Saturday, June 27, 2015

An Open Letter to My Gay Friends

(for those friends from childhood to those who’ve attended the church I serve as pastor)

I've noted much talk ABOUT, AT and PAST people in social media today. I’d like to add a little variety and speak TO some friends of mine.

I can’t imagine the elation you feel today as this historic day unfolded. For many of you, I assume you feel a slight sense of relief from certain stigmas that are all too often inappropriately thrust upon you (not that there will ever be a shortage of mean spirited people hurling insults). Others, might be happy about the financial benefits that have for too long been withheld from you and your significant other. For still others it might simply be a sense of ease at the rendering of equality delivered from the nation’s highest court.

Knowing I’m the pastor of an evangelical church, I’d imagine you have an idea of where I stand on a number of social issues. However, I’m afraid that some of you might assume a certain characterization of me that might not be accurate. I would hope those of you that know me would corroborate my love and compassion for all peoples of all backgrounds and all worldviews.

With that said, I wanted to expand on a few statements I made on social media today. My tweets (and one rather lengthy Facebook post) were primarily geared toward the church and in particular the faith family that I shepherd. Here are those tweets in their entirety (the Facebook message will be later in this post)

The postmodernity in which we are deeply submerged will continue to lead into further & further confusion. Of this we ought not be surprised

An important reminder from @drmoore.

Remember that the church, from its conception, was the awkward & ostracized voice faithfully defending truth in a difficult cultural milieu.

Just had a long, involved conversation w/my 10 yr/ld about modernity, postmodernity & their structures (or not) & implications #payattention

If Love "winning" is what matters I'm just wondering when it be true that for plural & even paedophilial marriages? #notaboutlove

The last tweet was more of a rhetorical question regarding the interesting use of the hash tag #Lovewins. Admittedly, it might appear to be a bit argumentative but that wasn’t my intention. I do wonder however if the philosophical implications of simplifying the understanding of marriage to the "emotion of love" itself has been fully plumbed by those using that tag. But alas, I’m not here to debate the merits of the topic with you. Our differences are deeply held philosophical differences and I won’t insult you by trying to engage in such an exercise today.

Rather, I’d like to make sure you understand what I am NOT feeling/saying to you today (or any other day for that matter).

Granted, I have read a number of mean-spirited, “the-sky-is-falling, the world’s going to hell” posts today. I regret that… and for what it is worth, I would like to apologize for those confused and misinformed people. I can only comment tonight on where my heart is. With that spirit allow me to share what my concern is NOT about…

My concern…

1.      … is not about Hate. A few friends have posited today that those who oppose gay marriage are full of hate and wish ill toward the gay community. Although the sin of hate is prevalent in a number of persons and perspectives, I can assure you, friends, there is not a bone of hate in my body toward you. Surely I have shown that to those of you who know me. That two people disagree on some important and even philosophically foundational topics does not mean that one must hate and belittle the other because of the differences. I’ve never been able to understand why this argument (and logical fallacy) is so often utilized. Part of growing in maturity means being able to rein in one's feelings in order to have reasonable, civil and even loving dialogue about serious concerns. In fact, while writing this document I’ve just had civil discussion with an old friend about this very issue. Although we disagree on a few things, we also agree on a few. Sure there are (and will continue to be) those on both sides that will be irrational and will eschew civility while continuing to spew vitriolic speech… but how about we just ignore those folks? I will not participate is such action.

2.      … is not about Homophobia. Another charge I’ve noted which has been leveled today is that those who oppose gay marriage are afraid of homosexuals and their efforts. Again, and I can only speak for myself, I am not afraid of you nor will I ever interact with you with fear or trepidation. You come visit NOLA and Michelle and I will pick you up, take you to dinner, enjoy time together and wish you well with hugs and kisses in the exact same way we do for all our friends (and even some strangers). Some of you can verify this statement to be true. I love you and “perfect love casts out fear.” I will not fear you and I ask you to not fear me.

