I Don’t Care What Jim West Calls Himself, He Isn’t A Baptist in Any Meaningful Sense of the Word

Jim West has taken it upon himself to try to define away the status of the First Baptist Church of Seattle as a Baptist church.

Jim considers their stance on same-sex marriage and their holding of ceremonies marrying people of the same gender to be incompatible with Baptist identity.

But ironically, apart from believer’s baptism, one of the most fundamental and characteristic tenets of the Baptists is soul freedom – the right and duty of individual believers, and communities of believers, to follow the dictates of their consciences, without compulsion from authoritarian structures.

So congratulations to Jim West for having – rather ironically – defined himself  out of Baptist identity by thinking that he can dictate to other Baptists how to follow their consciences or their understanding of Scripture.

But more serious congratulations to those happy couples who were now able to marry thanks to changes in the law – and congratulations to First Baptist Church of Seattle for being at the forefront  on the issue of marriage equality, and not bringing shame upon our faith tradition by standing on the wrong side of history and Scripture when it comes to this matter.

  • http://twitter.com/RichardtheJet Richard Billingsley

    Jim West told me he isn’t a Christian, although he is a Gnostic. He doesn’t believe that Jesus walked as a human on earth. So why on earth is he getting involved in something that doesn’t concern him? In my experience, he has defended Ayn Rand, or refused to condemn her influence on Christians. Plus no real Jesus. Plus this. He has put himself way outside the Christian Way. He kicked me off his facebook page and unfriended me for defending ObamaCare. He has shown him to be an Ayn Rand loving Libertarian. That’s okay but he needs to be honest about that. And stop passing himself off as a Baptist, a Christian, a Gnostic or anything that identifies him with Christ.

  • http://twitter.com/drjewest Jim West

    james i dont know who this billingsly character is but i’ve never defended rand. quite the contrary. and i dont recall ever defriending anyone because of their views of the health care system. in fact, again, quite the contrary. so he’s either inept or deceptive. either way, he’s lying.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Thanks for commenting here, Jim, and for your post on your own blog: http://zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/i-dont-care-what-james-mcgrath-thinks-about-me-or-what-it-means-to-be-a-baptist/

      It may be that most Baptists are wrong about this point, but I have always heard soul freedom/competency explained in terms of the right and responsibility of each believer to follow the dictates of their conscience, and of Scripture as they understand it, before God. http://www.centerforbaptiststudies.org/pamphlets/style/liberty.htm

      Some of us take the stance that we do about marriage equality precisely on the basis of Scriptural and Baptist principles. Scriptural because we believe that the Bible’s teaching about love, fidelity, and companionship are more central to its teaching than the question of gender of spouses. Baptist because we believe that it ought to be legal for those who embrace marriage equality to practice it, just as it needs to be legal for those who do not to refrain from doing so.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christian-Amondson/746211012 Christian Amondson

    Did they require the men to get matching haircuts and shirts? Cause that actually seems more Baptist to me than Episcopalian.

  • http://twitter.com/JeremiahBailey Jeremiah Bailey

    This is why I love CBF. They pass non-binding resolutions so you can know what the majority thinks without forcing people to leave or find another denomination. That seems to be the best way to be Baptist together. If you aren’t familiar, moderate and liberal CBF churches are very similar to ABC churches.

  • newenglandsun

    As a bisexual, I personally think that this whole “marriage” thing is already way too legalistic as it is. Why make marriage into nothing more than a ceremony and a couple of papers? I think marriage in general should be allowed to break away from something that a state tries to make it. Why should any one need someone to tell people that they are married or not? It makes no sense at all.

    • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

      Marriage has a tendency to involve a lot of legal matters. What it primarily comes down to is proof that the spouse has a legal right to act on behalf of their partner, whether it’s as benign as joint-filing taxes or as crucial as power of attorney (when the spouse is hospitalized and incapable of acting on their own behalf).

      In the absence of this legal proof, the power to act on the spouse’s behalf defaults to their closest family members. This can often end poorly. A recent example was Roger Gorley and his lover Allen Mansell. Because their relationship is not legally considered marriage, Mansell’s family received power of attorney when he was hospitalized, which they used to forbid Gorley to have any hospital visitation rights and had him forcibly ejected from his lover’s side.

      In another example, Harold Scull and Clay Greene were forcibly separated when Scull was hospitalized. Not only was Greene not allowed to see his lover before he died (three months later), but the state decided that as Scull had not been legally married, his possessions defaulted to the county. Scull and Greene’s home and all of their possessions were auctioned off.

      Bottom line, without some means of showing that the couple has an officially recognized legal bond, the spouse has no more ability to defend their rights than a random person on the street — and in an environment of discrimination, people can and often do err on the side of being complete monsters in their interpretation of the couple’s rights.

      • newenglandsun

        Yeah. I always forget the full legal aspects in this issue. Of course, my take is one that is more of denying the rights of the government as opposed to necessarily the people. That is, if the government hadn’t tried to define what a marriage is in the first place but rather allowed people to establish themselves in whatever way possible, none of this marriage equality would have to be argued for.

        • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

          On the other hand, if what constituted a marriage were left up to private decision, I can see at least two problems that would probably arise.

          1) By including a central government in the legal matters of marriage, we can keep a universal database of all marriages. Without keeping the government in the loop, it’s harder to ensure that everyone knows that the couple is married. Or that they can prove the marriage happened. Then you run into the same situation as the above when your spouse’s family from New York flies out to Seattle to claim power of attorney because “how do we know that you’re really married?”

          2) By establishing a baseline of specific rights afforded to couples by marriage, one can more easily ensure that everyone gets the same rights (caveat, prenuptial agreements allow one to tweak those rights, so they’re not all identical). If left up to individual couples to decide what rights they should have, one runs the risk of creating a binding contract which can be exploited to give one person excessive power over the other, or which fails to protect their rights in some fashion (“You didn’t say anything about having hospital visitation rights, so guess what, you don’t get any!”). Government involvement allows us to create a standard for proper treatment of married couples.

          One can somewhat alleviate these issues by having it be based on community consensus (basically tie it into local government rather than federal government), but that can cause problems like what we have now– “Oh, you got married in Washington? Well, we in Missouri don’t recognize your marriage, so you’re not married as long as you’re here. No hospital visitation rights for you.”

          • newenglandsun

            You make a good point legally. I always come from more of an anarcho-communist perspective and forget that the human race has not advanced that far yet. That’s why legally, I do support it whether one wants to call it marriage or civil union (because as you pointed out, ALL marriages are civil unions).


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