Pharisees in the Baptist Church?

“The Pharisees were religious leaders in the Jewish society at the time of Jesus. They were religious fundamentalists who focused on strict observance of the Jewish laws, ceremonies and traditions. … Pharisees strongly encouraged the Jewish people to pursue righteousness by closely following the Jewish laws and not compromising with the beliefs and ways of the Romans. The Pharisees openly opposed Jesus for many reasons. They were particularly appalled at his acts of healing people on the Sabbath and his blatant claims to divinity. 

Jesus denounced them as being hypocrites. They often lived moral lives, full of good deeds, but it was all outward actions with no thought given to the heart or motives of the actions.”

Source

Consider – Pharisees were the ‘fundamentalists’ of Jesus’ time.  Did Jesus join in with their fundamentalism? Did he adhere slavishly to Biblical law? Or did he follow his heart and do what it told him was right – even when it meant outraging the religious bureaucracy and the status quo.  Jesus was not legalistic in following Jewish law.  He challenged it.  He called on people to do the right thing for the right reason – not just because it was ‘written’.  And if what was ‘written’ was not in the interests of someone who needed help – Jesus just ignored it.  It seems that Jesus felt he answered to God, not to the Pharisees.

And what was the penalty of Jesus’ insistence on putting people before the leadership of the temple? Crucifixion.

Today, I heard of some legalistic, religious fundamentalists who have taken exception to someone in their midst who followed his heart rather than their rules.  Baptist Minister, the Reverend  Matt Glover from Lilydale Baptist church in Victoria has been forced to resign because he spoke out in favour of marriage equality.

This puts Pastor Glover, the father of two small children, out of a job just before Christmas.  How very Christian of the Baptist pharisees … er …. conservatives.

In his “Pastoral Response to the Homosexuality in the Church” (2010), Pastor Glover says:

“Our churches have argued the issue on biblical, theological and moral grounds for years, and agreement seems elusive. But as the battles rage, real people are being forgotten, left bruised and hurting, and wondering where they fit. While not tackling the more specific issues of the debate like gay marriage and the ordination of practicing homosexuals, it is the purpose of this paper to bring another approach to the issue that is based on our equality before God, the work of the Spirit in our lives, and the unity that the Spirit produces in our church communities.

This alternative approach requires journeying with the real people stuck in the middle of the debate, listening to their questions and seeking answers together. It is a pastoral response that has its grounding in scripture and in my experience of ministry over the last twenty years …

Pastoral care begins with the life and practice of Jesus. With those on the fringe of his society, Jesus was welcoming and compassionate, touching the untouchable, loving the unlovable and creating a community that saw all people as equals before God. His life included teaching on scripture and the condemnation of religious leaders who had twisted scripture to protect the institutional religion. But never did Jesus isolate those with a genuine response to his care and his teaching on the Kingdom of God.

Pastoral care in the church must reflect the care of Jesus by opposing rules that drain life, and instead, create a life giving community where burdens are carried together.

This is not some liberal ‘whim’ of Pastor Glover’s.  It is clear he has thought on this issue deeply. He has also, obviously, spent a great deal of time amongst the gay and lesbian community – seeking to understand them, so that he can properly represent their interests and help alleviate their suffering.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure he doesn’t see himself as ‘Christ-like’ – but he does see himself as trying to act ‘like’ Christ, something the conservative members of his church clearly fail to do.

As an interesting side-note, in Satan: A Biography, Biblical scholar Henry Ansgar Kelly strips away the medieval caricature of Satan and reveals the Biblical character as an over-zealous heavenly bureaucrat intent on ‘catching people out’ when they break God’s laws and taking delight in their punishment.

“His job is to test people’s virtue and to report their failures,” Kelly said.

Meanwhile, in passages in Luke, Matthew, Corinthians and elsewhere in the New Testament, Satan continues to act as a tester, enforcer and prosecutor but not as God’s enemy, Kelly points out.

This is not to say, however, that Kelly contends that Satan is likeable.

“Jesus doesn’t like him, and Paul doesn’t like him,” Kelly explained. “He represents the old guard in the heavenly bureaucracy, and everyone longs for him to be disbarred as the chief accuser of humankind.”

Perhaps the legalists in the Baptist church should take a good look in the mirror and determine whether it is the face of Jesus or Satan peering back at them!

When Pastor Glover said on the Australian Marriage Equality website that he supported same-sex marriage, conservative voices within the church went into a tizz.

Conservatives have accused him of ”opening the door to sin”, while activist Christian group Salt Shakers asked followers to pray that God would ”improve or remove” him …

When he became senior pastor two years ago, he was open about his 15-year ministry to gays and lesbians.

”I’ve met many who have had faith in the past but because of their sexual orientation have been isolated from church and family. I felt a burden to stand in the gap between the church and person,” Mr Glover says.

… ”Salt Shakers and the Australian Christian Lobby were saying gay marriage would open the door to paedophilia. I couldn’t sit back and let Christian leaders say things like that, that are untrue. I gave a statement to Australian Marriage Equality, and that was the last straw.”

