I am Heartbroken

I promised I would follow-up, so here it goes: Below is the “official” statement from the National Association of Free Will Baptist, and it is incredibly disappointing. I don’t know what to do. I have stood with my denomination through some difficult issues. I have been personally criticized by my denominational leaders on certain issues but have chosen to remain a FWB. I honestly don’t know if I can continue to do so if this is the best statement they can come up with. 

If you have any suggestions, I am open to them. Right now I am heartbroken.

For Immediate Release

December 1, 2011

Free Will Baptist Executive Office Statement Regarding Interracial Couples

Antioch, TN—Recently, the action of a Free Will Baptist church in the state of Kentucky raised questions regarding the position of the National Association of Free Will Baptists on interracial couples. This statement is intended to bring clarity to the subject.

The National Association of Free Will Baptists does not have an official policy regarding interracial couples because it has not been an issue in the denomination. The Free Will Baptist Treatise neither condemns nor disallows marriage between a man and woman of different races.

Free Will Baptists have historically championed the rights and dignity of all people, regardless of race. The denomination’s leadership in the abolition movement is evidence of that fact. Free Will Baptists currently spend millions of dollars each year to take the good news of Jesus Christ to people of every race.

Many interracial couples are members of Free Will Baptist churches. They are loved, accepted, and respected by their congregations. It is unfair and inaccurate to characterize the denomination as racist.

It is our understanding that steps are being taken by the church in question to reverse its decision. We encourage the church to follow through with this action. Leaders from the local conference and state association in Kentucky are working with the church to resolve this matter.

Contact Executive Secretary Keith Burden: keith@nafwb.org

Keith Burden, CMP

Executive Secretary National Association of Free Will Baptists, Inc.

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33 thoughts on “I am Heartbroken

  1. I’m not sure what else you are looking for. Are we to name names or what? I think the statement does make it clear where we stand. However, another case where autonomy hurts us.

  2. “Disappointing”? I’m not sure I understand completely. As I read this it looks as if the denominations stance is that we don’t see a problem allowing interracial couples into the membership of our churches? How is that disapointing?

    I feel sorry for the church in Kentucky being so short sighted. But lets be sure that we don’t paint the entire denomination with a broad brush. Not all FWB’s are so bigotted.

    I agree with you Kevin concerning your previous blog… I would like to hear your take on the “official position”. I feel that I have missed something?

  3. All the statement says is that we have no position and hope the church changes its mind. WE DO HAVE A POSITION! We have stood against racism in the past. The statement did not need to “name names.” But it could have simply said, “We stand against any form of racism in any of our churches and are taking the appropriate actions to remove this church from our fellowship if they do not reverse their position.”

    What is wrong with being strong in this instance?

    • Hang Strong Brother,

      When I read about the discrimination committed by the church in KY, I too had some serious causes for concern.
      1. That people that I would call brothers and sisters would do such a terrible thing.
      2. It gives reasons for valid criticism against us.

      I suppose this is being heartbroken since I have a strong sense of connection as a FWB and this hurts.

      I agree with your position and this reply.
      “Red, yellow, black and white, they are precious in His site”

  4. I’m having trouble believing that our National Leaders are not coming out with a stronger statement against the Ky church – I realize our churches are autonomous but the statement should have said that they have no control over local church decisions if that is the case. Kevin I totally support you in this!

  5. Kevin,

    I agree with you, although I am no longer affiliated with the denomination. In my opinion they should have strongly condemned the policy of that church and publicly disagree with their position to the point of voting them out of their association. To say they “take the Gospel to all races” doesnt sound much different than 50’s and 60’s Alabama church leaders claiming to send missionaries to Africa while not allowing Blacks to worship in their churches.

  6. This story is getting national attention on MSN and Yahoo and it’s being used directly or indirectly to show the ignorance of Christians. It’s speaks poorly of Free Will Baptists specifically and Christians in general. The national association seems to be taking a “oh it will work itself out” kind of approach when it should be much stronger. Endorsing racist isn’t what we believe now or ever. This church made a huge mistake and they need to correct it or __________ will happen.

    It’s sad when Christ is associated with this kind of behavior.

  7. “The National Association of Free Will Baptists does not have an official policy”

    That is the crux of the problem there. Given the nature of our denomination it would be highly inappropriate for Keith Burden to make a statement for the press which reflects a policy we do not have. Should we have, well apparently so. But were Keith Burden to make a statement roundly condemning these people he would be exercising powers we have not given him.

