On September 15th, the Daily Courier, the newspaper in my hometown of Kelowna, B.C., published the latest article from columnist Tim Schroeder. As teaching pastor at a large evangelical church, Trinity Baptist, Schroeder’s columns are usually pithy expressions of pastoral wisdom run through a grid of evangelical theology and social conservatism. But this article was rather different. Indeed, relative to Schroeder’s oeuvre, it was nothing short of shocking.
In “We are fortunate to live in Canada,” Schroeder lists several reasons why Canadians should be glad to live in the Great White North rather than the United States, but it was the second point that was particularly shocking. In the article, Schroeder came out solidly on the side of gay marriage and elective abortion.
On gay marriage, Schroeder wrote:
“The concern about same-sex marriage is, for me, the most difficult to understand. If two people love each other and believe their life together would be more fulfilling if joined in matrimony, what harm is inflicted on anyone or everyone else?”
This statement appears to be in contradiction with the NAB 2012 Statement of Beliefs (the statement of Schroeder’s denomination).
Equally shocking was Schroeder’s dismissal of a pro-life position on abortion. He wrote:
“The matter of abortion is also bewildering. Americans opposed to this medical procedure are, in effect, telling women what they can and cannot do with their bodies.”
Arguably most shocking of all was the nonchalant way that Schroeder expressed his view and his apparent dismissiveness toward traditional evangelical opinions. Frankly, it was inexplicable (dare I say, bewildering?) that Schoeder would express his support for these positions in such a nonchalant way while cavalierly dismissing widespread evangelical opinions on the matter.
Wow, I thought to myself, I wouldn’t want to be the receptionist at Trinity Baptist tomorrow morning!
Then came the second curveball. A few days later I went to the Daily Courier website to look at the article again and I read this:
EDITOR’S NOTE: A series of bizarre and unfortunate circumstances occurred in the process of editing the Sept. 15 print edition of Okanagan Weekend.
A column titled “We are fortunate to live in Canada,” credited to Tim Schroeder was NOT penned by Pastor Schroeder and in no way reflects his views or the viewpoint of Trinity Baptist Church in Kelowna. (source)
So at least that now made sense. As I said above, it wasn’t simply the views expressed in the article which flummoxed me but the nonchalant and cavalier way in which they were expressed. It had never added up that a well-respected evangelical leader would suddenly adopt such a different view along with so little nuance, charity, or understanding for those with whom he was now disagreeing.
But still, I wondered how the church would weather the fallout. After all, as the saying goes, a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. I suspected the same principle applied to unintentional misattributions.
Several weeks later in a sermon, Schroeder addressed the mix-up and the fiery blowback he’d received. In one instance, he noted a man had emailed him to say that Schroeder should be drowned in the deepest part of Okanagan Lake (the large and deep lake on which Kelowna is situated). Jokingly, Schroeder wondered aloud to the congregation why the man wanted him drowned in the deepest part of the lake: wouldn’t it suffice to drown him near shore?
Now let me make two qualifying points. First, I can sympathize somewhat with the anger of Christians who read what they thought was a shockingly cavalier dismissal of their views. And second, most evangelicals probably wouldn’t support the man’s proposed solution: drowning.
But neither point overcomes the disturbing fact that at least some sizeable minority of evangelicals were angry enough to express the sentiment that violent retribution — perhaps even public execution — might be appropriate to the wayward pastor.
And yet, I can’t say I was surprised. After all, evangelicals have long defined themselves primarily by what they are against and gay marriage and abortion have topped that list for years. By contrast, in terms of all the other things one might be against, several other worthy topics — global poverty, animal abuse, and climate change, for example — are significantly lower on the scale. (How many outraged emails and phone calls would Trinity Baptist had received if Shroeder had written an article dismissive of climate change, for example?)
Even more radically, what if evangelicals were known primarily not by what they are against but rather by what they are for? In fact, what if they were known for, get this, their love for one another (John 13:35)?
Crazy, I know. But hey, I can dream, can’t I?