Zwartz, Melbourne Age

As Pastor Glover was reportedly excellent at his job it was hoped he would be allowed to stay on and serve his parish, despite the unpopularity of his position with conservatives within the church. It now seems that has not been possible and he has been forced (or felt it necessary) to resign.

Shelley Argent of PFlag (Parents and Friends of lesbians and gays) Queensland, has started a fundraising appeal for Matt Glover and his family by donating $1000.

She has opened a bank account at the Bank of Queensland for direct debits and donations.

BSB: 124-001 Account No: 2172-4166

Account Name: Shelley Argent (for Matt Glover)

Please put in what you can.

If you would like to post a cheque or money order please write them to Rev. M. Glover and address the envelope to PFLAG, PO Box 1372, Eagle Farm 4009.

We spend a lot of time bitching and moaning about Christians doing the wrong thing.  When Christians do the right thing, I think they deserve our help and support. I can’t afford much, but Pastor Glover will be getting a little present from me in the mail, and I hope you might add him and his family to your Christmas list as well.  Even if you can’t donate, I’m sure a card or a letter stating your appreciation for his stance would be much appreciated.  If you want to send an email of support to Matt, you can send it via mike@imagine.org.au with Att: Matt Glover in the subject line.  If you’re on twitter you can send a friendly tweet to @Matt_Glover.

Chrys Stevenson

If you wish to discuss this matter further with Shelley Argent before donating, contact me at gladlybear@yahoo.com.au and I will pass on her contact details.

 

Media: Pastor supporter for gay marriage out in the cold, Barney Zwartz, Melbourne Age


12 thoughts on “Pharisees in the Baptist Church?

  1. A.F.

    Thanks for this post Chrys.

    Interestingly, the Pharisees, as a relgio-political sect, sprang up in response to the threat of being forced to relinquish Jewish ways for the Greek. The biggist problem, however, was their tendancy to enforce tradition as well as the Law – such was their zealousness for moral purity that they created a whole bunch of ‘fence’ rules, so that they couldn’t come close to breaking the law. (see here for some good background on the Pharisaic sect)
    It’s not that Jesus disregarded the law (after all, he himself said he did not come to do away with the law but rather to fulfill it) but his big gripe with the Pharisees is that he rejected these ‘extra’ rules and scolded them for missing the point of the law – which, he said could be summed up as: Love God, love your neighbor. When they asked who their neighbor was, he told a scandalous story of a hated (apostate) enemy taking care of an injured Jew.
    The reason the term ‘pharisee’ has become so derogatory is precisely because of their hypocritical and outward religion and failure to see the point of what they were called to do. And you are right, that there are many within the church today who act, and who react to the erosion of “Christian culture” in a similar way.
    The other reason the religious leaders hated Jesus is because he wasn’t political. They thought the Messiah would (should) come and destroy the Roman occupiers, but Jesus didn’t. He didn’t start a lobby group to make the Roman empire more Jewish, but preached a Kingdom that transcends earthly politics. Render unto Cesar and all that.. Indeed, one of the disciples, Simon, was a former zealot (as also Paul may have been).

    I really appreciated the article from Rev. Glover, and while we may not agree on some of the exegesis, or how the issue might work in terms of Church leadership, on the whole, he has lots of very good things, particularly in terms of how the church has largely failed in discipleship, and failed to remember the three truths he elaborates on. What he writes to parents “This does not require that the parents agree with or accept all of their child’s choices” seems to apply equally to congregation members too – I don’t have to affirm all the choices my heterosexual friends make in order to walk with them, so too for my homosexual friends. Even if we don’t agree on the leadership issues – which surely stems from the outcome of the exegetical issues – we can agree that we’re broken, sinners with issues we struggle with, and all need to be walking beside eachother. Alex Tylee also has a good book on the issue, herself homosexual, and while she would disagree with Glover’s exegesis, also calls for the kind of understanding, friendship & discipleship ‘walking with’ that he is calling for.

    It’s rather disappointing that his congregation, despite supporting the above view, has gotten snagged on his political opinion (it is his congregation that has / will likely end his tenure) which he stresses is not about making the church recognise ssm. Render under Ceasar and all that..

    Reply
  2. Ken Wood

    This guys gonna be rich before christmas. I just wanted to say I don’t accept that there ever was a Jesus Christ. I believe based on some little research that the character was entirely fictional and was created by the church for whatever reason. I’m not getting any deeper into it than that because I am of the opinion the subject matter is simply not worth the time and effort.

    Reply
    1. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

      Ken, none of us are rich, so I hardly think the small amount we might be able to offer is likely to have him rolling in dough like Scrooge McDuck! This is someone who has taken a stand, on principle for human rights and dignity, and lost his livelihood because of it. Christian or atheist, that is the kind of person I will always support. Donate or not as you see fit, but please don’t discourage others from doing so.

      I have it on good authority that Matt Glover is a man of great integrity and I’m sure in the unlikely event he receives more money than he needs to tide him over, it will be properly directed to a good cause in keeping with those who donated it.

