Wednesday, February 13, 2008

In Jeopardy over a Picture Book

Browsing through the news around the nation this morning I came across a heated little story on a large moderate Baptist church in Texas where I was once a member (and I even got married there on one occasion). It seems that one group of 200 inside those walls is bent on firing the pastor over the church directory. He was even offered $50,000 to just leave.

When the time rolled around to take church directory pics, some gay couples requested to have their photos published, too. Well, that led to polarization in the congregation. Some good liberal members argued that publishing pics of gay couples would go "beyond welcoming" gay people to "affirming" their "lifestyle." Other good liberal members argued that requiring gay couples to be pictured apart from each other in the directory was demeaning. The deacons (analogous to a "board of directors") attempted to resolve the matter by suggesting that the church directory have only church groups and no families. The pastor's sin: supporting the deacons.

Even moderate-to-progressive Baptists can be at once a tough crowd and an entertaining bunch of petty bickerers. It used to be the case that the church picture book was one of the few things that Baptists could agree on. In some Baptist churches you would be better off ripping the pages out of the Bible than taking pictures out of the directory. And nowadays people can even lose their jobs over it.

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