By Allen Palmeri
BOLIVAR—The oft-quoted mission statement of Southwest Baptist University (SBU) was put to the test April 14 when Soulforce, a liberal activist group, hit town with a conflicting worldview—the gospel of homosexuality.
SBU professes to be a Christ-centered, caring, academic community. Adhering to every word was how the university community got through this challenge even as Soulforce proclaimed that SBU has discriminatory policies.
Rodney Reeves, dean of the College of Theology & Ministry, was designated the official SBU spokesman for the day. He said the key was trying to live the Gospel of Christ in truth and grace.
“Christ cared, which is why He ate with sinners,” Reeves said. “He cared for them.”
The visit to SBU was part of a nationwide “protest” tour of Christian colleges and universities by the controversial group, which raided the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in St. Louis in 2002 resulted in several Soulforce arrests.
The SBU visit was calm and uneventful by comparison. Soulforce members were greeted graciously, given a tour of the campus, took part in a panel discussion where a Christian worldview was shared and attended chapel, though their presence was not acknowledged. Soulforce was limited in its contact with the student body and were escorted at all times by faculty and about 300 SBU students who were trained in how to engage the 24 Soulforce members, with about 25 serving as hosts. Reeves talked about the need to think like Soulforce, to “wear their argument” as a means of refining the Christian position. That meant a certain amount of discomfort as students had to venture inside a somewhat unseemly world.
For example, homosexuals believe that they are “victims of injustice,” Reeves said, and “we are to speak against injustices, no matter against whom they are perpetrated.” For the Christian, these are expressions of grace.
“We’re not going to compromise our convictions,” Reeves said. “We read the Bible this way. The Church has read the Bible this way for 2,000 years.
“They’ve come to the conclusion that the way we read the Bible is wrong. They claim to be Christians. Humility would require us to say, ‘We don’t think so, but let’s hear your interpretation.’ When you think about it, the burden of proof is on them. Christians have read the Scriptures that homo-erotic behavior is unacceptable to God for centuries.”
One of the compelling reasons that led SBU to test its Christian worldview in this manner was framed in the form of a question: If you had a son or a daughter with Soulforce, how would you want them to be treated?
“Can we treat each other as made in the image of God?” Reeves said.
On April 13, the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Executive Board unanimously passed a resolution on human sexuality that identified marriage as a sacred covenant between a man and a woman, offered no support for groups like Soulforce that promote unorthodox views, and commended SBU as one of the agencies of the MBC “holding to these historic orthodox biblical standards.”