JACKSON, Miss. (BP) — A public relations blitz by the pro-gay Human Rights Campaign aimed at convincing Mississippians that homosexuality is not inconsistent with Christianity has been deemed inaccurate and dangerous by Baptist leaders in the state.
“There is an inherent rejection of the Gospel when we do not affirm [the] biblical [vision of] human sexuality, especially as it’s portrayed in marriage because marriage is the greatest illustration that God has given us of Himself and how He loves the church,” Chas Rowland, pastor of Bovina Baptist Church in Vicksburg, Miss., told Baptist Press.
Starting today (Nov. 10) HRC’s “All God’s Children” campaign will air television ads in Jackson featuring Mississippians who endorse so-called “equal rights” for homosexuals. Among those featured are two Mississippi Baptists: Stan Wilson, pastor of Northside Baptist Church in Clinton, and Mary Jane Kennedy, whom the Jackson Clarion-Ledger referred to as “a Southern Baptist Sunday School teacher … from Florence.”
Northside is listed as a cooperating church on the website of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a group that formed in the early 1990s in opposition to the Southern Baptist Convention’s theologically conservative direction. Northside contributed just $250 through Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program between Oct. 1, 2013, and Sept. 30, 2014, according to the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board.
The Rankin Baptist Association in Pearl, Miss., confirmed to BP that Kennedy lives in the area, but a church where she is believed to attend did not respond to BP’s request for information before deadline.
The HRC ad campaign launched just two days before a federal judge in Jackson is scheduled to hold a hearing on the constitutionality of Mississippi’s ban on same-sex marriage. Some observers expect a ruling as early as this week.
HRC cited the large number of Baptists in Mississippi as a reason for focusing on faith during its $310,000 statewide campaign, which will also include billboards, online advertisements and person-to-person engagement, the Clarion-Ledger reported. The effort is part of a larger $8.5 million, three-year campaign to increase acceptance of homosexuality in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas, the Hattiesburg American reported.
HRC spokesman Brad Clark told the Clarion-Ledger that one of the campaign’s messages “is that we’re all God’s children, and it’s up to God to judge, not us.”
Rowland, a board member of Mississippi Baptists’ Christian Action Commission, said HRC’s attempt to normalize homosexuality does not align with the views of most Mississippi Baptists — despite the identification of some ad personalities as Southern Baptists.
“There is no doubt where Mississippi Baptists stand,” Rowland said. “[We] affirm biblical marriage.”
At its annual meeting in October, the Mississippi Baptist Convention adopted two resolutions defending the traditional Christian views of marriage, gender and sexuality. A resolution “on the family” declared that “the family is rooted in God’s gift of marriage, which the Creator defines as the lifelong union of one man and one woman.” Messengers reaffirmed “their commitment to biblical marriage,” according to the resolution.
A separate resolution opposed “steadfastly all efforts by any governing official or body to validate transgender identity as morally praiseworthy” and invited “all who consider themselves transgender persons and who struggle with gender identity to trust in Christ and to experience renewal in the Gospel.” The resolution welcomed transgender persons to attend Mississippi Baptist churches and said they can be received into church membership if they repent of their sins and believe the Gospel.
In addition to passing resolutions, Rowland believes the Mississippi convention must amend its governing documents to declare — like the SBC has done — that churches which affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior are not in friendly cooperation.
“The rejection of confessional, baptistic cooperation leads to arguments over majority opinion rather than clearly articulating Gospel truth in Christian unity,” Rowland said. A failure to stand firm against homosexuality will result in loss of the culture wars and eternal destruction of souls who need to hear the message of grace and repentance, he said.
“People’s souls are more important than political correctness,” Rowland said. “We’ve just got to have some courage and stand up and speak the truth.”
William Perkins, editor of Mississippi’s Baptist Record newsjournal and a spokesman for the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, told BP he attempted to contact HRC four times and never received a phone call in return. HRC seems not to “want to develop any sort of contacts within the religious community” despite its use of faith-based language in videos and ads.
In a statement to the Clarion-Ledger, Perkins said, “On [homosexuality], the vast majority of the 2,149 member churches of the Mississippi Baptist Convention would fall within the parameters of The Baptist Faith and Message of the Southern Baptist Convention which states, ‘In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose … all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography’ (Article XV). The Baptist Faith and Message also states, ‘Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime’ (Article XVIII).
“It is difficult to misinterpret those passages to represent that most Mississippi Baptists would be anything but fully opposed to the Human Rights Campaign’s efforts in this state. $300,000 is a lot of money to spend on a program that is doomed to fail,” Perkins said.
Russell D. Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told BP in written comments that Christians should prepare for additional efforts in the Bible Belt to position homosexual behavior as normal.
“This sort of campaign will only continue. Red states and Bible Belts do not provide adequate protection from these cultural trends. The response must be churches preaching and articulating a Christian vision of sexuality as rightly expressed in the one-flesh union of a man and a woman,” Moore, a Mississippi native, said.
“Our [preaching] must not stop at morals but go on to show how marriage is rooted in the Gospel, as a picture of Christ and the church. And our churches must be, like Jesus and His apostles, those who call for repentance of sin and those who offer mercy to all who come to Christ in repentance and faith,” he said.