3.      … is not about “keeping” the Christian worldview as the only or even primary worldview. The church, especially in America, has functioned under false pretenses for far too many years. Although this country was clearly founded on Judeo-Christian principles, it has never been a “Christian” nation. Sure, it has paraded around as one. But Jesus himself noted that those who follow him will be in the minority. He even warned those who would dare follow him to first count the cost, because following him will likely lead to ostracization and possibly even martyrdom. It was like that in the first century and it has been like that ever since for the true church. Thus, I have no expectation that the laws of my country and lifestyles of my fellow countrymen should be in line with my own personal walk, in fact, I'd believe just the opposite. My view has rather quickly been identified to be, not only in the minority, but odd and increasingly irrelevant. I’m not terribly happy about that but I’m more ok with it than you might think I am. I’m even strangely at peace about it.

4.      … is not about being against equality for everyone. Making this an issue of equality, although profoundly successful in terms of defining the popular argument, is not how I understand the issue. For me, it is first and foremost a foundational question of logic and ontology and not that of a comparative analysis of two subjects. Let me see if I can explain. Are my children and I equal? Are my wife and I equal? Am I equal to one who is of another ethnicity or from another country? Am I equal to a fighter pilot? How about a police officer? A stay at home mom? The President? Supreme Court Justices? Absolutely! We are all equal… in every way a human being is equal to one another in worth, value and the love of the Creator. However, because of backgrounds, circumstances, citizenships, training, biology and a host of other determining distinctives there are numerous way in which we are not “equal.” I’ve visited France a couple of times but I do not have the right to vote there. I ride along with the police as a chaplain but I do not have the right to carry a side arm on those ride-alongs (even though I am certified to carry a concealed weapon). Sure my wife and I are equal, but due to my biological make up I am not able to carry a child to term, nor can I know a mothers love for her children (nor, for that matter, can I even get the reduced insurance rates my wife does, because I am a male and apparently the girls drive better than the boys do). I do not have the right to climb into a jet and fly into battle. I do not have the authority to pass laws or enact judgment regarding those laws. You see, for me these are not issues of equality… they are issues of ontology. The equality of the worth and value of every human life are not in question here nor should they ever be in question!

I hope you see where I am NOT coming from. Now, if I may, allow me to share with you that about which I am concerned…

Some might not believe this will be an issue over which I should be concerned. In fact, I have seen my concern specifically mentioned today as something those who are opposed to gay marriage should not be concerned about. However, common sense and history itself might suggest the contrary. Specifically, this is the question of what will be expected of churches such as mine that, due to deeply held religious beliefs, will decline to host and perform same-sex wedding ceremonies. You know, maybe better than most, that humans don’t often treat those in the minority with the compassion and tolerance each person deserves. As my worldview becomes increasingly at odds with the culture around us I wonder how our religious rights will be treated. Will we be forced to adhere to what the culture (government) says we should believe rather than be allowed to live out our faith life?

Because of these questions and the litigious nature of our culture (as already noted in the courts regarding this very issue) churches feel it necessary to act with compassion, faith and determination to prepare ourselves for what is not only likely to come, but what is philosophically bound to come due to the continued “postmoderization” of our culture and current trends. It is from this context that, in July of 2013 after reading the majority and dissenting opinions of the Supreme Court upon the act of striking down DOMA, I authored and submitted to our church the following resolution. I also posted this on Facebook today, not to be a provocateur but in response to questions I have received from churches and pastors from around the country regarding what we might do to prepare ourselves for what is next. Here again is the text.

