This Denies the Gospel

The gospel is that Jesus is the Messiah/King and Lord of all, and he is so on the basis of faith — not works, not ethnic identity, not sexual identity, and not economic identity. As Paul expresses the impact of the gospel in Galatians 3:28, we are all one in Christ. But this church has denied the gospel by prohibiting interracial marriage and prohibiting such from exercising God-given gifts and church membership. Shame on them.

A small Kentucky church has chosen to ban marriages and even some worship services for interracial couples. The Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church, located in Pike County, made the vote in response to a longtime member who is engaged to a man whose birthplace is in Zimbabwe.

Other pastoral leaders in the area were quick to denounce the church’s vote. “It’s not the spirit of the community in any way, shape or form,” Randy Johnson, president of the Pike County Ministerial Association, told the Lexington Herald-Leader.

A copy of the recommendation, obtained by WYMT, reads in part:

That the Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church does not condone interracial marriage. Parties of such marriages will not be received as members, nor will they be used in worship services and other church functions, with the exception being funerals. All are welcome [whatever that means now] to our public worship services. This recommendation is not intended to judge the salvation of anyone [but it's getting mighty close], but is intended to promote greater unity [which it is destroying] among the church body [which it is severing] and the community we serve [which will have no prophetic voice about racism at this church].

Members of the church held a vote on Thompson’s proposed language, with nine voting in favor and six voting against. The other members in attendance chose not to vote.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://henryimler.com Henry Michael Imler

    I read in the Guardian.uk’s write up on the situation that the vote was 9-6 (and a lot of people abstaining from the vote) and that the pastor disagrees with the choice. Additionally, the Free Will Baptist churches that associate with this one, while they have no power over the congregation itself, they plan on working on this issue with them soon.

    So,I’m glad that the vote is being contested internally and externally by their communities.

  • Brandon

    Most of the Freewill Baptist churches I’ve observed never seemed to understand the gospel in the first place. They operate more like a cult than a church in my opinion.

  • http://henryimler.com Henry Michael Imler

    Here is the link to the Guardian.uk write up : http://bit.ly/slT4q6 .

  • EricW

    I suspect they probably don’t allow women to be pastors or preach from the pulpit and teach men, either.

    That, too, is a denial of the Gospel.

  • Robin

    FWB churches do not have female pastors. Think of them as the arminians who existed around 1800 and then never changed their theology (or any other belief) over a 200 year period. Most the the FWB churches I am familiar with are still KJV only churches.

  • nathan

    What’s sad is that out of a misguided sense of “charity” most Gospel loving Christians will not find a way to publicly and clearly repudiate this. Thus, allowing the media to intimate that there is something wrong with Christians generally.

    We can roll our eyes/grieve/be embarrassed by this stuff, but if we don’t do the work to bend over backwards and pro-actively repudiate this stuff (along with other voices that unfortunately end up speaking for us, e.g. Robertson and the like) we can’t complain about the “unfair” treatment of the media or “persecution” or “anti-Christian bias”.

    People still go to those churches, and tons of Christians bankroll certain public voices ministries with their donations. We’ve got to find a way to marginalize dangerous voices. seriously.

  • Aaron

    EricW,
    Can you expand on what you said about not allowing women to preach/teach men to be a denial of the Gospel, rather than just obedience to how they understand the Bible? (Frankly, I understand it that way too, but I’m on the verge of throwing out my complementarian theology simply because of sexism I keep seeing in the church, rather than because I see that the Bible teaches women should preach). I assume you’d cite Galatians 3:28, which is a great verse, but how do you view (or what do you do with) Paul’s statements about women preaching/speaking/having authority? Thanks in advance!

  • Rick

    Nathan-

    Sometimes the repudiation does not get covered.

    From the Yahoo version of the story:

    “Other pastoral leaders in the area were quick to denounce the church’s vote. “It’s not the spirit of the community in any way, shape or form,” Randy Johnson, president of the Pike County Ministerial Association, told the Lexington Herald-Leader.”

