Nashville's American Baptist College is feeling the heat this week as it not only sent out an invitation to a lesbian bishop for a lecture series, but the school's president also claimed that Christians shouldn't use "idolatry of the Bible" to discriminate, adding that the Bible is "dictated by a first-century world view."
"It's sad that people use religion and idolatry of the Bible to demoralize same-gender-loving people," American Baptist College President Forrest Harris said in response to criticism of the college's inclusion of Bishop Yvette Flunder as a speaker.
But it's the claim that Christians idolize the Bible that really has many questioning the college's motives.
"When people say (the Bible) is synonymous with God and the truth," he continued. "We can't be guided and dictated by a first-century world view."
American Baptist College is part of the National Baptist Convention, the largest predominantly African American Christian denomination in the United States. But the angry response from conservative black pastors in the convention has sparked a push to cancel the bishop's appearance that is scheduled for March 15 - 18 at the school's annual Garnett Nabrit Lecture Series.
"For a Baptist college president to invite a lesbian bishop legally married to a woman, to be a guest speaker and worship leader on a Baptist college campus is irresponsible, scandalous, non-biblical, and certainly displeasing to God," said a news release from the National Baptist Fellowship of Concerned Pastors, also a part of the National Baptist Convention.
Dwight McKissick, senior pastor of the Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, expressed his concern with how Harris seems to be trampling "on the beliefs of the school's founders."
"It is so disappointing and disheartening that at the American Baptist College, where the land was bought and paid for by Baptists who took the Bible literally, their blood, sweat and tears are being trampled on," McKissick said. "We believe the Bible and its teachings. We believe homosexuality - as a matter of fact all the Bible talks about as sin - is sin."
Randy G. Vaughn of Mt. Sinai Baptist Church added how the words of the Bible are not flexible to accommodate modern society. "We don't feel you have the right to live any way [you want] and be respected in the congregation of our faith," he said. "There is nothing holy about lesbianism as there is nothing holy about heterosexual adultery."
The American Baptist College was founded in 1924 and officially accredited in 1971 as an educational partnership between the Southern Baptist Convention and the National Baptist Convention, but the Southern Baptist Convention officially withdrew its support for the school in 1995.
There is no word yet on if the college plans to cancel Flunder's lecture, but Harris doesn't seem phased. "It is particularly important for American Baptist College to truly live its educational mission of justice toward creating a community where all persons are able to love and be loved without social, political or ecclesiastical penalty so that all people may enjoy life and wholeness as God intends," he said.