Courier-Journal Op-Ed: Baptist, gays and caring for children

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I had the opportunity today to submit an op-ed piece to the Louisville Courier-Journal on the topic of the recent debate over hiring practices at Sunrise Children’s Services. The piece expands on an earlier post. Here’s the article as it appeared in the C-J:

In reaction to trustees of Sunrise Children’s Services voting to maintain Christian standards in the ministry’s hiring practices, some have asked if Baptists hate homosexuals. I know that is not true of me or of any Baptist who seeks to obey God’s word. The Bible teaches that God is love and that those who love God are to love everyone because every person bears God’s image. I believe God’s word and submit my life to its teachings.

Baptists know that living out Scripture’s call to love involves more than saying “I love you” or holding up a John 3:16 sign in front of a camera. The Bible says, “Let us not love with words or speech but with actions.”

That is why the more than 700,000 of us who call ourselves Kentucky Baptists fed more than 505,000 meals, provided more than 20,000 showers and washed more than 11,000 loads of laundry for the homeless, displaced and hurting this past year through Jefferson Street Baptist Center and our Disaster Relief Ministry.

Some we help are heterosexual and some are homosexual. Like me, all are sinners. Our ministry to the hurting is indiscriminate. Our hiring practices are not.

Refusing to hire persons who practice homosexuality to work at Sunrise is not hate. We also would not hire heterosexuals who live in blatant and unrepentant sexual sin. We don’t hate them, either.

Sunrise’s hiring practices require every employee to exhibit values in their professional conduct and personal lifestyles consistent with the mission and purpose of our distinctly Christian institution and to be a role model for the children and families under our care.

We believe God designed sex to be shared only by a man and a woman in a monogamous marriage covenant. Jesus referred to the creation account from Genesis and said this was God’s plan “from the beginning.” The Christian sexual ethic hasn’t changed in more than 2,000 years; thus we can only use employees who seek to live within these boundaries.

Some argue a faith-based ministry should not be permitted to use government funds.

In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to the contrary. Government funds are used in faith-based ministries of various religions in inner-city meal programs, after-school care, and court-ordered addiction recovery counseling. These and many other endeavors are examples of taxpayer dollars used by religious groups with discriminating hiring practices but for programs and ministries that do not discriminate with regard to whom they serve. Without these programs our society would be weaker and hurting people left even more vulnerable.

Consider that billions of U.S. tax dollars are used in the Muslim world where every government, organization, contractor, and employer discriminates in ways that most of us would find offensive. Those funds, however, are used to promote American interests and, hopefully, the common good.

Because of our strong, historic convictions regarding religious liberty, Baptists have always been reluctant to use the government’s money for anything. For the cause of the thousands of Kentucky kids who are victims of neglect and horrific abuse, however, we have become a partner to the Commonwealth. We will not discriminate regarding the children or families we provide with care, nor will we coerce them to accept Christian beliefs. We will love them. While we will not hire persons who practice a lifestyle contrary to the historic teachings of our faith, we love them also.

Several years ago I worked for a ministry to children who were victims of abuse and neglect, a ministry very similar to Sunrise. I saw their pain, brokenness, and the physical, emotional and spiritual scars of their abuse. My wife and I have adopted an orphan. We have served the Sunrise kids in Mount Washington through our church. I helped petition the Mount Washington City Council to permit the Sunrise facility to be built. Like all Kentucky Baptists, I love Sunrise and the children it serves.

Through Sunrise, Kentucky Baptists will continue to care for as many children as we possibly can unless the government requires that we put the demands of the homosexual community above the children we serve. I am praying that those who practice homosexuality will not hate Christians so much that they refuse to allow us to care for hurting kids. Please join me in that prayer.

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