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social sciences

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Southern Baptists  
page: 1  2  

In 1996, the delegates to the annual meeting overwhelmingly adopted a resolution threatening a boycott of the Walt Disney Corporation unless Disney changed its gay-friendly employment policies. When the corporation refused to alter its policies, the 1997 meeting voted to implement the boycott.

Despite the manifest failure of their boycott of Disney, the 1998 meeting passed more anti-gay resolutions, including one that expressed opposition to any attempt of the government to provide "endorsement, sanction, recognition, acceptance or civil rights advantage on the basis of homosexuality."

Sponsor Message.

In 1999, the delegates at the annual meeting passed resolutions attacking American Airlines for having contributed to the Human Rights Campaign, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance against Defamation, and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG); they also rebuked President Clinton for having issued "a historic proclamation designating a 'Gay and Lesbian Pride Month'" and demanded that he withdraw his appointment of an openly gay man, James Hormel, as ambassador to Luxembourg. They also reaffirmed their assertion that homosexuals can be converted to heterosexuality through belief in Jesus.

In 2000, the annual meeting amended the Southern Baptist Convention's Baptist Faith and Message manual to call upon all Christians "to oppose all forms of sexual immorality, including . . . homosexuality." At the same meeting, delegates approved a resolution congratulating talk-show host Laura Schlesinger for her opposition to homosexuals.

At that same convention, the delegates voted to prohibit their ordained women ministers from acting as pastors and reaffirmed the duty of wives to be submissive to their husbands.

The Response to Southern Baptist Extremism

In response to the actions taken at the 2000 convention, President Jimmy Carter announced that "I have finally decided that, after 65 years, I can no longer be associated with the Southern Baptist Convention," adding that the denomination has adopted policies "that violate the basic premises of my Christian faith."

The extremism of Southern Baptists in social and political matters and its reputation for intolerance have prompted many congregations to abandon their affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention. Some of these congregations, such as Pullen Memorial Baptist Church of Raleigh, North Carolina, and University Baptist Church of Austin, Texas, were expelled from the Southern Baptist Convention because of their relatively progressive stances on the issue of homosexuality; but many others have voluntarily left to affiliate with other associations, such as the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the Baptist Alliance, and the Mainstream Network.

These moderate organizations are not themselves liberal on glbtq issues, but they attempt to return to the Baptist principles of individual conscience and congregational autonomy, and they tend not to take extreme positions on social issues.


Like most evangelical Christian denominations, Southern Baptists tend to interpret the Bible literally and to rely on a handful of biblical passages to justify their conviction that homosexuality is sinful. Unlike most other evangelical Christian denominations, however, Southern Baptists have become aggressively anti-gay and have flexed their considerable political muscle to oppose glbtq civil rights.

As a significant constituency of the New Right, Southern Baptists are politically active on the local, state, and federal levels. Because of the enormous resources they provide to the fight against equal rights for glbtq people, they must be counted among the most implacable enemies of the American movement for equality.

At the same time, however, the denomination's leaders' penchant for extremism increasingly isolates them from their own members. It is unlikely, for example, that the majority of rank-and-file Southern Baptists actually observed the boycott against Disney. Still, as the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, the Southern Baptist Convention exercises a great deal of influence, especially in the American South.

Claude J. Summers

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literature >> Overview:  The Bible

Perhaps no other book has been more influential--for better or worse--in determining the construction of gay and lesbian identity in the modern world, as well as social attitudes toward homosexuality, than the Bible.

social sciences >> Overview:  Boycotts

Boycotts, the refusal to patronize companies or institutions, have in recent decades been organized by glbtq rights advocates to protest discriminatory practices and policies.

social sciences >> Overview:  Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)

The socially and politically conservative Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has long been antagonistic to the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people.

social sciences >> Overview:  Evangelical Christians

Evangelical Christians, who tend to be fundamentalists and socially conservative, have not been welcoming to glbtq people.

social sciences >> Overview:  Gay and Lesbian Churches and Synagogues

Spurred by the gay liberation movement of the late 1960s, a number of religious groups--including specifically gay-oriented churches and synagogues--have been formed to address the needs of gay and lesbian believers.

social sciences >> Overview:  New Right

The New Right, which emerged during the last two decades of the twentieth century, combines evangelical Christian morality with a political agenda in opposition to glbtq equality.

social sciences >> Overview:  Presbyterianism

Attitudes toward homosexuality within Presbyterianism vary greatly from denomination to denomination, though there has recently been movement toward acceptance and inclusion by the largest and most influential church bodies of Presbyterianism.

social sciences >> Overview:  Reparative Therapy

Reparative therapy is a dangerously misguided attempt, supported by homophobic religious organizations, to change a person's sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual.

social sciences >> Overview:  Sodomy

First used to refer only to anal intercourse, sodomy was progressively defined by the Church Fathers, and many later lawmakers, to include all sexual acts that could not result in procreation.

social sciences >> Overview:  Spirituality

Today's glbtq spirituality movements must be seen as part of a long history in which gender-special people were considered sacred to their tribe or family because of their obvious spiritual gifts.

social sciences >> Bryant, Anita

Former beauty queen, popular singer, and orange juice pitchwoman, Anita Bryant became the poster-girl for homophobia in the late 1970s; her name continues to be a byword for bigotry.

social sciences >> Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) is a watchdog group dedicated to promoting accurate representations of the glbtq community in the media.

social sciences >> Gomes, Peter

After coming out publicly in 1991, to protest a homophobic incident at Harvard University, the Reverend Peter Gomes lent his eloquent voice to the cause of equality for glbtq people.

social sciences >> Hormel, James C.

Philanthropist and political activist James C. Hormel became the first openly gay United States ambassador despite the vociferous opposition of conservative groups.

social sciences >> Human Rights Campaign (HRC)

The largest glbtq political organization in the United States, the Human Rights Campaign has emerged as the leading national organization representing glbtq concerns.

social sciences >> Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)

Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), an American organization of some 460 affiliated chapters and 80,000 members, works to support glbtq people and their loved ones.

arts >> Shores, Del

Playwright and screenwriter Del Shores explores the intersection of Southern culture and glbtq culture with empathy and humor; he has also been active in championing equal rights.

social sciences >> Soulforce

Utilizing the principles of relentless nonviolent resistance, Soulforce is an activist organization founded in 1999 to combat the anti-gay rhetoric and polical actions of the religious right

social sciences >> White, James Melville "Mel"

Mel White spent over thirty years serving the Evangelical Christian community; after struggling with his homosexuality for many years, he broke his ties with anti-gay religious leaders and became a glbtq activist.


Copeland, E. Luther. The Southern Baptist Convention and the Judgement of History: The Taint of an Original Sin. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1995.

Gardner, Robert G. A Decade of Debate and Division: Georgia Baptists and the Formation of the Southern Baptist Convention. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1995.

Hefley, James C. The Truth in Crisis: The Controversy in the Southern Baptist Convention. Hannibal, Mo.: Hannibal Books, 1999.

Pool, Jeff B. Against Returning to Egypt: Exposing and Resisting Credalism in the Southern Baptist Convention. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1998.

Robinson, B. A. "Southern Baptist Convention and Homosexuality."

Southern Baptist Convention.


    Citation Information
    Author: Summers, Claude J.  
    Entry Title: Southern Baptists  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated December 15, 2006  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
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    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


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