It’s the dream of every pastor. This past week a sermon video went viral. Only for Pastor Charles L. Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, North Carolina, his dream may become a nightmare. And the negative reaction has the rare feature of coming from both the Right and the Left in the worlds of politics and religion.
On May 13th, Worley responded from his pulpit to President Obama’s support of gay marriage. His words, which were filmed by the church, later appeared on the church’s website (though later taken down). Within the week an “anti-hate” group picked up the sermon and posted it on YouTube, where it’s racked up over 500,000 views.
Here is a glimpse of part of Worley’s message:
I figured a way out, a way to get rid of all the lesbians and queers, but I couldn’t get it past the Congress. Build a great big, large fence – 50 or a 100 miles long – and put all the lesbians in there. Fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals, and have that fence electrified so they can’t get out. Feed them. And you know what, in a few years, they’ll die out. You know why? They can’t reproduce. … I’m gonna preach the hell out of all of ’em. … God have mercy. It makes me pukin’ sick.
This pastor will now forever be known for these words. And the church will be remembered for the sounds of “amen” and laughter at the pastor’s words. And those who claim Christianity and support traditional marriage are in danger of being put in the same camp as these words of hate.
Besides being a freelance writer for PJ Media, I am a pastor. To be more specific, I am a conservative, evangelical, Southern Baptist pastor. We’re the ones those on the Left tend to think are the grand priests of the dark side. I am passionately pro-life and support traditional marriage. I am politically conservative and believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. So many see Worley and myself as the same person. They might be shocked to hear that I, and those like me, am vehemently and loudly coming out against the words of the North Carolina pastor.
Worley’s church is not Southern Baptist. Providence Road Baptist Church describes itself as a “fundamentalist” independent Baptist church. Churches that boast of this title usually have no denominational affiliation but are often known for being “King James only” and legalistic in their approach to Christianity. They want to see people come to Jesus, but their approach is about being anti-culture instead of trying to speak to culture. Sadly, some churches that use this approach come off as pretty hateful.
I spoke with a former Fundamentalist Baptist turned Southern Baptist pastor and he said such attitudes are often the norm in this version of Christianity. Pastor David Colvin said,
I am not surprised at all about the remark. I grew up as an Independent Fundamental Baptist. They are marked by their very ultra-conservative stand, and their bold, in your face attitude to sin and the gospel. What is said was harsh, and insulting. … It is things like this … that have caused me to leave the IFB altogether.
Most of the media reports on this story have featured responses from the religious Left. Their response has been that Worley is hateful and the Bible doesn’t speak out against homosexuality anyway. But what about conservative Christians — those who believe the Bible does call homosexuality a sin? We don’t want to be put in the Worley camp. We have something to say as well.
Dr. Al Mohler is one of the more well known voices for Evangelicals today. He is the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and often called on for media interviews. He even recently wrote an article for CNN on the Bible speaking out against homosexuality. However, his immediate response to Worley on Twitter and Facebook was the opposite of an amen. Mohler posted the CNN coverage of the story and responded: “Here is how to do incalculable damage to our Gospel witness. We must respond with outrage to this message.”
Why does Mohler say Worley damages the gospel? Because the gospel is a message of love and mercy. While sin must be addressed so people see the need to come to Christ, this must always be proclaimed in love and grace. All Christians, especially those of us who stand for Biblical principles for sexuality, must stand up and say this guy does not represent us. His words are worthy of condemnation. Truth without love is no longer truth but hate-filled attacks on the gospel. The Bible is clear on this topic in James 2:8-13:
8 If you really carry out the royal law prescribed in Scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself , you are doing well. 9 But if you show favoritism, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors…12 Speak and act as those who will be judged by the law of freedom. 13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who hasn’t shown mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
The most important law in the Bible is to love people. And showing partiality to certain people and putting down others is the opposite of that. We are called to show mercy, for all of us sin and need mercy.
1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Love is the ultimate requirement for Christians. We could do everything right, but if we don’t love we’ve missed it all. Worley and his church have missed it all. They’ve missed the whole message. You can be right on calling something sin, but you sin yourself if you aren’t loving about it. And that not only hurts your witness of the gospel, but it hurts the rest of us who are trying to be loving.
Denny Burke, a Southern Baptist professor, put it well:
This pastor’s words are abominable and deserve condemnation and censure from all Christians. This is the kind of thing that props up caricatures of Christians and which harm the progress of the gospel. Anyone who would talk like this in a sermon is not qualified to be a pastor.
How can today’s conservative Christians simultaneously stand for traditional marriage while clearly communicating love to those with same-sex attraction? I’m not sure we’ve found the answer to that yet.