A few blocks away from the campus of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky sits the building which houses Crescent Hill Baptist Church. Prior to the seminary’s realignment with its heritage, this church and the seminary were closely linked in theology as well as geography. Today that theological link is a gulf.
While the seminary moved forward by moving back to its roots, the church continued a downward spiral away from her Baptist heritage. The current spiritual location of the church can be illustrated by a recent article in Louisville’s newspaper, Wedding marks a journey for couple, church.
This article was written by a woman who is a council member of Louisville’s government. She formerly attended the seminary and is a member of the church. She is also a lesbian and was married to her female partner at a ceremony held in and endorsed by the church.
When I arrived in Louisville to do doctoral studies at the seminary at the beginning of 1996, I knew nothing about churches in the city. Since I had noticed this church near our residence and near the seminary, I attended a Wednesday service there on one of my first days in the city. It did not take long to realize that this was a Baptist church unlike any I had ever attended. Still it is startling how far adrift this church has gone.
The newspaper article includes several statements worth noting.
Considering the fact, however, that it took centuries for the church, and in particular Baptists, to even begin acknowledging that the love between two people of the same sex is to be embraced, how wonderfully radical is it then that a Baptist church would actually fully bless that love through the ceremony of marriage.
At least this woman acknowledges that the path that she and the church have taken is divergent from the path of Baptists historically. I would agree that it is a “radical” position, but would not use the descriptor “wonderful” with it.
If you wonder whether it is only an ecclesiastical issue, consider what she wrote about the journey of the church,
(The church) took the next step in its journey to understand God more fully.
She makes this an issue of theology proper. The logical conclusion is that those who disagree have less of an understanding of God. The folks at Crescent Hill have a fuller understanding of God than did the church through more than 20 centuries. Seems a bit arrogant.
If you are unsure that she meant that, she doubles down that those who hold to the historical view of God alienate people.
As we were growing to understand ourselves and our love, our community, our world and our church were also growing in their understanding that we are all God’s people. And make no mistake, during that time of growth, the church, by its not progressing in more fully understanding God, has alienated many of its own believers and countless more who wouldn’t even give her consideration because the pain of rejection was simply too great to bear.
She goes even further by describing those embracing the historical view of God as having an “infantile understanding of God.” As an alternative she credits a former dean of the seminary encouraged her in her “ever-evolving understanding of God.”
She closes by thanking this god. But as she has clearly stated, she is talking to a god that is not the God of the Bible. To the God of the Bible, I do give thanks for the course direction of the seminary over the past few decades. I am also thankful that the Baptists of Kentucky chose to withdraw fellowship from this church. For they clearly worship a different god and are Baptists in name only.
***For further info on the history of this church, check out this history written by the esteemed historian, Timothy George in 1983. When the church began in 1908, it adopted the Philadelphia Confession of Faith.