Baptist Professor Opposes Gay Concentration Camp
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri May 25, 2012 at 04:31:48 PM EST
When voices of profound conscience rise to the occasion, something changes. If we didn't hear that voice or notice the change, it could be because that voice helped to dissipate the gathering darkness of a horror that might have been. Or maybe we just weren't in the right place at the right time, or didn't happen to be reading where the writing occurred.  But it is important for the rest of us to try to always keep our ears open for such voices.  It can make all of the difference.

Yesterday I stumbled on an eloquent, bellwether essay by Bill Leonard, a Professor of Church History at Wake Forest School of Divinity.  He says he has always stuck to issues and has never been in the business of calling out fellow Baptists -- until now. He recognizes that the horrendous sermon of North Carolina Baptist pastor Charles Worley calling for concentration camps for LGTB people, is not merely a colorfully extreme statement by an obscure preacher who accidentally made national news. Leonard knows that Worley's sermon is stuff of which holocausts are made; that it must be addressed; and there is no going back.


Below is an excerpt:  But I recommend reading the whole thing, even if reading essays by Baptist div-school profs is not your usual fare.    

Pastor Worley said things that are repugnant in any Christian pulpit, that shame the name Baptist and undercut the gospel itself. Although I've sometime been embarrassed to be a Baptist, until now I've never really been ashamed.

I remain haunted by the courage of those early Baptists who, for reasons I cannot fully comprehend, looked beyond their historical context to the vision of a believers' church, uncoerced faith, freedom of conscience and transformation through Christ.

But tonight I am ashamed, because I heard a Baptist pastor say things so abhorrent to the gospel of Jesus that I could not keep conscience with my Baptist forebears and remain silent. In what appears to be a May 13 sermon, Charles Worley declared: "Build a great, big, large fence -- 150 or 100 mile long -- put all the lesbians in there," Then he continues: "Do the same thing for the queers and the homosexuals and have that fence electrified so they can't get out. Feed them, and you know what, in a few years, they'll die out. Do you know why? They can't reproduce!"

I've listened to those statements multiple times, each time hoping that I'm not hearing what I think I'm hearing. But I am.

That a person who serves a congregation calling itself Baptist would utilize such brutal words is not simply an affront to the men and women he wishes death upon, but to all who "name the name of Christ." So dastardly are those words and the sentiment behind them that those of us who value the Baptist tradition must demand repentance of this fallen Christian brother.

Indeed, repentance is the only way back. And anyone who stands with him in those words must also repent. Whatever one believes about culture-war controversies, to use the language of violence and death as this pastor did is a repudiation of the good news of Jesus.

Here are excerpts from Worley's infamous sermon:

My experiences of Christians is that this is not particularly un-common. In my own church, the supposedly liberal UMC, at our international conference a few weeks ago, I had to be humiliated by the same kind of hate levelled at the LGBT community by social conseervatives Americans, and most notably from a Swahili minister. He said that homosexuality is  besitiality because homosexuals are animals. And then we are all supposed to sing Kumbaia together after listening to that? In all fairness, the translator of the above remarks apologised at having to repeat them as she translated then into English for the rest of us to hear.
And the homophobes held sway in the vote that maintains the strictures against homosexuals in the church Book of Discipline.
I am ashamed to be a methodist.

by PastorJennifer on Sat May 26, 2012 at 04:53:25 AM EST
The UMC has been a steeplejacking target (along with all of the other mainstream denominations) for years.  I thought that your church had woken up with the attempts by the IRD to take over and the public letter/warning that went out a few years ago.

I was disheartened to hear about this latest move, and I've heard sentiments like yours from other people.  All I can say is that you have my condolences.

by ArchaeoBob on Sat May 26, 2012 at 10:27:25 AM EST

thanks AB I appreciate it.

by PastorJennifer on Sat May 26, 2012 at 12:33:55 PM EST
Thank you Pastor Jennifer...
We feel the same way.  We left the UMC because of social conservative views dominating all church activities to the point that we were resentful and ashamed.  We have totally withdrawn from all church for the past 2 years...We will NOT return until we find a church that respects ALL people.  God gave us free choice, and who are we to judge, condemn and harm other people.

by melodyakker on Sat May 26, 2012 at 01:53:56 PM EST
thx for the comment melodyakker

A representative from the EmK (German branch of the UMC) told me that after the conference they considered a break away from the UMC was now inevitable.  They were very dissapointed with the intractability of the social conservatives, by whom they had been outvoted, and by the hate filled tone that had been expressed at the conference. They also expressed feeling ashamed at our church as do I.

