Statement on sex, gender and sexuality

by Mike Castle

I along with Shawn Warner-Garcia, Jennifer Wilder, Micah Bucey, Malu Fairley-Collins and Rob Marus are pleased to offer a STATEMENT ON SEX, SEXUALITY AND GENDER for consideration by the Alliance of Baptists membership when we gather later this month at Calvary

Baptist Church in Washington D.C. The statement begins with this sentence: We, the Alliance of Baptists, have been on a journey of deepening acceptance, understanding and accommodation regarding sex, gender and sexuality. I commend the long footnote attached to this opening sentence for your review. There you can see just how long, and how often, the journey has brought us to the place of reflection, discernment and decision regarding questions of gender and sexuality, largely motivated and precipitated by the more narrow question of whether or not the Alliance of Baptists as an organization will, in response to God’s Grace and the Good  News Way of Jesus that we follow, 1) fully accept and include our lesbian and gay sisters and brothers in our community as people of divine worth and with equality, and, 2) bear witness to the wider Church and to the world that such acceptance and inclusion is to act with a deep sense of God’s expansive love and demanding justice.

As a gay man, I have watched and listened to these conversations over the years. I was young, 29 years old, when these conversations officially commenced. At the time I felt I was on the outside looking in. I was a Baptist on the margins. I was one whose voice was silenced. I was for all practical purposes on the outside looking in, wondering where, or even if, I fit in to Baptist life. I am now old, 56 years old to be exact. I have even less hair now than when I began this journey with you, and the few hairs I do have are mainly gray. But now, I write as one who has been, and is without a doubt, fully included among you, an equal “priest”  among the priesthood of the Alliance of Baptists, as one who has been honored to serve among you as president (2014-2018).

I have gone from being on the outside looking in, to the center of Alliance life looking out. For this journey of deepening acceptance, understanding and accommodation, I am grateful. I have been touched and transformed by the generous, courageous and gracious spirit that has bathed these moments of discernment, even when everyone in the room didn’t agree. And beyond my personal encounter with this journey, it seems to me that this journey we have been on has changed us – the Alliance of Baptists – too! From what I have experienced and noticed, this journey has shaped us into an ever-more loving, courageous, Spirit-infused and joyful  people.

I wish I could say that we have put a period on this conversation, that this issue has been settled, therefore we can move on to other things that demand our attention, our witness and our care, but that is not so. Actions by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship last year, and the United Methodist Church this year, have demonstrated that this work and witness is not over. Issues surrounding the full acceptance and inclusion of lesbian women and gay men remain, painfully so. And then, we are aware that there are a host of other issues regarding sex, gender and sexuality that are yet to be addressed. We are just now starting to address more fully the B (bi-sexual) and the T (Transgender) of LGBT. And if you have been paying attention, the letters have expanded to, as one example, LGBTQQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex and Asexual). What is going on here? My answer: we continue to discover that human beings experience sex, gender and sexuality in highly complex and diverse ways. And beyond questions of sexual orientation, biological realities, and gender identities and expressions lies the larger question of ethics. What is our Christian response to be to such complexity and diversity?

The Statement that is being offered for consideration by the Alliance of Baptists meeting later this month is but one more step on this continuing journey. It is a statement that is more comprehensive in its reach and in its scope than any statement on sex, gender and sexuality that has been presented and affirmed by the Alliance thus far, encompassing all that has been affirmed before, yet pushing further. The current political realities, and the current political and theological and ethical realities of the Church universal, call us to once again offer a clear voice of God’s love and justice. I think the Statement does this and it does it more fully than ever before. It is a Statement – a witness if you will – that is needed now. Are we willing to offer such a clear voice again? Is that voice needed now? That is now before you to consider and to decide. It is my hope and prayer that the Alliance of Baptists will affirm this statement with courage and hope.

Is this statement perfect? Is it complete? I doubt it, but I think it clearly articulates the best and most comprehensive understandings and learnings that we have at this point in time. For sure, we can only act on what we know now. And if we affirm this statement, I also hope and pray that we will hold this statement lightly, knowing that it is but one more contribution on this continuing journey, trusting that, as the Pilgrim’s pastor, John Robinson, commissioned just before they set sail on the Mayflower: “I am verily persuaded [God] hath more truth yet to break forth out of [God’s] Holy Word.” The statement that is before you now deserves your sincerest consideration and discernment. But stay tuned! Once this conversation is finished, more is surely yet to come.

Mike Castle is the pastor of Harmony Creek Church in Dayton, Ohio and the immediate past president of the Alliance of Baptists’ board of directors.

Stay in the Loop

Stay up to date with everything happening with the Alliance of Baptists!