Columbus, Ohio | Lisa Sergent
I’ve been reflecting on the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention, now that it and Columbus, Ohio, are in my rearview mirror.
The city and the Convention were a study in contrasts. While we were there, the city was issuing proclamations welcoming the LGBT community and celebrating the upcoming Gay Pride Week. The Convention featured panel discussions, sermons and press conferences emphasizing biblical marriage.
An article in the Columbus Dispatch newspaper celebrated that Jim Obergefell, the Cincinnati man at the center of the Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges, was in Columbus to lead the gay pride parade the Saturday following the convention. Meanwhile, discussions at the Convention expressed concern that the case, which could cause the legalization of same-sex marriage in all 50 states, will lead to further encroachment on religious freedoms in the U.S.
That concern is very real.
Former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran spoke at the SBC Pastors’ Conference held just prior to the Convention. Cochran was fired from his position for stating on one page of his 160-page book, “Who Told You That You Were Naked?” that homosexuality is sinful.
Barronelle Stutzman, the Washington state florist who was sued for not providing flowers for a same-sex wedding, made an appearance during the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s report. She lost her case and is in danger of losing her home and business. After ERLC President Russell Moore shared her story, she came to the stage for prayer.
As International Mission Board President David Platt noted at the Pastors’ Conference, “There is no question we live in a culture increasingly hostile to Christ. We cannot pick and choose what issues we will preach and which issues we will ignore.”
In his report, Moore said, “For most of this last century Southern Baptists have been comfortable in the culture in their soft cocoon…Some said that the Southern Baptist Zion was below the Mason-Dixon Line. Those days are gone and not a moment too soon; those days are over thankfully.”
Much of the time devoted to discussing issues affecting our SBC churches was made possible by a new Convention schedule and format. Much of the business took place on Tuesday afternoon, which allowed time for the Wednesday afternoon panel discussion on the Supreme Court and same-sex marriage.
One of my favorite parts of the Convention has always been the SBC Pastors’ Conference which precedes it. But this year, with SBC President Ronnie Floyd and others following God’s leading, the Convention itself was a must see and hear. The best was yet to come.
I think the same is true for the Southern Baptists and evangelicals. While I do believe our freedom of speech and right to freely practice our religion are going be infringed upon to an even greater extent, I do know God will honor those who stand firm and follow His Word. For this we shall grow closer to Him and find strength. And that is truly the best to come.
Lisa Sergent is contributing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper and director of communications for the Illinois Baptist State Association.