NASHVILLE, Tenn.— A gathering of Southern Baptists here opened this week with Albert Mohler, stalwart head of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, apologizing for “denying the reality of sexual orientation,” but saying orientation “can change.”
It closed with a pastor saying “no one goes to hell for being homosexual,” but he added Christians must remind homosexual friends and family members that “the day of judgment is coming.”
The statements from the largest and one of the most conservative Protestant denominations made waves in the religious and gay communities. Some praised the Southern Baptist Convention for softening its tone and message when discussing homosexuals. Critics complained that nothing really had changed.
But others who attended said a shift was taking place. In private meetings and one-on-one encounters during the week, Southern Baptists and gay-rights advocates said they established relationships they hope will carry both sides through a time of deep cultural change, particularly as the church navigates issues such as the increasing acceptance of same-sex ‘marriage’.