    However, the ABC News version left that information out of its story.

  • Pat Pope

    Truly sickening.

  • MatthewS

    Horrible!

    I am not John Piper’s biggest fan but he wrote a piece some time back that went beyond saying “it’s OK” to saying it should be celebrated. Kudos to him for that, and may all our churches do so.

  • Prodigal Daughter

    Good lawd! I never thought I’d find an organization that makes Bob Jones University look progressive, but I think I just found it…

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    MatthewS#10, I think I don’t understand you?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I’m curious how they define interracial. What if a Korean man married a black woman?

  • EricW

    @Aaron 7.:

    I view the Gospel as being about the New Creation, the New (Hu)Man, with Christ as the Head and the members of His Body, whether male or female, being joined to Him as a Bride to a Groom. The two are one flesh, and Body’s members are members of one another. Patriarchal hierarchicalism, gender restrictionism, “complementarianism,” etc., to me denies the fundamental nature of the New Creation/New Being that is Christ and (and in) His Church, and reflects the old creation instead. We no longer regard Christ according to the flesh, nor are we to regard each other that way (2 Corinthians 5). The Spirit has been poured out on and given to all flesh. In Christ there is not “male and female” (the LXX wording of Genesis 1:27).

    There are a number of commentaries and books analyzing Paul’s “clobber” passages against women that show that the passages have local and occasional and situational and cultural factors that must be considered in order to be interpreted and applied (or not applied) properly. Not to mention the fact that kephalê and authentein have debated meanings.

    I guess another point I was suggesting was that it is highly likely that churches and Christians that say that this church’s practice “denies the Gospel” themselves “deny the Gospel” by some of their practices, gender restrictionism being (IMO) one of them. As a Protestant, I might argue that the sacerdotalism and in persona Christi practices and doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church deny the Gospel, not just because of their gender restrictionism but also because of their teaching about the priesthood and the Eucharist/Mass. In other words (and I am NOT condoning this church’s practice, which I find deplorable and absurd and ignorant of the Gospel), some of those casting stones live in glass houses themselves. And that’s likely true of many of us who might assert that so and so is denying the Gospel. After all, how many of us have sold all we have to follow Jesus? Or have always given to everyone who asks anything of us? Or have cared or worried about food or clothing or shelter? Etc.

    XAPIC KAI EIPHNH

  • Shane

    Scot this is another example of how for some people you can never be too conservative. Of course as you point out such thinking doesn’t conserve but undermines the gospel.

  • Michael Hochstetler

    I live in eastern Ky, and I can’t help but think of this incident in relation to local controversies over civil rights (that is, BASIC civil rights) for gays. It is so disheartening to see one local church leader after another (and some who are more prominent) come out in favor of legalized intolerance. A different set of issues is involved, but similar attitudes are being reflected.

  • JohnM

    The ones who abstained from voting should repudiate congregational polity as they apparently lack the requisite self-confidence and sense of responsibility. I do have to ask though, did this “long time member” really have no clue about the attitude of her church?

    In any case, it does not come “mighty close” to judging anyones salvation, I’ll take them at their word on that, though the rest of the bracketed commentary is about right. It also has squat to do with sexual identity, why muddy the water? And why use this as an opportunity to throw rocks at the denomination? No, I’m not a FWB.

  • Shane

    One more point I thought about – in Eph 5 Paul says that marriage is a picture of the mystery of Christ and the church. And in Eph, the “mystery” particularly refers to uniting Jews and Gentiles in Christ. So marriage is a picture of God’s power to unite different races! What better way to illustrate this than in a mixed race marriage. And what better way to insult the mystery of Christ and the church than to deny mixed race couples.

  • http://bwebaptistwomenforequality.wordpress.com Shirley Taylor

    Shane, I don’t think that marriage is a picture of the mystery of Christ. If it is, it is a bad picture of Christ as Paul says at the end of Eph 5.