        "Because of our exegetical interpretation and subsequent understanding of the biblical testimony, upon which our church was founded and functions, First Baptist Church, Westwego makes the following clarifications regarding the church’s policy on the performance of marriage ceremonies and recognition of marriages.
        Whereas, First Baptist Church of Westwego (FBCW) is an independent congregation of believers, who voluntarily associates in mission endeavors with the Southern Baptist Convention, but who is completely unfettered by any denominational hierarchical structure,
        Whereas, FBCW is not beholden to any outside ecclesiastical jurisdiction but is self-governing and sets its own policies and procedures regarding aspects of church life,
        Whereas, functioning within this autonomy we do accept and adhere to the traditional understanding of a complementarian marriage passed down through orthodox Christianity as being between one man and one woman,
        Whereas, the biblical testimony of Ephesians 5:22-33 clearly shows that the relationship between Christ and his church is pictured in the relationship between a husband and wife, in which, as the husband is the head of the wife so Christ is the head of the church, and as the wife submits to the leadership of her husband so the church submits to the leadership of Christ,
        Whereas, scripture clearly presents the tenet that a romantic relationship alone is not a sufficient condition for marriage but that the marriage relationship, of husband and wife, is the foundational unit of the family structure and in biological terms is the base unit in which natural conception might happen begetting human life,
        Be it resolved, that FBCW laments and seeks to correct the low standards to which marriage has been held, even among evangelical churches, in recent years,
        Be it further resolved, that FBCW does not recognize same-gender, polygamous, or child marriages as valid forms of biblical marriages (as is testimony from the New Testament),
        Be it further resolved, that FBCW does not permit its facilities to be used for these types of ceremonies,
        Be it finally resolved, that although the pastors of FBCW have the autonomy to set their own standards for their acceptance or rejection of an invitation to officiate a wedding ceremony (be it that of a member of the church family or a couple from outside the church family) the Pastors of FBCW are not permitted to participate in same-gender, polygamous, or child marriage ceremonies."

Presented and adopted on this 14th day of July, 2013.

In the end, I want you to know that I recognize that you have felt ostracized and that even this wording/action from our church might not set well with you but I drafted this resolution to protect a deeply held foundational truth for me and those I lead, not because I hate you, or am afraid of you, or that I expect everyone to think like me or that I am against equality for all people. The difference is about our philosophical worldviews and competing ontologies. My view has been born out of a relentless heart for the work of the Gospel and the hope of the reconciliation of all men to our loving God. Jesus Christ came to set the captive free and with Paul, I can say that I am the “chief of all sinners” and in my adult life have tried to devote my life to one of peace and faithfulness to Christ as Lord. I wish that same peace for all who read this letter today.

I am ready and prepared to be in the minority. I just hope my increasingly extraneous worldview will be as tolerated as you’ve always hoped your’s would have been (and so often was not). I will always and unashamedly love you and continue to consider you a friend.

In the Love of Christ,


Friday, January 30, 2015

My New Orleans Baptist Association...

Editorial Note and UPDATE: I have come to understand where the author of the original blog received his limited information. Although I am very disappointed with the circumstances surrounding this stir and I remain indignant that this piece was written, much less published without an attempt at engaging the Executive Director or the Administrative Team of NOBA. That was simply not the way Christ tells us to deal with others... at all. In fact, it is contrary to Scripture. I do however, now know that there was no intention on the part of the author or publisher to present false information. He seems to have been speaking from what what he was told. What is clear to me is that he only had bits and pieces of information. What remains disappointing is that such an article was written in the first place considering our work is a local Baptist work and historically, entities and individuals outside of an association do not have a place to nor should they be lodging complaints or directives toward an association that is not their own... especially about properties owned by the association. Because of that I want to make a couple of adjustments to my post. Anywhere I suggested or insinuated that someone was deliberately presenting false information I am retracting. Understand that I am NOT retracting the facts I have carefully presented nor am I discounting my disappointment with the article and its deployment but knowing that there was no deliberate attempt to deceive is enough for me to soften my language in some areas.


Well, I didn't see this coming. I assumed my first blog post since the LBC would be about another topic. However, yesterday I received word of a blog post on B21's site (an organization that I genuinely appreciate) that was very disconcerting to me. You can find that post here. I encourage you to read it before reading my response. The following is the text of my rebuttal which was sent to B21 this morning. Although I serve as the moderator of NOBA this response is from me as a local pastor and member of the New Orleans Baptist Association of churches.

You know friends, a lot of headache and confusion can be avoided if fact checking, Christlike respectful due diligence and transparency would be employed.


