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Date: 11-28-2017

Kentucky Baptists threaten to kick out churches that think it's OK to hire 'practicing homosexuals'

Southern Baptists have long opposed same-sex marriage and ordaining gay ministers, arguing that the Bible unequivocally rejects homosexuality as sinful and perverted.

Maurice "Bojangles" Blanchard, a volunteer at Highland Baptist Church (where he leads an LGBT ministry), sits in the pews inside the church's sanctuary. Blanchard is a gay man who has been part of a movement in a faction of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship churches urging church leaders to drop a ban on hiring people who are LGBT. (Photo: David R. Lutman, Special to Courier Journal)Maurice "Bojangles" Blanchard, a volunteer at Highland Baptist Church (where he leads an LGBT ministry), sits in the pews inside the church's sanctuary. Blanchard is a gay man who has been part of a movement in a faction of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship churches urging church leaders to drop a ban on hiring people who are LGBT. (Photo: David R. Lutman, Special to Courier Journal)

The Louisville-based Kentucky Baptist Convention hasn't left that position to interpretation. The powerful Southern Baptist group, which has 2,400 churches and 750,000 members across the state, has ousted congregations that bless gay unions and welcome people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender as pastors and missionaries.

That's why discussions on dropping a ban against hiring gay and transgender people by a more liberal group of affiliated churches, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, has threatened to trigger an even larger rift.

Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, said that if the fellowship's leaders soften their rule against hiring “practicing homosexuals,” it would be a perilous step in the wrong direction. In essence, they're "redefining sin," he said.

In mid-November, a Kentucky Baptist Convention committee voted in Louisville to “monitor” the fellowship's moves and indicated that the convention might expel churches aligned with the fellowship if it lifts the ban.

"We were surprised by this action. We didn't have any discussions with them about it," said Chris Sanders, a lawyer who is serving as interim executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in Kentucky.

“We would have much rather talked with them in advance,” Sanders said.

In the Baptist faith, church autonomy is key, and congregations choose how to worship. Many have multiple affiliations. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship formed in the early 1990s after conservative leaders gained national control of the Southern Baptists. 

Some churches, such as St. Matthews Baptist Church, joined the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship but stayed affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

The LGBT issue flared after the fellowship’s leaders in Georgia offered prayers for the victims of a shooting massacre in Orlando, in which 49 people were killed at the gay nightclub Pulse. 

Louisville’s Maurice “Bojangles” Blanchard, an ordained minister and volunteer who leads an LGBT ministry at Highland Baptist Church, thought the gesture was hypocritical in light of the fellowship's ban on gay employees.

But Blanchard, who was one of the Kentucky plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage, has joined a chorus asking fellowship leaders to end their discriminatory practices. 

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship “needs to drop this homophobic policy,” Blanchard said. "It’s past time."

Baptists aren't the only Christian denomination struggling with how to handle matters of sexuality. Many congregations are debating whether to perform same-sex marriages, ordain gay ministers and welcome transgender people.

R. Albert Mohler, who is the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a recognized scholar of Baptist theology, said in an interview that he's not surprised that a conflict of this sort is erupting within the Fellowship ranks.

"This has been an issue we can only describe as inevitable and explosive ... they clearly have a huge division" where younger leaders on the left may gain the upper hand, Mohler said, adding that he questions whether the smaller group has "the doctrinal stability to normalize LGBT persons." 

The watchful approach by the state convention isn't surprising because "a church that endorses homosexuality is no longer cooperating with the Kentucky Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention," he said.

At the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a committee called the Illumination Project has met for months with church members and leaders in several states. The group is scheduled to recommend changes in February.

Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, said his group has become concerned that the fellowship is ready to change course.

The fellowship "has always held the same position as Southern Baptists have held,” Chitwood said. To drop the gay ban is akin to “redefining 2,000 years of Christian teachings.”

Blanchard sees it the opposite way. It’s not biblical to ban LGBT people but he knows fellowship leaders also are trying to avoid alienating the large churches that provide financial support.

He’s disappointed that the Illumination committee has no gay members. “They’re discussing our inclusion without including us,” Blanchard said.

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To the Rev. Dwight Moody, a Baptist minister and retired professor of theology at Georgetown College who attends a fellowship-affiliated church in Lexington, the state convention's tactics are unfair and unnecessary if each church is truly free to set its own course.

If the Kentucky Baptist Convention ultimately splits with the fellowship, he said, “it’s punishing local churches for the actions” of national leaders, which would be a "new wrinkle."