    I suspect we have never had a policy for two reasons, to those like ourselves it was a non issue. Its like telling people not to lick pennies. You just don’t seriously think that anyone would ever do it so why have a policy that says “Don’t lick pennies.” The second reason of course is that there is a significant percentage of our population for which this would seriously be a problem. That while they may not make public declarations they would certainly quietly agree that people should indeed not have mixed race marriages. It is certainly easy and comforting for us to say that FWB’s were among the early adopters of the abolition of slavery. However the painful truth is that it was the Northern line which was, but we come from two lines, and that second deeply southern line is by far the more numerous in our current state.

    Perhaps what needs to happen now is that we need to have an official policy. Should it be necessary? No. But it tragically is. An official policy not just on marriage but on racial relations of all sorts would go a long way towards putting us where we should have been long ago. It would give voice to the idea that many of us have that a Biblical view of race requires total love and acceptance.

    I sincerely hope that the true leaders of our denomination take this clear call to give the national offices a clearly defined position on this issue.

      • I should add, Kevin, that I’m as hurt and as deeply burdened as you that this could happen. After giving our lives to proclaiming the universal gospel, this comes as a very rude awakening that prejudice and unbiblical thinking still exist in the Church of Jesus Christ. The horrible repercussions that fall out to everyone who calls him/herself FWB is absolutely mind numbing. It is a sad commentary that we perhaps indeed need an official policy. Hopefully, the process of church discipline that we have honored these many years will run its course successfully.
        Should the press release have been worded more strongly? In hindsight that might be easy for me to say. In the meantime, let’s pray for everyone involved in this local church and for Keith. Praying too, for you, dear brother and fellow laborer. May God give us all the measure of wisdom and insight needed in this situation.

  8. I see your issue Kevin. I just felt Bro. Burden’s statement said as much… just in a more measured way. For me the issue is that we (FWB) don’t have a good way of formulating “official positions”. If anything this issue brings out the fact that there are many issues we should publish positions in a proactive manner rather than being reactive. Issues such as same-sex marriage, Israel, etc.

    Secondly, I haver issue with the idea of you threatening to leave the denomination. That is NOT the answer. FWB need forward thinkers that will eventually lead them in a progressive direction. You are one of those guys. I would hate to see you leave us. Rather, lets be apart of the positive change. So no more of that talk!

    Blessings!

  9. Derek,
    I appreciate your perspective. I have been trying to be a part of that change for over 20 years and it has gotten me nowhere. I am never asked to serve on any boards or committees and for years I was not welcomed on the campus of FWBBC. I have been banned from writing curriculum for RHP, and I have been banned from speaking at the National Youth Conference or the National Association. (Until recent years I was banned from speaking at T & P.) Yet through it all I have remained a faithful soldier to the denomination, and have never felt permission from God to leave. Our denomination has swept racial issues under the rug for generations. The only time I have ever stood up and spoke on the floor during one of our denominational business meetings, it was about this very issue, and now when we have the perfect opportunity on a national level to say something about it, we give a watered down statement that is no statement at all. I have requested a meeting with our Executive Secretary. He has not responded to that request yet. I will not make any rational decision until then. I am simply tired of fighting this losing battle.

  10. Kevin, I am heartbroken for you. I attended the BC for two years in the 80’s and am grateful for you, your family, and your dedication to ministry over the past two decades. My parents raised me FWB and I made a personal decision to leave the denomination because I felt the focus of the Church was on legalism and keeping the “wrong people out” versus reaching out to everyone and sharing Christ’s Grace and Love to a hurting world.

    I know you are doing an amazing work and are serving where you should be. Please don’t allow any denomination to frame who you are or aren’t and rob you of your joy. Be yourself, be committed to Christ, and know there is a beautiful, accepting, community of believers outside the auspices of our heritage.

  11. Thanks Thad,
    I have a wonderful network of friends outside of FWB, many of whom are praying for me right now. At times I have felt more accepted from without than from within. I really can’t explain why I have never left FWB except that God has not given me permission or peace to leave. When I look at church history people like Luther and Wesley did not leave their church. What has gotten me in trouble among FWB is Bing myself and not playing politics. That is what I am doing now. Thanks for reading my blog, and continue to pray for me. It will get worse before it will get better. I cannot let this issue be swept back under the rug.

