July 8, 2011

When AWAB Comes to Town

AWAB leader Robin Lunn addresses the Southern Baptist Convention. (Photo credit: Association of Affirming Baptists)

The Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America “peace camp” wrapped up with two days’ worth of supporting the homosexual agenda of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists (AWAB). The two organizations work hand-in-hand together, introducing Baptist congregations to the liberal “fabulousness that is us” (in the words of AWAB leader Robin Lunn). Morning speaker Rob Voyle summarized the BPFNA/AWAB position well when he condemned “using religion to contain what you’re afraid of instead of liberating love.” Campers encouraged one another through unsettling testimonies. One elder lady recounted how proud she was of her grandson. She noted, “My little boy loves his cars and he also loves painting his fingernails. He just loves colors! I’m so glad he’s becoming accepting of himself and others.”

Thursday opened up with an outpouring of sexual tolerance in the crowded Lehman Auditorium. Michael Blair delivered the evening sermon. When the Jamaican native moved to Canada, he witnessed the first stings of racism from one of his congregants. As he recounted the great pain from that experience, he immediately drew parallels to the treatment of homosexuals within the church (Blair is also gay). Racism and preservation of sexual mores are the same phenomenon in the eyes of progressive Christians. Following Blair’s sermon, campers were invited to the “Prom for ALL,” which invited, “Come in drag or come in your PJ’s!” The next morning, as the audience sang “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” with the rainbow-striped screen projector and as Rob Voyle spent a good ten minutes “breathing in peace,” one could not help noticing the number of participants who slept in from the night’s festivities. However, these tardy attendees rolled out of bed by the time of the workshops.

AWAB gave a presentation on “Coming Out AWAB,” which compared an individual’s announcement of homosexuality which a congregation’s espousal of homosexual behavior. Lunn led the discussion, gauging the progress of the LGBTQ agenda within different congregations. For Baptist churches, AWAB deems it crucial to take over one church at a time, especially since they cannot work through more powerful hierarchies or councils, yet are also free of authoritative (possibly orthodox) oversight. Theologically, homosexual “marriage” is in the clear; Lunn said that the validity of this lifestyle has been well established by “proper” Scriptural interpretation and progressing legal prcedent. Now is the time to get churches to accept a new paradigm. Lunn mourned how congregants worry, “We don’t want to be the gay church.” Even worse, she declared, “The word ‘Baptist’ evokes bad feelings with people for good reason.” As she sadly observed, even with legal gay “marriage” in some states, many churches are not receptive to allowing such ceremonies in their sanctuaries. Congregations do not need to be “the purity police”; instead, they need to be a “safe place…that makes room for gender-bending reality.” Evidently, the church pursues hospitality and inclusion, “not what the Bible says about my sex life.” Perhaps Lunn is quite right about common blind-spots; then again, she could also be making a false dichotomy.

Lunn outlined the principles of AWAB’s strategy for success. Supposedly, welcoming and affirming (“W&A”) activists have an advantage since “people from below [i.e. homosexuals] know the people on top better than the people on top know themselves.” Incremental victories also help the homosexual cause. Civil unions, for example, are “the same piece of paper with a different title on the top.” In addition, homosexuals need to get their communities comfortable with the idea of same-sex marriage. Lunn announced, “I’m not going to parse Bible verses and theology. I’m not about waving a justice flag. It’s me walking down the street with my wife, with our ‘I love my wife’ t-shirts.” Finally, churches need to ally with like-minded congregations, regardless of denomination; this ensures greater success in “ministry.” Seeing homosexual activism as ministry would trouble many Baptist congregants. Nevertheless, Lunn plans to be ordained by a church body in Ithaca to serve as a “missionary” to AWAB.

“You can’t do it alone,” Lunn said, “make allies.” Lunn sounded rather like the televangelists that liberals so despise: “God wants us to be about difference. Welcome and affirmation are the name of the game statistically. If you want people in the pews under the age of 40, you need W&A.” Several audience members were Methodists; these chimed in excitedly about the possibilities of a UMC/Baptist alliance in furthering the homosexual program. AWAB in particular has had difficulty in garnering lay support; like the UMC, Baptist laity can tend to be more conservative than their clergy (at least in the American Baptist Church). When people in a community know a congregation becomes W&A, “then people will know who we are. We don’t have enough power yet.” AWAB: coming to a church near you.


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