churches who believe God has a place for gays, to exclude Woman’s Missionary Union when it refused to be controlled, to exclude opportunities for supporters of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF)to work side by side on equal footing.
Every step toward exclusivity has been a step toward fundamentalism as the only option for full acceptance in the BSCNC family. Fundamentalism is, by definition, convinced of its rightness and intolerant of other views.
For many years, North Carolina bucked the national trend and refused obeisance to the notion that the BSCNC should live and act as nothing more than a state chapter of the SBC. We sought to work together beneath a big tent where unity amid diversity was not only allowed, but celebrated.
Those days are gone. The hooters and hollerers have had their say and won the day. They have declared an end to the toleration of CBF supporters in their midst. They have sold their Baptist birthright for a can of spinach. Some elder statesmen of the ultra-conservative movement will express chagrin that the young pastors who spearheaded the latest debacle did not remain in their seats, but you can’t train up young guns and not expect them to shoot. And, it appeared that the vast majority of the 55 percent who voted “no tolerance” for CBF were much closer to 55 than 25.
While attending this year’s meeting, I wore my reporter’s hat. I focused on taking notes, counting votes, snapping pictures, putting it all into a cohesive story and then getting it posted. I was focused on reporting and living on adrenaline, refusing to let the righteous rhetoric of intolerance affect my feelings or interfere with my work.
That lasted until about 4:00 a.m. the next morning, when sleep fled and I awoke with a deep sense of sadness. It endured through the day as I did what I needed to do, but with the focus of a dust cloud and the energy of a wet noodle. A sort of delayed depression set in as I began to feel what had been lost. I gained a new appreciation for Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, who predicted Judah’s downfall but took no comfort in being right.
I would rather have been wrong when I predicted that someone would move to delete the CBF option from the Cooperative Program Giving Plan Committee’s well-intentioned proposal. I would rather have been wrong when I predicted that the effort would succeed.
I would rather not feel the way I do, but the convention I have loved and supported for nearly 30 years has changed so markedly that it’s hardly recognizable — and it no longer recognizes me and my non-fundamentalist friends as acceptable partners in mission and ministry.
Fortunately, like many others, I do have another home. I’ll move on with my CBFNC family, where there are constant reminders that folks like me are welcome. Even so, it’s hard to say goodbye to what is left of my former home.
Just permit me, please, some time to grieve.