Monday, June 18, 2007

Alliance of Baptists Leaders Conclude Trip to Sri Lanka

Stan Hastey, Jim Hopkins and Joann Davis in front of Beligodapitiya Baptist Church, a rural church located amidst paddy fields

A delegation of Alliance of Baptists leaders, Stan Hastey (Minister for Ecumenical and Missional Partnerships), Jim Hopkins (President), Joann Davis (Chair, Missions Committee) spent a week in Sri Lanka with the hope of cementing the partnership begun with Sri Lankan Baptists about 5 years ago. I accompanied them on the trip.

The delegation hoping to listen to and learn from Sri Lanka, met with Baptist pastors, travelled to churches in the village of Beligodapitiya and Kandy, met with the faculty at the Theological College at Pilimatalawa, several religious leaders, public officials from both the Sinhala and Tamil communities, and preached in churches. Among their more interesting meetings were with Rev. Ranjini Liyanaarchchi (the only ordained woman among Sri Lankan Baptists).

The visit was not without tensions. A resolution passed by the Alliance Convocation in 2004, opposing a US constitutional amendment then before congress on defining marriage, was interpreted by some Sri Lankan Baptists as an Alliance position supporting same sex marriage. The Alliance has a policy of non-discrimination towards persons with a homosexual orientation in its hiring practices and in its recruitment of board members. While churches in Alliances' membership may have policies affirming same-sex marriage, the Alliance as an organization has no policy on same-sex marriage.

Yet, the controversy created a new opportunity. I had several conversations with Sri Lankan Baptist leaders about the Christian response to persons with a homosexual orientation, something they would not have had the opportunity to do otherwise. In my next trip I am invited to work with Baptist pastors to get a handle on this issue.
The Alliance of Baptists leaders will consider how best to deepen the partnership based on what they heard from Sri Lankan leaders.


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