The remarkable meeting -- cordial the entire time -- took place between the morning and afternoon sessions of the SBC in Wright's annual meeting office at the Phoenix Convention Center.
The nine-person coalition included representatives of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, Faith in America and Truth Wins Out. They protested outside the convention hall and requested to deliver petitions to Wright, who decided to turn the event into a dialogue. Several members of the media also attended.
"We're a coalition of groups asking the SBC to acknowledge and apologize for the damage that the convention has done to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people," Jack McKinney, a heterosexual married man told Wright at the beginning of the meeting. McKinney is a spokesperson for Faith in America and a former Southern Baptist minister. McKinney and the other leaders repeatedly made parallels between racism and a stance against homosexuality. Sixteen years ago to the day, McKinney said, Southern Baptists passed a resolution apologizing for past racism.
"We feel like the convention is making the same mistake in the way it has demonized LGBT people," said McKinney, who handed Wright a packet of 10,000 signatures. "We come today to ask for an apology for that and for a pledge that those kinds of teachings would come to an end."
Wright, sitting at a roundtable with McKinney and four of the other leaders, rejected the parallels.
"Obviously, we don't feel that there can be an apology for teaching sexual purity," Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., said. "As followers of Christ, our only authority for practicing our faith is Scripture, is the Word of God.... As followers of Christ it would be very difficult for us to betray our faith by ignoring what God says about sexual purity."
The Bible condemns both homosexual sex and heterosexual sex that is outside the bonds of marriage, Wright said.
"When I teach from the pulpit about adultery, I don't hate adulterers," Wright said. "Just as we have people attending our local church that are engaging in homosexual activity, we have people attending our church who are engaging in adultery. I don't hate those people when I speak about adultery. I am just, hopefully, loving them enough to speak the truth about what God desires for the best for that person."
Similarly, when Wright preaches about the Bible's prohibition on premarital sex, that doesn't "mean we hate teenagers," he said.
Mitchell Gold, Faith in America's founder, then spoke.
"I remember during the 1960s similar words justifying a position against integration and justifying a whole attitude toward black people. Part of what we are saying to you is, you really made a big mistake before and you apologized for it, you recognized it," Gold said.
"There's an enormous amount of harm" done to teens by the SBC's stance, Gold said, handing Wright a book written by Gold, "Crisis," that details stories of people who grew up homosexual.
Although some of the leaders said ex-gay ministries were harmful, Wright disagreed, saying "there really have been" people who have left homosexuality through the various ministries.
"The standard of Scripture for heterosexual single adults" and for homosexual single adults is "no different," Wright said. Both groups are, he said, to abstain from sex.
Wayne Besen, a leading homosexual activist and a former Human Rights Campaign spokesperson, interjected, "You're asking for people to surrender their humanity."
Wright drew the conversation back to his Christian faith.
"Jesus Christ came to die for all of our sins, whether it's heterosexual sin or whether it's homosexual sin.... For a society to come along at this stage in history and all of a sudden say that one of the ... areas that Christ has no power" over is "homosexual behavior is really elevating the importance of that behavior above the power of Christ.
"Looking at sexual purity from Scripture, we're not going to be able to come to common ground. I hope you all would respect that we're just seeking to follow Jesus."
Wright began drawing the meeting to a close with a personal plea.
"Christ loves you Wayne, He loves you Mitchell, He loves Robin , He loves me in spite of my incredible amount of sin," Wright said. "... But He does not desire for us to continue to engage in sinful behavior that He very clearly says is not good."
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.
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