Response to the Baptist Union Council decision on LGBTQ+ ministers

Since 2022 Baptist Union Council has been considering a request from LGBT+ ministers and their allies that the rules for Baptist Ministers be changed so that entering a same-sex marriage would no longer be considered ‘gross misconduct’. On 20th March, the motion was overwhelmingly rejected, meaning that the denomination has actively chosen to continue down a route of discrimination, inequality and exclusion.

For those of us who are LGBT+ Baptists, the events of 20th March do not exist in isolation. Despite requests and complaints, the Baptist Union has repeatedly failed to take any action on conversion therapy. LGBT+ ministers and church leaders have been consistently harassed and bullied by others within our Baptist Union. All of this and more has cemented the Baptist Union’s reputation as an institutionally homophobic and unsafe organisation.  

There are, of course, a number of inclusive churches within our Baptist movement, alongside a myriad of allies who have stood with LGBT+ Baptists as we have pushed for equality and inclusivity. These churches, because of the way our ecclesiology works, have the right to register for same-sex marriage should they wish – and a number have. This does, however, have the unfortunate effect of meaning that LGBT+ ministers can conduct same-sex weddings, but not enter same-sex marriages themselves.  

We are also blessed by the existence of Affirm, who have been campaigning for LGBT+ equality and inclusion in the Baptist Union for nearly 25 years. As a member of Affirm myself, I have been blessed by their support for LGBT+ ministers and leaders. We know that they will keep fighting for inclusion, equality and justice on our behalf like the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8), not giving up until we have full inclusion of LGBT+ people in the Baptist Union. I, alongside many others, will forever be grateful for the way they, alongside a number of inclusive Baptist churches and ministers, continue to fight for us even when we run out of the energy to fight ourselves.  

I know that I am not alone in my position as an LGBT+ person who is deeply called to minister in the Baptist Union and yet unable to do so. The process to become a minister is largely unsafe for LGBT+ folks, and that this is the case is the product of the deep-rooted homophobia within the Baptist Union (one senior Baptist leader once described putting LGBT+ people through the interview process as so unsafe it would most likely constitute a safeguarding failure). 

 For now, I personally must try to do those elements of my calling that I can do without being a Baptist Minister, knowing deep inside that I cannot for the foreseeable future fulfil my calling in its entirety.  

Written by Josh Tinker-Reid. Josh is a member of SCM's Trans Theology Group, and also organises The Gathering at New Road Baptist Church in Oxford.

From the trustees: SCM grieves with our LGBTQ+ siblings in the Baptist Church over this decision to continue to see LGBTQ+ ministers in same-sex marriages as committing 'gross misconduct'. Your love is holy, as all love is holy. And while the Baptist Union Council doesn't see this yet, please know that God does, we do, and so do countless other Christians the world over. We continue to stand in full affirmation of our LGBTQ+ members from the Baptist Church, and will continue to work and pray for a future in which all of God's children are welcomed, included, and affirmed as full participants in the church.