  12. Kevin–I’m not sure it will help, but please know that the “up and coming” generation (people around my age and younger) are far more on your “side” than the “side” of the older generation. We are unwilling to continue the same way we have been for so many years. Personally, I’ve seen much change over the past 10 years. I feel like we’ve come so far. I know there is infinitely further to go, but I genuinely feel like progress has been made. It makes me sad to hear of the places you have not been welcome–if I were in charge, you would be! I appreciate you and the impact you have had on my life personally. I will never forget you and Mike coming to my high school and speaking to our Christian Student Union. God bless!

    • Thanks Stephanie. It does help and I hope you are right. Unfortunately every time something like this happens young people like yourself leave FWB and never return. (Not saying you have, but you know ehat I mean.)

  13. Proud of your stand Kevin. Praying for you that God will give you clear direction during this time. Like Thad, we had to make a difficult decision like this almost 15 years ago. It wasn’t easy starting down a new road and walking away from the group that had been my family for three generations, but we had peace and direction from the Lord that it was the right thing to do. Your grandfather helped my grandfather start their FWB church all those years ago, and I look at it as one of the milestones in our families’ journey. I cherish every chapter of my life’s book, and each page turn has brought about growth, change and blessings I never expected. We’ve learned and been challenged in ways we never would have if we had stayed where we were, but isn’t that just the way God works? Frustrating, difficult, exciting, amazing; using all of these things to accomplish His plan. Keep standing and you will know if and when it’s time to move on!

  14. As press releases go, Keith should have given it more thought before releasing it. It strikes me as having been written by someone who is still in the process of formulating an answer. If he had simply written the last paragraph, that would have been sufficient.

    We joined a nonFWB church after leaving Nashville. Let me assure you that nonFWB churches have their own issues.

    At this point, we should be praying for the opportunity to exhibit a faithful witness to the Lord even through this.

  15. Kevin,
    I know I do not have the biblical intelligence to speak on this matter, nor do I have the true knowlege of “belonging” to a specific religion. I am an inter-denominational christian. I do not understand the legalism that some denominations have. It was my sin that brought me to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior of my life…..It was also my sin that allowed my church to reject me. (By the way…my uncle is a catholic priest…and has nothing to do with me…) That being said, is it God’s law, or Man’s law that we as a nation, in religions, continue to fight for? Jesus is Love, and that is what brought me to him. The world is filled with hate and disgust, and for any “religion” to stipulate or suggest that you may not be welcomed or accepted if your are ……. (fill in the blank) just pushes people like me away from learning and experiencing the true love of OUR Father, and his Grace and Mercy. Not to mention his forgiveness. Kevin, I will pray Eph 6:10-19 over you today. Be blessed.

  16. Kevin, I just want you to know I agree with you, and support your decision to make a stand about this. I will be praying that the Lord would use you. I honestly can say I’m ashamed to be a “Free Will Baptist”. That hurts too, knowing how much I have enjoyed growing up in a FWB church, attending Truth and Peace, and other various events. But, anyways, just wanted you to know I support you, and I’m praying for you.

  17. Kevin,
    Don’t know what to say either. I too am disappointed in the statement. It is not bold enough in condemning any and all forms of racism, in my opinion. I’ll be anxious to see what, if anything, will be done in the coming days.

    Len

  18. Thanks Len. I am anxiously waiting as well. I have tried all day today and yesterday to talk with our Executive Secretary, but to no avail. Are you, by chance, going to the Leadership Conference next week?

    • I wasn’t planning on going but may have to now. The more I think about this the angrier I am at the lack of clear condemnation of the sin of racism. We must have the courage to call sin what it is and not worry about denominational politics.

  19. I am reading all this and I can only think of one thing…. God has put our Church and You in a position to be an example of how all Churches should accept everyone no matter the color of their skin. I really believe God is using you, your passion and FCC of being a “real” church living in a “real” world should be and to show the FWB how God’s plan is to be put into practice. Not saying there aren’t other churches doing the same but I believe God is going to use you to stand up and be seen thru this ugly situation. In everything Give Thanks….. Even this, because in the end, it will all be used for God’s glory and that is what matters. Maybe this happened so the churches who still think this is ok (for whatever reason) will have their eyes opened to the unjustices of this ridiculous matter. I Love you Kevin. I am standing beside you! I am praying for you and for the church who has made this decision that their heart will be overjoyed with love for everyone.

  20. Pingback: Will Anything be Said? « #grayfwb

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