LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) — “The sexual revolution in the black church” was among the topics addressed at a Louisville, Ky., symposium on “Biblical Sexuality in the Black Church.”
More than 400 people gathered for the Sept. 19 sessions at Forest Baptist Church, where several Southern Baptists made presentations. Among them were symposium organizer Joel Bowman, pastor of Temple of Faith Baptist Church in Louisville, and Curtis Woods, the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s associate executive director for convention relations.
“The overarching purpose [of the symposium] is to equip African American pastors and churches with information about a biblical worldview pertaining to sexuality and how to communicate the same to the congregations that we serve,” Bowman said, calling the event a “historical moment in the African American church in Louisville.”
Bowman, founder of African Americans for Biblical Authority, said it has been a “passion of mine to communicate very specifically and poignantly about sex and sexuality because I think the church has been woefully negligent in that regard.”
He added, “I have observed over time a very disturbing trend amongst very powerful and influential Christian leaders to compromise the truth of God’s Word. I think a lot of the fallacious teaching we’re hearing about sex, and most notably homosexuality, is rooted in preachers, pastors and church leaders not respecting what the Bible is.”
Christians must not “use the Bible to say what we want it to say,” Bowman said. “God never intended the Scriptures to do that.”
Though the conference focused on biblical sexual morality in an African American church context, conference organizers did not intend to “pathologize the black church as though it were morally insufficient,” Bowman said. “In all fairness to the historically black church, this is a universal problem.”
Woods’ presentation addressed “the sexual revolution in the black church” from a theological and historical perspective.
“The problem is, beloved, that our people have set their affections on the things below,” Woods said. “And once your affections are set on the things below, and you’re not consistently looking up, then what you will discover is that everything around you will become misconstrued.”
He continued, “If we do not understand how God is working in human history to bring all things together summed up in the Son, then you will approach the issue of human sexuality first from the horizontal perspective as opposed to a vertical perspective.”
The adjective “biblical” is an important preface to the term “sexuality,” Woods said, “because once the Bible is closed, then all bets are off concerning having the right idea about sexuality.”
Woods acknowledged “brokenness” in African American culture related to sexuality and said at least some of it is related to the “ugly past” of slavery.
African American churches historically have confronted such brokenness with the truth of Scripture, Woods said. However, “now all of the sudden, we close our Bibles and allow civil authorities to help us to define how we understand sexuality.
“May it never be that we allow culture above Christ,” Woods concluded.
Aquenna Smith of Chicago presented on “a biblical approach to homosexuality and the LGTBQ community” and shared her own struggle with same-sex attraction. Reading an allegorical poem, she underscored the importance of biblical community and encouragement in ministry to those with same-sex attraction.
Similarly, Daniel Mingo of Louisville spoke of his experience “coming out of homosexuality.” He gave his testimony and shared about his ministry to others who find themselves struggling with homosexuality.
Jamaal Williams, pastor of Forest Baptist Church, the host congregation, spoke on “sexual abstinence outside of marriage.”
He asked the audience to think of sexual abstinence discussions they have had and noted that the Gospel is missing from most such talks. “A Gospel-centered sex talk centers on the salvific acts of God through Christ,” he said.
Christ, Williams said, “has rights to your body, not you. Sexual immorality is self-worship.”
He concluded with a reminder to “look less at ourselves and more at Him.”
Bowman addressed “poison in the pews: pornography in the black church.” He called pornography “more dangerous to the cause of Christ than homosexuality.”
Bowman celebrated his own deliverance from porn addiction years ago.
“I thank God that even though I was addicted to porn, for the last 12 going on 13 years, I have been free from that addiction,” Bowman said.
“There is healing in the name of Jesus. There is deliverance. There’s freedom. ‘Whom the Son sets free is free indeed,'” Bowman concluded, citing John 8:36.
Other topics addressed were “a biblical view of cohabitation” by Victor Sholar, pastor of Main Street Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky., and “a biblical response to sexual abuse and exploitation” by Billy Jenkins, pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Shepherdsville, Ky.
The symposium also included three panels covering various topics and questions submitted by attendees online.
“We want to apply the authority of Scripture to overall issues, be it sexuality or any other topic,” Bowman said. “All issues might be very unique and distinct, but the one thing I think ties our approach to all of them together is our presuppositional position that the Bible is the Word of God.”