Pastor insists he hasn’t endorsed homosexuality
BAYTOWN, Texas (BP)--The pastor of a church removed from membership in the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention says his relationship to a homosexual-affirming ministry does not constitute an endorsement of homosexuality.
Also, in comments to the SBTC newsjournal, the Southern Baptist Texan, and in published reports in the Baytown (Texas) Sun and the Associated Press, Pastor Randy Haney of Faith Harbour in Baytown said he believes homosexuality is sinful -- a stance contrary to the leader of Eklektos, the group Haney has associated with and is providing meeting space to.
Wendy Bailey, an ordained Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) minister and leader of Eklektos, told the Baytown Sun Jan. 19: “This ministry is willing to leave in that tension [concerning homosexuality]. Our perspective is we want to create a place where people can come to Scripture and can discover truth for themselves without any prejudged sense of what that is.”
Eklektos meets in a storefront space Faith Harbour leases and has a link on Faith Harbour’s weblog (blog), although Haney told the Texan he doesn’t believe that constitutes affirmation or endorsement of homosexuality.
Further, Haney said Eklektos is not a church, contrary to what the Texan reported earlier, while Bailey, on the Eklektos website, said Eklektos “is not a ‘church’ in any official capacity.”
Bailey is the associate general presbyter for evangelism, renewal and new church development of the New Covenant Presbytery based in Houston, the presbytery’s staff listings show.
“Number one, I do not affirm the homosexual lifestyle,” Haney told the Texan. “Homosexuality is part of the sinful nature. It is listed, as are many other sins that are acts of the sinful nature. However, I do not hate people who are in that lifestyle. I have friends who are in that lifestyle and they know my stance.”
He added, “Wendy [Bailey] and I differ on that.”
In an action completed Jan. 12, the SBTC executive board voted unanimously to disaffiliate Faith Harbour after the convention’s credentials committee, meeting with Haney Dec. 20, failed to persuade Haney to cease lending meeting space to Eklektos and to remove the Eklektos link from Faith Harbour’s blog.
The SBTC bylaws state, “... Among churches not in cooperation with the Convention are churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior.”
Rix Tillman, pastor of Exciting Immanuel Baptist Church in El Paso and a credentials committee member, said Haney unconvincingly tried to argue to the committee that because Eklektos -- a Greek word meaning “chosen” or “elect” -- is not technically a church, no constitutional problem existed.
“The sticking point was that he was allowing a homosexual-affirming fellowship to meet in his building,” Tillman said.
“Right there on their website they said [they] are an enabling or affirming [fellowship]. It’s OK to say you welcome homosexuals, but they were saying we not only welcome them and but we also go along to affirm them. That was open and shut as far as our [SBTC] constitution goes.”
Two Baptist associations Faith Harbour was affiliated with have also moved to cut ties.
South Texas Baptist Association has disaffiliated Faith Harbour already and San Jacinto Baptist Association, based in Baytown, will recommend disaffiliation to its executive board Jan. 23, said L. Lee Walker, San Jacinto’s director of missions.
Baker Road Baptist Church of Baytown, the sponsor of Faith Harbour since its beginning four years ago, voted Jan. 8 to cut ties with the congregation. Faith Harbour was a member of the San Jacinto Baptist Association by virtue of its sponsorship through Baker Road, Walker said.
Nevertheless, Walker said the association would formally act to cut ties with Faith Harbour and notify by letter the SBTC and the Southern Baptist Convention of its action.
“One cannot be presenting the life-changing Gospel to homosexuals and at the same time affirm the lifestyle,” SBTC board chairman Joe Stewart said. “When we sign an agreement to be a part of the SBTC, we have those theological parameters that we live and abide through and that is part of what makes us unique and distinct.”
“The door is still open for [Faith Harbour] to reconcile if they will just agree to abide by the theological parameters of the SBTC. Although we want to reach out to people caught in sin, at the same time we can’t affirm the lifestyle.”
The Eklektos website states: “This community of Christians is especially called to welcome and affirm people who are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered. We are a diverse group of disciples -- diverse in age, race, gender, ideology and sexual orientation. We are united in Christ and in the affirmation that all people are loved and called by Christ to be His disciples and to be a part of His healing/reconciling work in the world.”
The SBTC consists of more than 1,700 churches in a confessional fellowship -- a unique arrangement among the 41 state and regional conventions that cooperate as Southern Baptists.