Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler says there is irony but no inconsistency in the fact that the conservative seminary is outsourcing its maintenance to a company that is friendly to homosexuals, according to a Louisville newspaper.
Courier-Journal columnist David Hawpe on Wednesday mentioned a March 21 story in EthicsDaily.com reporting that the seminary would be laying off nearly 100 maintenance workers and contracting the work to a company that provides domestic-partner benefits and celebrates Gay Pride Month on its corporate calendar.
“Even though there may be some irony in this, there is no inconsistency,” Mohler is quoted as saying.
Mohler defended the contract with Sodexho, a Maryland-based company which boasts “diversity is at the heart of everything we do,” by pointing out that Southern Seminary is a big operation, which uses a large number of suppliers for everything from electricity to printing to employee insurance.
“We want to be faithful to our own convictions,” he explained, “but we recognize that we will inevitably be doing business with companies and individuals whose convictions on some of these issues may differ from our own…. This is not a surprising phenomenon.”
“I guess I do find it surprising,” Hawpe interjected, contrasting Sodexho’s policy of openness toward gays with the seminary, where they “love the sinner but hate the sin.”
Mohler told Hawpe he would see a problem if the seminary had to “violate its own conscience … change its convictions or be silent about its convictions, but that is not required here.”
In the past, however, the Southern Baptist Convention has encouraged its members to view their spending as a means to put pressure on companies that don’t uphold traditional moral values.
A 1997 SBC resolution calling for a boycott of The Disney Company said: “We realize that we cannot do everything to stop the moral decline in our nation, but we must do what lies before us when it is right through a proper use of our influence, energies and prayers.”
The resolution urged “every Southern Baptist to take the stewardship of their time, money and resources so seriously that they refrain from patronizing The Disney Company and any of its related entities, understanding that this is not an attempt to bring The Disney Company down, but to bring Southern Baptists up to the moral standard of God.”
It also encouraged Southern Baptists to “refrain from patronizing any company that promotes immoral ideologies and practices” and asked pastors and church leaders to “become informed regarding these issues and teach their people accordingly.”
It further urged “all Southern Baptists to graciously communicate the reasons for their individual actions” to those companies and prayed that “God would use these actions to help the employees of such companies to respect the enormous stewardship they have before God.”
Justifying last summer’s SBC vote to pull out of the Baptist World Alliance, Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson accused the BWA of including members that tolerate homosexuality. He named an association in American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., a BWA member body, which he claimed was “committed to being a gay-friendly place for churches.”
“We can no longer afford in this particular day, when the press for gay marriage is on, to be in alliance with denominations that support in any form or fashion gay marriage,” Patterson said.
“What you give your money and name to, you give tacit approval to.”
Earlier, a study committee recommending withdrawal from the BWA, listed “questionable enterprises” by Baptist World Aid, the organization’s relief-and-development arm, among reasons why the SBC should de-fund the BWA. The committee never said publicly what those “questionable enterprises” were.
Policies at GuideStone Financial Resources, formerly called the SBC Annuity Board, prohibit investment in any company determined to be “in the liquor, tobacco, gambling, pornography or abortion industries, or any company whose products, services or activities are publicly recognized as being incompatible with the moral and ethical posture of the Annuity Board.”
Last summer, however, when news articles questioned the Annuity Board’s investment in Carnival cruise lines after an organization booking a ship promoted it as a “Gay Days Cruise on Carnival,” the Annuity Board’s president said it did not violate the policy.
“This is a situation similar to any other objectionable company buying a small block of rooms at a hotel for a convention,” Annuity Board President O. S. Hawkins said in a press release. “If Carnival had promoted or advertised a gay-days cruise, we would have taken action as we did with Disney and other companies in the past.”
“It is virtually impossible for anyone to function in our society today without carrying on relationships with businesses that profit from endeavors and relationships one might find objectionable.” Hawkins said. “In these relationships investors inevitably provide financial support to companies or persons whose products, services or conduct might be morally repugnant to most Southern Baptists.”
“We wish hotels, airlines, cruise ships, etc. did not serve alcohol and the like,” Hawkins said, “but if we start down that road there is no end and the result would be little possibility of having any facsimile of a well-diversified retirement portfolio.”
Sodexho boasts of its commitment to diversity with regard to race, gender and sexual orientation on its Web site.
Since 2002 the company has celebrated Gay and Lesbian Pride month on its corporate calendar. It began offering domestic partner benefits the same year.
In 2002 Sodexho also published a handbook on creating employee network groups to provide input and support diversity efforts. The newest, chartered last August, is People Respecting Individuality, Diversity and Equality.
The mission of PRIDE, according to the diversity report, “is to strategically align Sodexho’s organizational structure to embrace all diversity inclusive of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees so that value is added to Sodexho.”
Mohler told the Courier-Journal that being “in the world but not of it requires incredible discernment and a lot of reflection.”
“If at any point (the Sodexho connection) becomes counterproductive for Southern Seminary, we can make another decision,” he said.
The Courier-Journal column said most of the workers affected by the outsourcing would be rehired by Sodexho.
“I commend Mohler for his logical and ethical response on this issue,” moderate Baptist leader Bruce Prescott observed Thursday in his Weblog.
“I just wish he would extend the same logic to contracts between homosexuals,” said Prescott, executive director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists. “Gay ‘civil unions’ pose no more threat to society than seminary contracts with gay-friendly firms.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
Bob Allen was the managing editor at EthicsDaily.com from 2003-2009, writing more than 1,500 news stories during his tenure. He is currently the news editor at Baptist News Global.