AWAB head applauds pope’s remarks

Robin Lunn, executive director of the Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists, joined other members of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in welcoming comments by Pope Francis saying the Church needs to talk about more than just gays, abortion and birth control.

By Bob Allen

The head of an organization that advocates for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons within Baptist communities of faith welcomed comments by Pope Francis saying the Catholic Church is too focused on gays, abortion and contraceptives.

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods,” the pontiff said in a wide-ranging interview published Sept. 19 in La Civilta Cattolica, a Jesuit journal based in Rome.

“When we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context,” he said. “The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”

Robin LunnRobin Lunn, executive director of the Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists, joined other members of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in welcoming the pope’s comments.

“I am thrilled that the new pope is taking this opportunity to speak about his vision for and of the church, particularly as it relates to the more recent hyper-focus on issues of sexuality and reproduction,” Lunn said. 

“I believe that there are many within the progressive Baptist community around the world who will welcome the leadership that Pope Francis is offering on being the church for all and not a chapel for a few,” said Lunn, an ordained American Baptist minister who previously served churches in New Hampshire and Vermont and as assistant director at a camp in Connecticutt.

The Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists, a group of member churches, affiliated organizations and individuals willing to go on record as welcoming and affirming all persons without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity, celebrates its 20th anniversary this fall.

Formed in 1993 seeking inclusion within the American Baptist Churches USA, AWAB has expanded to include member churches also affiliated with the Alliance of Baptists, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and others that formerly identified with the Southern Baptist Convention.

The group will celebrate its history with a meeting theme of "Coming of Age: A Living Jubilee," Oct. 11-14 in Providence, R.I. Speakers include Leslie Watson Malachi, the director of African-American Religious Affairs for People for the American Way, and Randle “Rick” Mixon, founder of an AWAB predecessor named American Baptists Concerned in 1973 and pastor at First Baptist Church of Palo Alto, Calif..

Also featured is Jay Bakker, co-founder of Revolution Church and son of televangelists Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye Messner whose story was chronicled in a 2006 documentary on the Sundance Channel called One Punk Under God.

The gathering also includes a screening of the film God Loves Uganda, followed by a panel to explore the context of LGBTQ inclusion in the central African region and the impact religion is having in this part of the world.  

Pope Francis has drawn criticism for not speaking out against such issues as much as his predecessor and for July comments asking "Who am I to judge a gay person?"

In his new interview, he talked more about instances where he believes dogma has hindered gays who desire to be included in the Church.

"I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are 'socially wounded,' because they tell me that they feel like the church has always condemned them,” he said. “But the church does not want to do this."

"A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality,” he continued. “I replied with another question: 'Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love or reject and condemn this person?' We must always consider the person.… In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation."