Last week we shared a conversation with Andrew Dodd and Scott Higgins about how Hamilton Baptist Church became LGBTQI+ affirming. If you haven’t listened yet, you can do so here.
This week: the conversation with Scott and Andrew continues, with a focus on what they learned that might be useful for other pastors and churches — and how to navigate difference and disagreement.
Need a recap? Here’s an outline of the story so far…
Scott Higgins wrote a paper back in the 90s giving an overview of different Christian perspectives on sexuality. In many ways this was a starting point for him of coming to see theological diversity in this area. Fast forward a few years and he was asked to read a statement to his church affirming that Baptists hold exclusively to a traditional view of marriage. Scott couldn’t bring himself to read it, but instead asked the church who would be interested in taking a few weeks to explore some diverse understandings of sexuality, marriage and Christian ethics.
Every hand went up.
As the church began to have these conversations, a number of queer people were drawn to come along, and ended up staying in the church. The combination of fresh theological framing alongside real and loved members of their community played a key role in what was then Edgeworth Baptist becoming a church that welcomed and embraced sexually and gender diverse people.
While this was happening there was also a conversation beginning with Hamilton Baptist Church — where Andrew Dodd was the pastor. This conversation was about the two churches merging. This made sense for a lot of reasons, though Edgeworth had one non-negotiable. If the churches were going to merge, LGBTQI+ people needed to be fully included and embraced in the life of the new church. So the two churches went on a process together over around 12 months, testing the waters of their relationship so to speak, before officially deciding to proceed with the merge.
At this point the vast majority of people were onboard. This doesn’t mean it was without cost or difficulty and some people left, though this was generally done in a gracious way.
At the end of the last episode Andrew shared the story of their first service together as a new church, and the powerful moment when communion was served by a queer member of the congregation. What was powerful wasn’t so much this person sharing out communion. It was the fact that it didn’t matter that this person was sharing out communion. Because they were welcome as much as anyone else.
So, in this next part of the conversation I talked to Andrew and Scott about what they learned from this journey that might inform other churches.
There’s another element of this story that’s important. The change Andrew and Scott have led at Hamilton — is not one that everyone is ready for. And in Andrew’s words Hamilton is now in a somewhat precarious position within the NSW Baptist Association.
So we talked about change, disagreement and how some of this sits within a larger system. This aspect of the conversation is not theoretical to Scott, Andrew and even myself. It is playing out in real-time. And in part, this is why I recorded this conversation. Maybe you’re part of this tribe called Baptist? Or maybe you’ve left it behind? Maybe you’re part of a different denomination, or organisation?
Whatever the case, I believe listening to Scott and Andrew share there thoughts around this may be an important step in helping you to see things through a fresh lens.
So join us for the rest of the conversation.
Click here to listen or use the podcast player below: episode title — Scott Higgins & Andrew Dodd: lessons of inclusion