I grew up in a small town in South Carolina. My experience with Christianity was in the same Southern Baptist church my mother attended until she got married. Even in college, I still believed that the Bible was the “literal Word of God written by infallible human beings.”
Then I went up the hill to the seminary affiliated with my college. Even though I was a Baptist in a predominantly Baptist Presbyterian seminary, suddenly I found my beliefs challenged in ways I had not expected. Women were being trained to become not only youth and children’s pastors, but also pastors who had responsibility for churches. Homosexuality was not an issue at that point. I had not come to terms with who I was yet, and I knew no one who identified him/herself as gay or lesbian.
Things were about to change radically, however. After a year and a half, I took some time off from that school and ended up transferring to another school, this time completely Southern Baptist. When I arrived there to begin studying in their social work program, I found within the broader conservative seminary people who were open to the concept of the Bible not being taken literally, but interpreted as being written by imperfect people who were products of their time and social context.
I attended, sporadically, a small Baptist church that was openly blessing unions and searching out Biblical truth on homosexuality. I met couples that were openly gay and just as openly Christian. For the first time, I heard the message that God does not condemn homosexuality. However, I saw eventually that the tension between those two camps who could not find the common ground between them led to doors being closed and people turning away from fellowship with other Christians and even away from God.
Since my coming out, it does seem to me that discussions on the authority of Scripture do tend to center around the issue of homosexuality. When I find myself ready to argue with someone, I try to find the common ground between us. I believe that time does not change what the Bible says about some things. “Love your neighbor” still holds true. Sharing what you have with others who have less than you do is a message to live by.
Letting God be the judge of our fellow man is a truth for today. I try to remember this as I deal with others who think they have all the answers. Only God has all the answers. In His infinite love and mercy, may we learn to pass that love and mercy on to others!
South Carolina native Lana Phillips is a certified life coach and former social worker who studied at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and earned a bachelor’s in psychology and English at Erskine College and an M.Ed. in educational and counseling psychology at the University of Louisville.