I think a break up of the UMC would be right thing to do. It is the only way for us to get our church back from the gay bashers.

by PastorJennifer on Sat May 26, 2012 at 04:42:43 PM EST

I am sorry.  The Episcopal church went through this.  After the dissenters left, the Convention of the church voted for homosexual clergy and bishops.  Things have been much healthier.  I was in a congregation who split.  The priest and much of the leadership left because they didn't have the numbers to take over the building.  We are definitely healthier now.  The IRD is definitely after the mainstream Protestant churches because traditionally the mainstream Protestants have promoted the social gospel.  UMC may have to split.  I am sorry that may be necessary.  Keep the faith and continue standing up against the hate.

by ABCPsych on Mon May 28, 2012 at 07:05:47 PM EST
Does this apply to all dioceses?  My wife and I were driven out of the Episcopal church, and on the last day we set foot in an Episcopal church, got treated to an important lay leader in our church calling for the murder of gay people (at last account he's still there, and close to the clergy), as well as a presentation from the pulpit by the "Intelligent Design" crowd (who said and I quote "We need to teach the God of the Bible in the schools!")  

There is supposed to be one church in this diocese (Central Florida) that is still liberal, but that's it.  As for us, we will never return.  We were thrown out of one church because the rector learned we were American Indian, and because we were also working poor, were at best treated as second-class citizens.  Then the last church... well, not only did that last night happen but the rector would let Pentecostal "Ministry Students" preach from his pulpit - yep, hellfire and damnation stuff, and they never did anything when church members got racist.

As I said, we will never return.  We found a home in the UU church, and we're happy there.  I'm sure my better half would like to know about this, and my question is also one that she will ask.  If the entire church is waking up and realizing its danger, well, that will be good.  Maybe some of it will work its way down here and save others from the misery we've experienced.

by ArchaeoBob on Mon May 28, 2012 at 09:27:33 PM EST

Most of the Episcopalian churches in our area are quite welcoming and liberal. The two that aren't are break-aways that call themselves Anglican rather than Episcopalian. They don't have any property of their own. One meets in the chapel of a nursing home and the other rents space from a downtown Lutheran church.

The diocesan bishop is Nathan Baxter, who was dean of the National Cathedral in Washington before he came back to Lancaster. My sense is that the diocese doesn't fuss much over people who leave unless they try to take property with them. Then the diocese is willing to go to court to retain its property. There are several lawsuits making their way through the system in various states, but I don't know if any of them has been resolved.

What happened to you is outrageous. I really don't think that would be tolerated from any church in the diocese here. Most of the Episcopalians that I have met and worked with over the years have been quite progressive. That goes for Canadian Anglicans, too, who are very different from US Anglicans.

by MLouise on Tue May 29, 2012 at 12:17:10 AM EST
I think one of the things that has frustrated me most is the total lack of caring shown by the clergy- ANY clergy.  In fact, I'm pretty sure that we were dropped from the church "rolls" the month after we last attended (2006).  Suddenly we no longer got any mailings (except from the AAC, who still persist every once in a while)... no church bulletins, nothing.  My wife and I had been Episcopalians for years... I was confirmed in 1984, and she had been long before that.  We were married in the church by five priests who were friends of ours (two have died, one left the area, one went Pentecostal, and one I haven't seen in over a decade... he was rumored to be gay and I think he got the boot).

When I tried to contact the main headquarters about all of this, I got a rather curt and harsh reply telling me to go to Howe, even though he was part of the problem.  I now wonder if PB Schori ever even got or read the letter (I sent it shortly after she took office).

BTW... two of our gay friends (a couple), were thrown out of the same church we used to attend because they're gay (and only because they're gay).  They're the most devoted, Christ-like, KIND men I'd ever want to meet, and one is a retired (ordained) minister.

I can kind of trace the change back to a period in the early 80s when there seemed to be an influx of Pentecostals into the churches in the area... from the Assemblies of God.  At the time, I could have warned people that the AoG was training people how to invade denominations and try to "take over" (pulling strings from the shadows so to speak), with specific training for each denomination*.  However, I was too messed up and unaware how bad the problem really was to speak out at the time (escaping from a dominionist cult-church can do that to you).  By the time I started trying to warn people, it was really too late (as I now realize).

(BTW... everyone, I apologize for the somewhat off-topic thread, but this is important.)

*- I used to hang out with the AoG "Ministry" students being so trained when I belonged to that cult, and they did discuss what they were being taught with me.

by ArchaeoBob on Tue May 29, 2012 at 01:14:08 AM EST

To join a church, one must accept the rules of the church, rules which most often have nothing at all to do with the teachings of the Prince of Peace.  That's why I'll never join another and why my donations go to the American and International Red Cross and local charities instead of into an offering plate.
I know there are good and devout teachers out there, but so many others give Christianity such a bad name that this, in my case, is the result.
Nobody seems to be heeding Bishop Spong's warning that "Christianity Must Change or Die."

by SPehnec on Sat May 26, 2012 at 04:28:09 PM EST

It struck me, when I heard his homophobic rant, that the man is appallingly stupid.
What better way to show that God makes gay and lesbians?
Even though those people would be fenced, gay and lesbians would continue to be born, thereby showing that God loves them just the same as he loves you and me!

