The Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) has, since 1958, had the unique mission of training religious leaders for six of the nation’s top black Christian denominations. Recently, the gay wars and rumors of wars showed up on campus. As you might expect, controversy and confusion ensued.
Nestled in the tight knit Atlanta University Center (AUC) in Southwest Atlanta, six powerhouse blocks of Black America’s prime time educational pursuits, the ITC has been the stepping stone to many a promising career in the pulpits of some of the country’s most presitigious black churches. The campus is small, almost insignificant, but rumors of homosexual students as well as instructors has long been part of the bittersweet lore of ITC.
ITC was indirectly drug into a gay scandal last year when one of its board members, the Rev. Joe Ratcliff of Houston and pastor of the 13,000 member Brentwood Baptist Church was accused of sexually accosting a male minister at his church. The married Ratcliff, a frequent revivalist in Atlanta, was exposed when the Houston TV station KPRC aired tapes of his conversation with the minister. In the taped phone conversation, Ratcliff is heard gleefully describing his experience at a certain Atlanta black gay club where he saw “boys dancing on the tables.” After the threat of a lawsuit and more exposure, Ratcliff chose to settle out of court. Details of the settlement were not made public. His church promptly put him on paid leave.
While Ratcliff was on the “DL”, Rev. Christopher Brown certainly was not. He’s “openly gay.”
It all started when Brown wanted to be a student body president of the Morehouse Schoool of Religion. At the young age of 29, Brown looked promising, even attractive as a candidate for the position at the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s alma mater. With his paper work filled out and a debate with other candidates under his belt, he set out to become the first openly gay Student Body president at the institution. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the President of MSR suddenly slammed on the brakes to Brown’s fast moving dreams.
The MSR Dean William T. Perkins stated in a letter that Brown had engaged in “unacceptable leadership behavior including fighting in the building.” But what’s perpelexing in Perkins waffling when Brown (or perhaps the AJC reporter) pressed the homosexual angle. Brown was 100% sure that his progress was halted only because of his open homosexuality.
I must confess I pained when I read Perkin’s response to the charge that he was discriminating against Brown because of his “sexual orientation.” Here’s his now infamously evasive answer:
“I don’t get involved in the area of personal lifestyle.”
That’s it. The Dean says that he doesn’t get involved in someone’s personal lifestyle. Quite a remarkable statement coming from someone who is charged to promote and uphold the denominational views of his employer. The last time I checked Baptists were against homosexual behavior. But the Dean’s statement reveals an entrenched ambivalence of leaders to deal with homosexuality as a sin, instead of simple matter of “personal conduct” or civil discrimination.
Although this is specifically involving MSR, it could be any of the six denominations represented at ITC. As I see it, if the school is a religious training arm of the six denominations represented why would it or the Dean embrace a theological position contrary to denominational belief? Each denomination represented deems homosexuality sin, therefore the school and its on the ground chief is bound to uphold that view. Dean Perkin’s embarrassing waffling on the subject is all the more significant because the student’s homosexuality should be the sole reason he is disqualified, even if he meets or exceeds all other qualifications. Unrepentant, open sin is simply rebellion and simply unacceptable. How can a rebellious person lead the people of God?
If Brown is allowed to advance, we can expect possibly the first black “Vicki Gene Robinson”, the openly homosexual bishop of the Episcopal church. Lest we forget, Robinson was openly gay for 14 years before he began seeking the office of the bishop. What a grave mistake to allow this to gain a foothold while hiding behind misplaced objections of “discrimination” The church is allowed to discriminate. God said so. If your –or mine for that matter– is in conflict with the moral standards of the Word, you are disqualified and should be asked or forced out of leadership.
Yes,we all know that there ARE gay students at the ITC. And we know that there are homosexual faculty at the school. And we know there are gay graduates at the school. But let’s not pretend they are by any means in the majority. Many of our churches’ finest leaders have come through ITC and it is for them and for the integrity of the gospel ministry that people like Christopher Brown must be stopped. If they choose to conceal their sexual behavior, then it is God’s to deal with. But when it begans an open attack on the holiness of God’s call to ministry, it is ours to deal with.
I don’t think anyone with an ounce of compassion doesn’t see Brown as a broken human being. No one is denying him the right to get a good education nor is anyone standing in his way of even getting a good theological education. But its much more than that at stake in these wars. His humanity and worth in the eyes of God is not what is being challenged. It is his sin. By his own admission, he sees nothing wrong with sexual relationships between the same genders. I wonder what else Brown doesnt believe is wrong? And do we wait until he is firmly seated in a position of influence to find out what those things might be?
If you believe like I do and you know that these are the last days, then you also know that Brown won’t be the last one. He and Robninson and the lesbian Methodist pastor in Seattle are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg rising to challenge the authority and veracity of scripture. We can’t run from this fight and we can’t evade it either.