      Reply
    2. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

      By the way, the point isn’t whether there was or wasn’t a Jesus Christ – the point is that the conservative Baptists are acting contrary to the ‘character’ of Jesus as described in the book they claim to adhere to.

      I don’t want to start a conversation on the historicity of Jesus here, but I think Bart Ehrman’s view is probably as close to middle ground as you’ll get. See a debate here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRx0N4GF0AY&feature=player_embedded

      NB: PLEASE DON’T COMMENT ON THE HISTORICITY OF JESUS HERE – IT IS IRRELEVANT TO THIS BLOG POST.

      Reply
  3. Mikey Bear

    I am at a loss as to why I should feel sympathy for the minister for having taken a course of action that was against the wishes of his employer. If I were to do similarly in my job, and my employer decided it was best I left the organisation, who would feel pity for me? More to the point, who would open a bank account and ask people to transfer money into it for my benefit?

    Why is it that because this man is a minister, has a family and it’s near Christmas that people feel sorry for him, when he’s brought this situation on himself.

    If I’ve missed the point, kindly explain.

    Reply
    1. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

      Michael, my information is that there are many within the Baptist church who support gay marriage and oppose the sacking of a minister who supports it.

      I’m informed that the Baptist Church does not work like normal church hierarchy’s, so this is more complex than an ’employer’ sacking an employee.

      This represents a struggle within the church. In this particular church (ie. Lilydale) it’s been decided to get rid of the pastor. The pastor has stood up for gay rights. He has stood up for gay marriage. He has no personal interest in doing so other than to do what is right – and he has paid for it.

      I can understand your anger and frustration at the current situation, but turning on those who support the cause is not the answer. We will have to agree to disagree on this one.

      As I said, no-one is being forced to donate. I, however, will be writing my cheque today.

      Reply
      1. Mikey Bear

        No anger Chrys, and not really any frustration. Just amazement. Of course, I do feel sorry for anyone for being subjected to the wrath of an intolerant organisation, especially when they are allegedly doing “good”.

        I do question the merit of any work in the name of “god”, and suspect that telling people to believe in what amounts to lies does more harm than good, but that is a side issue.

        Most importantly here is the situation where there is no legal protection to this man for his employment, simply over a matter of principle.

  4. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

    Media Release from Rodney Croome:

    MEDIA RELEASE
    6th December 2011

    CHURCH LEADER FORCED OUT OF MINISTRY FOR GOING PUBLIC ON MARRIAGE EQUALITY

    Baptist Pastor & Psychologist Speak Out About Potential Damage

    Matt Glover, a respected and passionate suburban Melbourne Baptist Pastor and family man has been made to leave the Christian ministry he’s been developing for over 10 years. This is response to openly disagreeing with the Church hierarchy about his belief in marriage equality for same sex couples.

    This move has shocked many of his congregation and gay and lesbian people and their families who have described a sense of healing from hearing and reading his words of acceptance and Christian love from Matt.

    There are serious concerns that he will not be the only Christian Leader silenced in standing for Marriage equality. Mike Hercock, Pastor of Surry Hills Baptist Church in Sydney also openly supports marriage equality. He fears that this crackdown has silenced many Christians leaders who are concerned by the Churches approach.

    “If we as Ministers choose to support this change for marriage equality we face serious consequences, as we’ve seen with Matt. How can we then say to our Church congregation that they have a freedom of conscience in reflecting on their beliefs around same sex attraction and marriage equality, it is clearly a double standard.”

    “Some of the Christian Leaders I speak to are deeply concerned by the distress caused by the message and language of exclusion, disorder and defectiveness given about GLBT people by the church and have witnessed firsthand the detrimental results in the lives of GLBT Christians.”

    Paul Martin, Principal Psychologist at the Centre for Human Potential in Brisbane, who has specialized in same sex attraction and mental health for over 25 years also fears the impact on LGBTI people: “This move from the Baptist leadership sends a powerful message to any gay, bisexual or lesbian that not only are they not welcome in the House of God, but they are sinful, disordered and defective. This lays the foundation of deeply held beliefs which cause psychological disorders, substance abuse and poor self esteem. I have counseled dozens people who have experienced psychological distress including those who have attempted suicide after being rejected by the Church for being honest and open about who they really are.”

    “It seems incongruous to me that those of us who are respectfully stating our beliefs about marriage equality are being accused by Fundamentalist Christian leaders of persecuting them, however the evidence strongly suggests that it is they who are persecuting their own who happen to not tow the party line.”
    Mike Hercock said that “Pastor Matt Glover is one who stood with integrity of conscience to find a new way forward but not without a sacrifice.”

    Reply
  5. matt peake

    i tried to be xtian but the patriarchalness of it and telling me i was wrong dirty or subhuman, did it lead me to drugs? no, did the culture for which the church is responsible?? maybe…who knows…but than the gods it led me to Paganism and a deep powerful understanding of Diety and Truth and the ‘church’, Thanks Pastor Mike and take cARE AND GOOD LUCK AND THANK YOU VERY MUCH XX matt from sydney

    Reply

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