May 2, 2006

In response to the Westboro Baptist Church protestors

Amazing. Absolutely Beautiful:

An Apology to the Families of Fallen Soldiers,
as well as to the People of Denver and the State of Colorado.

While it normally is not my practice to devote valuable time and energy responding to individuals and groups whose actions I do not consider worthy of acknowledgment, something took place in our area recently that demands a biblical, Christian response—and apology. In a humble effort to maintain my conviction, however, I will not grant the respect of mentioning names.

Our city and state was visited recently by a group of individuals claiming to be not only Christians, but also Baptists. Their stated agenda was to protest the funerals of fallen American soldiers, claiming that their deaths were the judgment of God on a nation that has condoned homosexuality and other sins.

Before commenting on this group, let me be very clear on two fronts. First, I in no way condone homosexuality or any other sinful action addressed in the Bible. Neither do I support the climate of our culture which grows increasingly tolerant of such actions. At the same time, I believe that God is passionately in love with all sinners and has addressed His displeasure with sin by giving up His own Son on the battlefield of the cross. Therefore, I am unapologetic in stating that every genuinely Christian church should be a safe haven for those seeking freedom from sin through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

Our God passionately hates sin, but with equal passion He pursues sinners with His unfailing love, hope and freedom in Jesus Christ.
Second, I do not believe that it is beyond God’s character to levy judgment on America or any other nation that turns its back on Him. To identify the casualties of war, however, as the evidence of His displeasure with one particular sin is a connection that neither I nor any other honest Christian is capable of making. Furthermore, to insensitively celebrate the deaths of brave American soldiers as God’s judgment on our nation is the epitome of disgrace and hypocrisy before the families of those who sincerely gave their lives in an effort to bring freedom and justice to an oppressed people.

Any careful comparison with the biblical text, evangelical Christianity and historic Baptist belief reveals that this group can be categorized neither as authentically Christian nor Baptist. There is little, if anything, in their actions or attitudes that reflect the character and spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ or the moral influence of our Baptist forefathers.

The critical spirit, slanderous accusations, abusive language and flippant mockery that have been expressed by this group reflect not only horrific disrespect, but a heart condition that is counter-Christian. Jesus clearly declared in Luke 6:43-45,

“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Jesus’ brother also wrote in James 3:9-10,

With [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.

These Bible passages clearly suggest that the mean-spirited message and methodology speak for themselves regarding the true nature of these self-professed prophets.

So, to the families of fallen soldiers in our state, please accept my deepest apology for the actions and attitudes of these who unjustly operate under the banner of Christianity and Baptist belief. I beg you to know how proud I am of your husbands, wives, children and parents who have died on our behalf and on behalf of those who seek justice everywhere. I am truly sorry for the additional grief that has been heaped upon what is already yours by those whose hearts have been hardened by pride, arrogance and ungratefulness. Know that my prayers and the prayers of the people of Riverside Baptist Church are with you.

To those whose lives currently involve the struggle with or practice of homosexuality, I extend my heartfelt apology for the derogatory and inflammatory rhetoric with which you were and are referenced by these people who unjustifiably call themselves Christian and Baptist. While I embrace the biblical conviction about God’s displeasure with homosexuality, I in no way share their seeming hatred toward individuals who practice it. When it comes to its effects on a relationship with God, your wrong is no greater than mine, that group’s or anyone else’s. I want you to know that I, our staff and entire congregation embrace the opportunity to show you and all people the true love, forgiveness and freedom found in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Finally, to all who live in Denver and the state of Colorado, let me sincerely apologize—with tears—for the blatant misrepresentation of Jesus Christ, true Christianity and Baptist ministry. While I extend this apology because of my conviction about corporate responsibility, I pray that you realize the gross disconnect between groups like this and others of us whose names and designations they have stolen. I am truly thankful to God that I have the privilege of serving a congregation that refuses to stoop to such depths, but instead seeks to speak the truth of God clothed in His love and compassion. Our congregation counts itself blessed to live and serve with you in this part of our country.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be yours.
Jim Shaddix, Senior Pastor
Riverside Baptist Church
Denver, CO


Matt Brown said...

The pastor's letter hits all the right notes. I wonder how many times homosexuality is mentioned in "sermons" at Westboro - I would think at least several times in each one, given their obsession wiht it.

Samantha said...

He was sincere, truthful and humble. Everything he said was beautiful.

I wish I had that much grace.