As homosexuality becomes a larger topic in today's society, many in opposition are now declaring a certain level of tolerance and understanding for the hot topic, including the Southern Baptist Church.
At the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission in Nashville last month, leaders agreed to approach the topic of same-sex marriage with a "lighter tone," acknowledging that the approach to the topic may need a different angle.
"Early in this controversy, I felt it quite necessary, in order to make clear of the Gospel, to deny anything like a sexual orientation," Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler said in his opening speech at the conference. "I believe that a Biblical theological understanding, a robust Biblical theology, would point to us that human sexual affective profiles - that who we are sexually - is far more deeply rooted than just the 'will,' if that were so easy." In short, Mohler is saying that the church's stance that people choose to be gay is wrong, and he even went so far as to say that he repents for that thinking.
But this is not to say that any stance on homosexuality or gay marriage has been changed. Many of the conference's 1,200 attendees recognized that the denomination needs to move toward a better understanding of gay people, while still sticking by what the Bible says.
The Southern Baptist Convention is the second largest Christian denomination in the U.S. -- behind Catholicism -- with 16 million members and over 45,000 congregations. Catholic Pope Francis said earlier this year that he was not one to judge homosexuals and even acknowledged gay civil unions as OK, while remaining against legalized gay marriage.
Some may be concerned that the Southern Baptist denomination is heading down the same path, but speakers in attendance made sure to let everyone know that that's not the case.
Alabama Baptist Convention President John Killian remains vigilant on the issue of same-sex marriage and the possibility of allowing same-sex couples to adopt children. "We are seeing an issue as basic as marriage now challenged," Killian said in a sermon following the Nashville conference. "We all love and are proud of our Baptist Children's Home. This great ministry does not accept state funding, however they will serve as a pass-through to children who receive state aid. If the day comes when that funding is cut because we will not allow same-sex couples to serve as foster parents -- and (Children's Homes President) Dr. Rod Marshall is firm on biblical morality -- then will we make the difference in our giving? I pray that we will."
During the conference, Mohler recognized what he called the "moral minority" with traditional Christian thinking, and acknowledged that the Convention's influence over society is eroding. "The disappearance of cultural Christianity, like a morning mist," he said, "is a reminder to us that it was cultural and not Christianity. We are accustomed to ministry from the top side of the culture, not from the underside. We are accustomed to speaking from a position of strength and respect and credibility, and now we're going to be facing the reality that we are already, in much of America, speaking from a position of a loss of credibility, speaking from the underside, speaking from the wrong side of the moral equation."