Following is a letter of support written by Dr. Marvin A. McMickle, President of CRCDS, in support Dr. Forest E. Harris, President of American Baptist College, regarding a controversy on same-sex marriage, homosexuality and clergy discourse:
Dear President Harris:
I write you first of all to express my delight at the opportunity to come to American Baptist College in May to serve as your commencement speaker. My appearance there will serve to further strengthen the relationship between American Baptist College and Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School. We are honored to currently have five (5) ABC alumni in our student body here at CRCDS. They are all doing exceedingly well, and they will all make a great contribution to the church and to the world. The only question that remains going forward is whether you or I will take credit for their success!
Sadly, I have reviewed the other correspondence you sent along as an attachment regarding Bishop Yvette Flunder and the broader issue of same-sex marriage and homosexuality. There are several things that puzzle me about that correspondence. First, who has authorized these pastors to speak so broadly about Baptist doctrine and biblical faith? Given our historic attachment to local church autonomy and our repudiation of doctrine being set by any judicatory or external sources, I wonder about their biblical and theological standing. They are clearly not speaking in the name of NBCUSA, Inc., even though they are trying to force the convention to take a stand on this issue. Are there within their number noted biblical and theological scholars who are informing them on their views on this issue that engages our nation and our world, or are these views drawn from whatever adequate or limited theological training they may have? Who are they to set deadlines, make demands, give instruction to the president of a national denomination and the president of a college? The letter wreaks of self-importance and narrow mindedness. What, exactly do they think will happen if neither you or President Young were to comply with their demands? They no doubt view themselves as being prophetic. They will continue to think so unless and until their views are met with a forceful response.
Second, why are they so enraged by same-sex marriage and homosexuality, but apparently not equally concerned about adultery, fornication, and divorce; all of which are spoken against in the Bible and all of which are currently occurring in black Baptist churches and black Baptist pulpits? This selective reading and enforcement of biblical teachings is infuriating to me. People are quick to condemn the practices of which they may not be guilty, but slow to speak up about the practices in which they are complicit. I am reminded of one of our AME brothers who publicly condemned President Obama for embracing the idea of same-sex marriage, while this same pastor was known to have had illicit relations with multiple women in his congregation. If the issue is about sin, then let him or her without sin cast the first stone. Of course, as we see in Romans 1, sin is not limited to sexual conduct. It also includes such things as "strife, malice and gossip," things in which the writers and signatories of this letter are doing.
Third, this correspondence presumes an answer to the question of whether homosexual conduct is behavioral or biological; by choice or by nature. The answer to that question informs us as to whether or not we should even speak of homosexuality as a sin. Even if some people choose to invoke the term sin because of their religious convictions, they need to be reminded that the behavior they find objectionable in Bishop Flunder is legal in most states and is a protected status under federal law. This was the trap that Dr. Ben Carson fell into earlier this week with his observations about homosexuality. Of course, he recanted on those views later the same day. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, and we do not yet know the degree to which sexual orientation is simply a matter of "how we have been made." Either way, is the demand to disinvite a speaker solely because she is in a legal same-sex marriage consistent with the mission of higher education? It is our task to broaden the horizons of ours students and encourage them to hear from persons different from themselves in one way or another, and having done so to make up their mind about what they have heard. If we were to take the approach set forth in their letter when it comes to inviting speakers and lecturers to appear before our students, our invitation lists would be both short and full of narrow-minded and/or same-minded persons. That is not the mission of higher education! Colleges and seminaries are not churches where the task may be to teach and maintain doctrine. We are places of higher learning where we prepare people to live in and understand the world around them. That is never accomplished by shutting out the voices that some handful of angry people do not want to hear. Shame on us for allowing homosexuality to be, in the words of the late Peter Gomes, "the last allowable prejudice.
Finally, I do believe that there will need to be a time and place where this issue is finally laid bare, discussed and debated, and where ignorance and bigotry will eventually be defeated by good exegesis and genuinely Christian spirits. Given the history of Nashville in the civil rights struggles of the 20th century, you may be the ideal setting to lead a vigorous discussion of what is clearly the civil rights struggle of the 21st century. This may not be a struggle that you want to have, but thinking about the Book of Esther, who knows but that you and ABC have come into the kingdom for such a time as this! Know without a doubt that I and CRCDS will do whatever you ask of us in supporting you during this time when you are being assailed "solely because" you are standing up for civil and human rights, and "solely because" you are carrying out your mission as the president of an institution of higher education.
With every good wish, I remain your brother in Christ,
Marvin A. McMickle, President
Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School