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Southern Baptist Conference Wrap-Up: Shifting Rhetoric, Maintaining Anti-LGBT Beliefs

Southern Baptist Conference Wrap-Up: Shifting Rhetoric, Maintaining Anti-LGBT Beliefs

Long known for its anti-LGBT views, the Southern Baptist Convention — which this year published an essay suggesting that Satan “is pleased with the narrative that Michael Sam is the new Jackie Robinson” and passed a resolution denouncing transgender people — hasn’t backed away from its teachings.

“While human sexuality and social institutions are being redefined before our very eyes, the Bible presents marriage as an unchanging picture of the gospel through the union of one man and one woman. The gospel announces that the story of Jesus is greater than the sum total of our sexual desires,” says the website for a conference sponsored by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. The conference took place this week in Nashville under the banner of “The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage.”

The event website also includes speaker bios, including one for a woman “led … into a lifestyle of rebellion, homosexuality, drug use, and porn addiction” until “God spoke to her … revealing that her lifestyle would ultimately be the death of her if she chose not to walk away.”

But with the culture growing more accepting of LGBT people, and with marriage equality all but imminent across the U.S., reports from the conference suggest that some denomination leaders are changing tacks on how they approach (or at least how they talk about) LGBT people.

At the conference, ERLC president Russell Moore renounced reparative therapy—the so-called ex-gay therapy purports to “cure” people of same-sex attraction — as “severely counterproductive.” Moore also referenced LGBT youth homelessness as “a human dignity issue.”

“During the first panel discussion … one of the most compassionate statements made was ... when [Moore] recognized the LGBTQ youth kicked out of their parents’ homes as a human dignity issue and the called on the Church to step in and care for these homeless LGBTQ youth in need,” wrote the Institute on Religion and Democracy’s Chelsen Vicari in her report for the Christian Post.

Yet Moore’s remarks hardly mark a sea change; he also said that “we cannot revise the gospel we’ve received” and that “even though we disagree with the gay rights movement on many things — including sexual morality, including the definition of marriage — there are some human dignity issues involved.”

And a concession by Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler, who said he “repent[ed] of denying that sexual orientation was legitimate,” was tempered by his claims that “it is a slander against the gospel for us to redefine sin in any way” and that marriage equality is “a rejection of God's law.”

A particularly sour note for LGBT people came when an Alliance Defending Freedom  lawyer contended that the murder of Matthew Shepard “has now been debunked as a homosexual hate crime” and was framed as such to “advance the homosexual agenda” — an agenda also supported by likable LGBT television characters.

The ADF wasn’t the only right-wing organization represented at the conference. Focus on the Family president Jim Daly was on hand as well. Daly’s remarks referenced using kindness to “persuade the culture” regarding marriage for same-sex couples. 

Evidently much of the crowd agreed with the leadership’s anti-LGBT stance; a florist who refused to provide services for a gay wedding garnered a standing ovation.

That said, there were among attendees proponents of LGBT acceptance such as Gay Christian Network founder Justin Lee.

The conference sparked a lot of activity on Twitter under the hashtag #ERLC2014.

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