A Gospel of Inclusion: Welcoming straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans-gendered people to the table of God.
First Baptist of McMinnville, strives to live out the Gospel of inclusion, as presented by Jesus in Luke 14: 7 - 23. In this passage, Jesus likens the Kingdom of God to a great banquet table: "Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled.'
This passage reminds us that everyone is welcome to the table of God. The question we are to ask: 'Who are the ones marginalized in our time? Who are the ones that society excludes from God's table, God's house?' For too long our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans-gendered sisters and brothers have been persecuted in our culture and condemned or ignored within too many churches.
For the last twenty years, FBC has been on a journey, learning what it means to be an inclusive congregation as relates to the gay community. Beginning with the prophetic ministry of former pastor Bernie Turner, and during the 14 years that I have served as pastor, FBC has evolved as an inclusive congregation.
In October 2007 the News Register, a local paper serving Yamhill County, ran a series on our county’s inclusion of gays and lesbians. A link to this series can be found here. Featured prominently in this series are members of First Baptist. We were the first congregation in McMinnville to publicly welcome gays and lesbians into the church. We continue to be a prophetic witness to the wider community. We hope other congregations will join us in publicly welcoming gays and lesbians into their membership. We also hope that stereotypes of Christians as exclusive may be broken so that people can take a fresh look at the Gospel of Jesus.
As I mention in my interview with the News Register, some of the finest Christians I've ever met just happen to be gay. We at FBC are truly blessed by the inclusion of our gay and lesbian sisters and brothers. Attached to this link is a biblical overview by a friend of mine, Reverend Howard Bess. I believe Howard offers a concise and clear biblical summary for those of us who believe that homosexuality is consistent with the Christian faith. I welcome ongoing discussion with those who agree and disagree with this biblical understanding. As people of faith, it is essential that we are able to articulate a biblical base for how we understand and live out our faith.
Let me emphasize that at FBC we are inclusive of a variety of perspectives on all sorts of issues, including homosexuality. Guiding our discussion is our affirmation of historic Baptist distinctiveness including: Soul Freedom; Bible Freedom; and Autonomy of the Local Church. Soul Freedom refers to the responsibility of each to follow her/his conscience. Bible Freedom refers to discerning the wisdom of scripture (via individual study and community discussion). Autonomy of the Local Church refers to the freedom of FBC in McMinnville to follow the leading of the Spirit.
While many of us believe that our inclusion of gays and lesbians is consistent with our understanding of scripture, we also respect the views of our sisters and brothers who disagree. In humility we continue to pray, listen, and learn from one another. We believe that God's Spirit is at work, continually leading us ever deeper into the heart of God. Here at FBC, we continue to evolve.
We at FBC pray that our witness as a congregation will encourage reflection and dialogue. God's grace and peace to you.
~ Pastor Kent Harrop, November 10, 2007
A link to the October 2007 Newsregister stories
A Biblical overview by Reverened Howard Bess