A Rebuttal to Dean Inserra’s “Send New Orleans: An Opportunity and a Challenge”
from Jay Adkins, Pastor of FBC Westwego and NOBA Moderator

I have the great privilege to serve as the moderator of the New Orleans Baptist Association of Churches (NOBA) but what follows is just my personal reaction to yesterday’s blog post at B21 regarding the New Orleans Baptist Association. I’ve lived in the metro NOLA area for 13+ years and have been amazed at what a unique, diverse and challenging place this is to live and to serve. You learn things in NOLA that I’m convinced you can’t learn anywhere else. I often joke with our pastors that we are the “Island of Misfit Toys” of the Southern Baptist Convention. We are all so different. Our theologies are varied, our worship styles—assorted and our skin color—diverse yet we find great joy and community in our unity (tell me another association where the “big church” pastors are just as involved in associational life as are the “small church” pastors… including a former President of the SBC). Maybe it is because we know that those outside our Island don’t quite “get it” the way we do. Maybe it is simply the fact that spiritually-initiated wartime trench-oriented relationships are some of the strongest and most meaningful bonds forged. Whatever the reason, New Orleans is a different place and to that I say vive la difference. It is from that background that my desire to be transparent and truthful has been cultivated and it is from that perspective that I must respond to the recent B21 article from Dean Inserra titled, “Send New Orleans: An Opportunity and a Challenge.”

I was called today by a NOBA employee to let me know about this article. More concerning for me than even the content of the article is the fact that B21 didn’t contact our Executive Director, me who serves as moderator, nor any member of the Administrative Team to offer an opportunity to address what has been written about our local work. I believe the integrity of B21 is at stake here (a ministry that I both appreciate and am often encouraged by). When such an article is to be published, journalistic (not to mention spiritual) integrity requires that a full vetting take place and at least some sort of contact be made with the organization being addressed so that an appropriate rebuttal, or at least clarification, could be rendered.

I appreciate Dean Inserra’s leadership in guiding City Church of Tallahassee to adopt NOLA as a partner. We love our partners and we appreciate the thousands of short term missionaries and partner churches who have given their time, toil and treasure to help us engage our mission field, but one of the many things I have learned while pastoring a church that has housed thousands of volunteers is that a “trip down” and a “tour around” our area, albeit important to introduce our ministry to perspective partners, could not possibly provide the necessary backdrop to our unique work in what is considered by many to be one of the most complex and diverse Baptist associations in the SBC.

I am certain Dean offers these critiques from a place of true concern, nor do I expect him to understand the history and very involved background from which this dialogue springs however, the substance of the complaint in this blog post is so scant and misguided that it is difficult to know where to begin in response. Let me do this piece-by-piece, starting with the most direct statement made by Pastor Dean…

First, Dean posits,
That sounds great, doesn’t it? Church buildings used by church plants from our own denomination to battle lostness in a Send city is a slam-dunk, right? It should be, except for the challenge presented by the New Orleans Baptist Association (NOBA). As proof of God’s continued work in this city, NOBA now owns several of these vacant buildings. Tragically, it seems the Association is not interested in using these properties as facilities for church planting, the reason given that they would rather sell the buildings in order to fund local social justice ministries. (emphasis his)

Nothing could be further from the truth. NOBA has not sold a single church building. Further, to my knowledge, the association hasn’t sold a church building in the 13 years I’ve pastored in the area.

NOBA owns exactly 6 “church” buildings. All but 2 of them (4) are currently used by an established congregation, mission or church plant. Furthermore our ample association office complex has been the home of a number of other church plants throughout the years an is always available for planting. It is my hope that the 2 church buildings that currently do not house any congregations (Hopeview – which has been used as a roughed out volunteer center post-Katrina and Lake Forest – used as a warehouse for NOBA’s rebuild material) will one day either return to use as local church facilities (Lake Forest) or be sold and the proceeds used for church planting (Hopeview). In fact, NOBA has already invited the submission of a proposal for a future plant in the Lake Forest facility but nothing has been received. As for the Hopeview site, after consultation with church planting and church health strategist as well as local pastors, NOBA concluded that it was not feasible to return Hopeview to service as a church for a plethora of reasons; deemed it surplus property; and has listed it for sale. NOBA has received no proposals for the expected proceeds from the sale of Hopeview, nor has NOBA taken action regarding the disposition of said proceeds, which I hope to see used for planting purposes. (By the way, in an earlier tweet I made the mistake of saying “no church building we have is being sold” I should have said, “has not sold a single church building” I want to be very careful with my words and point out my mistake here). Dean made reference to one particular building on Magazine. That building, which he seems to think is empty, houses Valance Street Baptist Church and is the oldest SBC church building in NOBA. They have had a pastor for longer than I’ve lived here and have only recently entered into a partnership with NOBA to help it become a stronger work by…. wait for it… submitting to become a NOBA church plant/replant. It is not the association’s prerogative to force a church to anything, especially as it has do with property.

