For decades, a battle has waged for the hearts — and souls — of Texas Baptists. I covered this battle during my time as a Dallas-based religion writer for The Associated Press.
More than a decade after I left AP, a new skirmish has erupted in the Lone Star State over some Baptist churches embracing same-sex marriage. I mentioned this clash briefly last week in a post that highlighted the Dallas Morning News' tone-deafness on Baptists who describe themselves as "welcoming but not affirming" of LGBT behavior.
The Washington Post — a national newspaper that, to its credit, devotes multiple full-time journalists to religion news — jumped on the Texas Baptists story with a report published both online and in print.
By referring to the Dallas church "getting kicked out of the Texas Baptists," of course, the headline gives a pretty clear idea of the direction the Post story will take: Rather than a Dallas church voting to "sever ties" with Texas Baptists by defying their theology, this is a case of a heroic, victimized church doing what it considers right and suffering unfortunate consequences for it.
Certainly, that's one side of the story. But shouldn't a fair, impartial news report play it more down the middle?
The Post's lede is equally slanted toward the pro-LGBT side:
A young man came to the Rev. George Mason, wanting to talk about his parents’ wedding.
The youth, of course, hadn’t been at the wedding. But Mason had, and he remembered it well. Some 800 or 900 people. Pillars of the community. One of the largest weddings in the history of Wilshire Baptist Church.
“You performed the wedding of my parents in this church,” the young man said to Mason. “If I fall in love and want to get married, my question is, will my church community support me?”
The youth would want to marry a man. And in that moment, as in other moments in recent years, Mason realized something that would have shocked him when he started out as a pastor 37 years ago: He would want to officiate at that gay wedding.
Now, after putting the issue to a contentious popular vote that has torn his congregation, Mason, 60, can do just that. Wilshire Baptist Church voted 577 to 367 to welcome LGBT people as full participants in every aspect of the church — as members, as lay leaders, as potential clergy, and yes, as brides and grooms.
As soon as the Dallas church completed its vote, the Baptist General Convention of Texas started proceedings to kick the church out of the denominational body. “All Texas Baptists are loving, respectful and welcoming to all people. But while we are welcoming, we are not affirming,” said a spokesman for the denominational association, which often goes by the name Texas Baptists. The spokesman talked with The Post on the condition that his name not be published.