Chitwood thinks many of the fellowship churches won’t go along with sanctioning LGBT clergy or missionaries anyway because most members believe the Scriptures clearly define gay life as un-Christian.

“I don’t think it will have a big impact,” he said

By Grace Schneider
Louisville Courier Journal


November 24, 2017


by Mark Fulmer

And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Acts 2:42-47 (

Darkness had finally fallen. There were no street lamps, or billboards, or headlights. The blackness was thick. But in the distance, where we had hiked an hour before, we could see an unearthly orange glow. Smoke swirled upward as if from a cauldron. The scene was eerie. "What is that?" I asked. "It's creepy!"

"That's the volcano," came the answer, "the one we were looking down on just a bit ago. You just couldn't see the glow in the daylight." I was breathless, overcome with the awe of what I was seeing. That glow, and warmth, and steam was coming from the furnace that is the center of the earth. And in the amalgam that is awe, I felt amazement, and wonder, and a dollop of fear. Light and mist and heat from inside the earth. Awesome!

Think of how many times in Scripture the same thing happens. The unexpected overwhelms the ordinary, as God's power and mercy and love all burst unavoidably into the here and now. Remember those half a million people trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea? And then the leader cried out, "Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will work for you today" (Exodus 14:13). And they crossed the sea floor on dry ground. It wasn't too long before the descendants of those same folks would capture a heavily fortified city with trumpet blasts and shouts. Then years later there would be a crowd of mourners who shared probably the longest pregnant pause in history. The stone had been rolled back, the weeping rabbi friend had shouted the dead man's name, and then, he came out — alive. The onlookers must have been awestruck. "The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them,
'Unbind him, and let him go'" (John 11:44).

The church began that way and still grows that way. When God's people "see the salvation of the Lord," they recognize themselves as part of the eternal history of God's power and mercy and love. And awe comes upon them. Once stony hearts are filled with gladness. These Christ's Ones grow more and more in awe of the goodness God has done in Christ. And Christians want to share. Can you imagine having crossed the Red Sea or marched around Jericho or unwrapped Lazarus' torso and not told anyone about it?

So this week especially, as we give thanks, may God renew our awe, that we may receive our meals with "glad and generous hearts." And may the light and warmth and love of Christ be seen afresh in us.

About the Author

Mark Fulmer
Park Cities Presbyterian Church

Mark Fulmer is an elder at Park Cities Presbyterian Church, and along with Steve Vanderhill, teaches the New Creations Sunday School class.


October 27, 2017

How to Listen to a Sermon

by Robby Higginbottom

Peter's Sermon at Pentecost

...But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: "Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. That is, 9 a.m. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

"'And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants Greek bondservants; twice in this verse and female servantsin those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens aboveand signs on the earth below ,blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darknessand the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.'

"Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know--this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him,

"'I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption.

You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.'

"Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

"'The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.'

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified."

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself." And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation." So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

Acts 2:14-41 (

“Surely you know that if a man can’t be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighborhood looking for the church that ‘suits’ him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches.... The search for a ‘suitable’ church makes the man a critic where the Enemy wants him to be a pulpit.”

With these words, Screwtape encourages his demonic understudy to tempt people to cultivate a self-centered posture toward the church. Like other passages in C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, this shoe can fit so well that it makes us squirm. The same temptation to be a connoisseur and critic of a church also infiltrates our listening to sermons. Have we ever sighed when we arrive and learn that our favorite preacher is out of town? Have we made a mental or written note of things we would have done differently than the preacher? Have we ever left a worship service with little more than a judgment — “I loved it” or “I didn’t like it”? These questions reveal that the spirit of the connoisseur and the critic is alive and well in us. Sadly, we can prefer consumption and critique to conversion and conviction.

If we’re going to hear around 50 sermons a year (500 in 10 years...2,500 in 50 years), don’t we want to walk away with more than “I enjoy listening to him” or “I didn’t like that”? Preaching is not the only means of grace that the Lord uses to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, Acts reminds us that preaching has always played a central role in the transformation of God’s people. Peter’s sermon at Pentecost reveals some of the pillars of biblical preaching: (1) the authority of the Word (Sola Scriptura), (2) the supremacy of Jesus Christ (Solus Christus), (3) the free offer of the grace of God (Sola Gratia), (4) the call to turn to Christ (Sola Fide), and (5) the zeal for the glory of God (Soli Deo Gloria). The 5 “Solas” of the Reformation help us distinguish between those who preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and those who do not. But beyond our biblical-theological convictions, the following questions may help us reflect on how well we listen to sermons.