He might want to draw the line and Pastor Worley and his congregation though.

The idea of fences is as old as history and a disgusting reminder of America, WW11 and the Japanese.

by mgardener on Sat May 26, 2012 at 08:33:04 AM EST

When I read this, I remembered something that a couple of my elders told me.

They said that when the law which gave us freedom of religion and the right to exist in the Southeast (in 1979) was making it's way through the US legislature, our biggest opponents were the Pentecostals and the Southern Baptists (both mentioned by name).  They really resented having to give us the same rights and equal treatment that they expected and not only made a lot of nasty threats, but also fought viciously against granting American Indians the right to practice their own religions.  Once the law was passed, shortly afterward the laws against my tribe (including the Trail of Tears law) were repealed in Georgia (and I understand in other states as well) - the states no longer had a legally justified basis for discrimination.  We gained the right to just exist in our traditional homeland, as well as no longer being subject to arrest and put in prison at hard labor for just being in most of the State.  (My family used to come down to Florida to visit my grandma on a regular basis, and I never knew we - including my brother and I as young boys - were in danger of being put in prison just for driving through the state.)

Maybe it's a local thing, but I also heard that the Southern Baptists were the biggest opponents of the civil rights era.

The sort of language he's complaining about... has been actually quite audible for some time.  It's just only slightly more virulent than in the past.  I wonder if he's aware that in some areas the "Good Christians" are putting practice to the words and have done so for years... getting "burned out" is not unknown to the LGBT community in this area from what my friends have said.

Maybe he will start a  move towards true repentance for his church (my faint hope), but I expect that he will find himself without a job very soon.  If he is removed, we need to be ready to support him.

His own words suggest that he's a REAL Christian instead of a "Good Christian" like the dominionists think they are.

by ArchaeoBob on Sat May 26, 2012 at 10:22:52 AM EST

there multitudes willing to follow.  

Anderson Cooper interviewed a member of Pastor Worley's congregation.  The video provides a disturbing glimpse into the mindsets of the people who follow such church leaders. ember-defends-pastor.cnn

by LupusGreywalker on Fri May 25, 2012 at 09:04:11 PM EST

Yikes! That is one very disturbing interview. It appears that she has a vague sense that approving of the electric fence isn't a real smart position to take on national news, but she's absolutely fine with the idea of permanent isolation for GLBTQ folk. And I'm not sure she grasped the concept that straight parents can produce GLBTQ children and vice versa. Is such ignorance a by-product of "abstinence only" sex education?

by MLouise on Fri May 25, 2012 at 10:40:06 PM EST
(I forgot to add 'are' between 'there' and 'multitudes').

I suspect a good portion of the ignorance stems from a steady diet of revisionist propaganda.  What makes people who think like her even more scary is the fact that they vote and have the backing of powerful right wing interest groups.  Even now there is a push to purge registered voters (mainly the liberal-leaning ones) under of reducing voter fraud. ontent/news/articles/bn9/2012/5/25/controversy_brewing_.html

Far right power brokers are keenly aware of the crass ignorance of people like the one featured in the video and are going to exploit it at every opportunity.

by LupusGreywalker on Sat May 26, 2012 at 06:11:26 PM EST

quite helpful to those within the churches on both sides of this debate if God had simply made sure the passages in the Old Testament that condemn homosexuality,  and the anti-homosexual writings of Paul, Jude, etc. had been edited out. I do not intend to sound cheeky here, but it is food for thought.

As it stands now, I see no real way for this issue to be resolved unless one side or the other condemns the texts themselves, and that does not seem likely. If the only way to avoid being shamed by the fundamentalists expression of their bibilical opinions is to found another church, then that is what liberals can and probably should do.

I personally view the outrageous statements made by Mr. Worley as an absolute "blessing" to those who support the civil rights of gays and lesbians, as it is this kind of nasty rhetoric is actually driving the younger generation away from religious fundamentalism.  The polls consistently indicate that Mr. Worley's views are in the same pocket as the dinosaur watching the asteroid heading towards him.  

by BGBlade on Mon May 28, 2012 at 11:56:04 AM EST

I just ran across this video on youtube.  It's disgusting... everything the guy says is a lie.  He's a member of that church from the writeup by the person posting it.

Maybe he believes them, but they're lies.

I'd tell the jackass that out of all of our LGBT friends, only two are NOT in permanent, committed relationships... and I think one that is living single right now is only separated from his significant other because of medical issues.  I know devout Gay Christians (two - a couple - are very close friends of ours), and others who used to be but were driven from Christ and the church by the hate they kept encountering.

Indeed, two of my friends had to flee this area for their safety!

The LGBT people I've met were far more Christ-like than anyone who speaks like the jackass talking in the video.  In fact, I've experienced some of their hate myself... when they learned I was Indian and poor and not willing to convert and submit to their authority.

by ArchaeoBob on Mon May 28, 2012 at 11:31:42 PM EST

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