Now, if Dean is referring to the sale of two former compassion ministry sights (Carver and Rachel Sims) then that is another story. First of all, these buildings are not and never have been “church properties” (although a small mission church did for a short time utilize one of the large cavernous facilities) Second, these buildings were given to NOBA during the time NAMB was ridding itself of compassion ministry sites. When representatives from NOBA went to visit NAMB’s leadership to share our newly minted and ratified areas of focus—church health, church planting and compassion ministries—we identified our desire to reach into underserved communities with the gospel witness through compassion ministries including the possible introduction of a health clinic. NAMB loved the idea. Thus, for a number of years we have planned on selling these two properties to help further our compassion ministry efforts in the Lower Ninth Ward – where today we have the first of what I hope to be a number of gospel centered medical ministries in which our doctors tend to physical needs while also praying for and encouraging its patients. Tell me of another Baptist association that has a medical clinic.

Dean also argues, “the money invested in these ministries will be spent and gone for good.” Again, he is mistaken. Our hope is that this is an investment which will have a financial return to our association to further our vision. To suggest that we are impeding church planting by investing funds into compassion ministries is tantamount to suggesting that a church is not about global missions if it also is involved with funding local ministry. Dean also suggests, “One would think that starting and maintaining healthy churches would be the priority for a local association, rather than social programs.” Wow, I’m not sure how to respond here. Dean is simply presenting the fallacy of a false dilemma. Why can’t we do both? Further, we are not just talking about “social programs.” We are talking about meeting the physical needs of a neglected and underserved community (something that Jesus himself did). The fact is, not every penny spent by NOBA will go to church planting. NOBA has a gospel-centered strategy to expand the kingdom of Christ across the greater New Orleans region that involves three prongs: Church planting, Church health and Compassion Ministries; or as some have described it—Sharing Jesus, Starting Churches and Shaping Culture.

Pair that with the fact that, if you will allow this analogy, the “church-planting” faucet (so to speak) is wide open. A significant amount of funds are available from the SBC, the LBC and church partners from all around the country for church planting. There are however, NO funds for compassion ministries through CP efforts (however, since my original post one brother has let me know that there are some funds for local churches to engage in compassion type ministries). That we need to defend why we want to use this one-time asset (which was dedicated to compassion ministries) for the furtherance of our compassion ministry is very frustrating to me, especially when it comes from someone in another state who clearly has some but not all the information. I’ve already had friends from around the country contact me about this. That this post might jeopardize our current and the possibility of future partnerships is upsetting and such irresponsible misinformation is disappointing to say the least.

To suggest that NOBA is not passionate about church planting is absurd. NOBA and its churches have given hundreds of thousands of dollars to church planting and church planters in an effort to see this city inundated with the Gospel. We have used both NOBA owned and our locally owned buildings to house plants. My small church has relationships with two plants outside of our state (Utah and Vermont) and one in the next community over from ours. No one, and I mean NO ONE has any more heart for this city than those of us who daily work and labor here. To suggest otherwise is, and I’ll say it as nicely as I can, without understanding. The men and women, pastors and servants of NOBA work together in a way I have seen no other association do in order to fulfill our cooperative call to exalt Christ. We do so with joy in our diversity and singleness of heart in our effort.

You want to know about church planting / church life in southeast Louisiana? Come for a visit and talk to those of us who have walked it. I’d encourage you to get to know the pastors who have grown up here, those of us who were here through Katrina, and those who have come here to plant and pastor since that deluge. We will continue to prayerfully seek God’s direction for our association to impact our neighbors around our home. At least, if you’re going to publish something about our work, talk to one of us first… please.