“Am I present?” It’s hard to listen to a sermon if I’m not there. Have I made it a priority to be present when the people of God gather for worship? Once I am in the sanctuary, am I all there? Am I seeking to be still, to draw near, and, ultimately, to worship God?

“Am I prepared?” What does my preparation for a weekly worship service reveal about me? If “my soul thirsts for God” (Psalm 42:2), wouldn’t I anticipate the joy of worshiping Him before I walk through the doors? How can I redeem the night before or the morning of a worship service so that I am ready and eager to hear from God?

“Am I practical?” If I know the text of the sermon earlier in the week, do I spend time in the passage before Sunday? When I hear a sermon, can I focus on one or two practical things that I believe the Lord is calling me to address? Grace-driven application sounds like this: “Lord, after hearing this sermon, I need your grace to help me __________.”

“Am I prayerful?” Is my listening to sermons bathed in prayer...before, during and after the sermon...for myself, for the preacher and for everyone gathered to listen? The connoisseur and the critic in me suffocate in the presence of God. The pride that only looks down gives way to the humility that looks up. As the Lord teaches me to pray, He shapes my heart to receive His Word, to be “cut to the heart,” (Acts 2:37) and to “know for certain that God has made [Jesus] both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

How are we listening to sermons? By God’s grace, how do we want to grow?


About the Author

Robby Higginbottom
Assistant Pastor of College Ministry
Park Cities Presbyterian Church

Robby Higginbottom was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. As early as high school, he sensed the Lord calling him to pastoral ministry. Robby is a graduate of Highland Park High School, Duke University, and Redeemer Seminary. Through the years, he has worked with high school students, college students, and young adults at PCPC. Robby currently serves as an assistant pastor. He is married to Ann, and they have two children: Will and John Harper.


God's Holy Fire from Heartlight

God's Holy Fire is a daily devotional about the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
  • Pray in the Spirit

    Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

    Ephesians 6:18 NLT

    Key Thought

    "Pray in the Spirit...!" Paul is asking believers to pray consciously recognizing that the Spirit given them when they came to Christ (Ephesians 1:13) gives them direct access to God. That access allows them to pray what is on their hearts (Ephesians 2:18; cf. Romans 8:26-27) and to ask for knowledge, power, and boldness for others (Ephesians 1:17; Ephesians 3:16; Ephesians 6:18-20). In other words, the Spirit lives inside us and empowers our prayers, interceding directly to the heart of God and enabling our prayers to have powerful results! Our prayers are so much more than the words we say. We pray, consciously, alertly, and persistently, speaking to the Creator of the universe, assured we are heard, knowing that God will respond with power and grace in the lives of those for whom we pray!

    Today's Prayer

    O Father, thank you for your incredible gift of the Holy Spirit who makes my prayers much more than my words. Thank you that I can pray in the Spirit, speaking to you spirit to Spirit, knowing that I am heard and understood and that the Spirit conforms my prayers to your will. Thank you that such intentional praying brings powerful blessings for those for whom I pray. In Jesus' name. Amen.

    Ⓒ 1996-2018 Heartlight, Inc. This material may not be reproduced in part or whole for commercial use without written consent. The Thoughts and Prayer for God's Holy Fire are written by Phil Ware.

    Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

    Scripture quotations marked MESSAGE are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

  • Be Filled with the Spirit

    Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

    Ephesians 5:18-21 NIV

    Key Thought

    When people are drunk, we say they are "under the influence." When a person is a follower of Jesus, he or she should be under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Paul lists five ways that we fill ourselves with the Spirit. Four we would normally identify with community worship — speaking to one another in song, singing, making music in our hearts, and giving thanks to God. Paul adds a fifth way to turn the Spirit loose in our lives: submitting to one another as part of our worship of Jesus. I don't know about you, but there are times when I have not wanted to do each of these things. However, in doing them with a genuine desire to honor the Lord, I find myself blessed and empowered in ways I would never have expected. We shouldn't be surprised: The Bible tells us that when we do these things, God's Spirit fills us!

    Today's Prayer

    Loving Father, thank you for entering into me through the Holy Spirit. I am going to try to do all I can to worship you with my words and with my relationships, trusting that you will empower me with your Holy Spirit. Please help me see your presence and power in my life as I do these things in today's verses. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

    Ⓒ 1996-2018 Heartlight, Inc. This material may not be reproduced in part or whole for commercial use without written consent. The Thoughts and Prayer for God's Holy Fire are written by Phil Ware.

    Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

    Scripture quotations marked MESSAGE are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.