    The passages from Paul are not a marriage how-to book. It is the apostle Paul using a particular situation in a marriage to explain how they could accept a new law – this time from Christ. Look at Romans 7:1-6.

    The apostle Paul used the marriage relationship between a man and woman as an illustration to show this new relationship that Christians have with Christ. He was not giving a law for marriage at all. These people already had a marriage law.

    You notice Paul gave the illustration of a woman and her marriage, not a man in his marriage. That is because men could have 2 wives at the same time and it not be adultery. According to my information from a Rabbi they still can have more than one wife. Paul was saying that Christ became the second legal husband of the wife in a metamorphical sense.

    Romans 7:1-6: Do you not know, brothers – for I am speaking to men who know the law – that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives? For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage.

    Paul is trying to help people understand that they can accept Jesus, who has come to replace the law which Paul says is now dead. This was hard for these people. He made the case, using their marriage laws, to show how they could live with the law, until that law is dead, and then you can choose another law, which Paul says is Jesus Christ.

    He says this:
    • In marriage a woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive.
    • If the husband dies she is no longer bound to him
    • If she chooses a new husband before the old husband dies, she is in sin
    • If she chooses a new husband after the old husband dies, she is not sinning.

    To mean this:
    • You obeyed the old law until it died with the coming of Jesus Christ.
    • If you had found a new law that replaced the old law, before Christ, you would be in sin.
    • Since the old law is dead, you can find (marry) a new law which is Christ (verse 4)

    This is the same principle found in Ephesians. Paul teaches on Christ, not on marriage. Christ is perfect, but a marriage is not perfect as we see in Paul’s words to the Ephesians. Paul had to stop in the middle of his illustration of Christ to a marriage to tell the men to love their husbands, and not to beat them. Then he admits that it is all a great mystery, but that the best way he can explain it is by using the marriage illustration.

    We have failed to keep the main thing the main thing, and have given husbands the role of Christ in the marriage.

  • http://bwebaptistwomenforequality.wordpress.com Shirley Taylor

    Correction: Paul had to stop in the middle of his illustration of Christ to a marriage to tell the men to love their WIVES, and not to beat them. Oh, well, a laugh is good for the soul, and I hope you got one from this error!

  • Shane

    @Shirley – I would agree that Romans 7 is about the new covenant but in Ephesians 5 Paul says that the husband and wife are to become one – then says this is a great mystery, language that throughout Ephesians (and elsewhere) refers to God’s plan to unite Jews and Gentiles in Christ. Marriage is a fitting picture of this because it unites two into one, just as in Eph 2 Paul says God does for Jews and Gentiles – he makes the two into one new man.

  • http://bwebaptistwomenforequality.wordpress.com Shirley Taylor

    Shane, that doesn’t make sense. If complementarians believe that men have certain roles and women have certain roles, with the husband as the leader, then they have not become one. They are dominant and subordinate. When the two (Jews and Gentiles) become one and it is one new man, then that is equal. The Jew does not have a certain role to play against the Gentile, and is not the leader. The Gentile is equal.

    If we are to compare this to a marriage where man and wife are to become one, then we must give equality to both men and women. Not leadership one over the other. Equality.

  • http://shanescottonline.com Shane Scott

    @Shirley – I am not following how your responses are related to my comments (which can easily happen in blog discussions!) My point about Ephesians 5 had nothing to do with the complementarian/egalitarian debate. My point had to do with the “mystery” of God’s power to unite Jews and Gentiles, of which marriage is a microcosm, and interracial marriage is an awesome microcosm. For the record, I do believe there can be equality of status but different roles, but that wasn’t remotely what I was talking about in my post. I just posted a full article on my blog addressing this issue in detail, so maybe it would be best to go there if you are inclined, and if we are still not agreeing on what we are disagreeing about, we can take it up on my bandwidth and not Scot’s! :-)

  • http://bwebaptistwomenforequality.wordpress.com Shirley Taylor

    Thanks for the invite, Shane, but I have no idea who you are or what your blog is, so I will pass on that.


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