A gadfly college professor who clings to the largely discredited practice of “conversion” therapy to change sexual orientation says the Southern Baptist Convention is wavering in its condemnation of homosexuality.
“I think the Southern Baptist Convention is going to flip on homosexuality, but they are going to do it very indirectly,” Robert Oscar Lopez, until recently a humanities professor at the undergraduate arm of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said in a recent interview with conservative Christian talk show host Bryan Fisher.
Lopez, informed the day after Thanksgiving his teaching position at Scarborough College is being eliminated, claims he was really fired for holding views on homosexuality that are unpopular with staff of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
Lopez resigned in 2016 from a tenured teaching position at California State University at Northridge, where he was investigated for discrimination against and creating a hostile learning environment for LGBTQ students.
In 2015 he filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court opposing same-sex marriage that established his reputation among pro-LGBTQ groups and liberal media as a leading “anti-equality” and “anti-gay” figure.
After determining the secular academy had become “a place where I had to abandon Christ or abandon CSUN,” Lopez said in 2016, he was hired as professor of humanities in the College at Southwestern. After upheaval of the firing of Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson in 2018, Lopez claims the new administration discouraged him from publishing articles about abuse in the gay community and his view that sexual orientation can be changed.
“A lot of people in the Southern Baptist Convention are trying to come up with a middle position on homosexuality where they play lip service to the idea that it’s a sin and it can’t be marriage but they want to say that people can’t change their orientation or they have to just passively wait for God to change them, and not take any effort in terms of their own personal behavior,” Lopez said Dec. 4 on the American Family Radio program Focal Point.
“Because I don’t agree with that – I think that you do have to make a conscious effort, be prayerful and walk with Jesus Christ but also encourage each other to get out of homosexuality and to build a heterosexual life – that put me in the cross hairs in the Southern Baptist Convention,” Lopez said.
The Southern Baptist Convention amended its constitution and bylaws in 1992 to exclude “churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior.” A handful of churches over the years have been ruled not “in friendly cooperation” with the denomination for violating the ban. A new bylaw awaiting final approval adds racism and sexual abuse as unpardonable sins.
An SBC resolution in 1996 stated that “even desire to engage in a homosexual sexual relationship is always sinful, impure, degrading, shameful, unnatural, indecent and perverted.”
Today, Lopez alleged, SBC leaders “are on their way to saying that God makes people gay, and that you can’t change that if God makes people gay.”
Southwestern Seminary took the unusual step of commenting on a personnel matter with a press release saying Lopez’s position is being eliminated “due to changing program needs of our college.”
“As Southern Baptists should expect of their seminaries, we are committed to a biblical view of marriage and sexual ethics,” said the Dec. 4 statement by Provost Randy Stinson. “Any claim that Southwestern Seminary has wavered on these longstanding commitments is either misinformed or intentionally deceptive.”
Lopez told Fischer that he doesn’t expect the denomination to own up to views contrary to beliefs probably held by many, if not most, Southern Baptists.
“They are going to talk out of both sides of their mouth,” Lopez said. “They are going to want to continue to get the donations, the tithes, the financial support from the conservative Baptist in the pews, who want to hear that they are defending biblical marriage, but they also want to have all the political connections and the grants and the prestige of working with pro-gay liberal Christian groups who have a lot of money.”
Lopez predicted that SBC leaders will give lip service to the idea that marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman while knowing that the Supreme Court has already given people in all 50 states the right to marry someone of the same sex.
“It’s a safe thing to take a stand on,” he said. “It doesn’t really cost you anything, and you know that your gay allies are not going to really take you to task on it. Meanwhile, they are sacrificing the Christian position on whether people can change, whether it really is a sin, whether the gay community as it exists right now features a great deal of abuse and misconduct and sexual disease and unhappiness.”
Lopez identifies as ex-gay, a term popularized by the parachurch group Exodus International describing efforts to reorient gays toward heterosexuality through use of conversion therapies. The method, derisively dubbed “pray away the gay,” lost favor in 2013, when Exodus International closed its doors and its president, Alan Chambers, apologized for causing “pain and hurt” to the LGBTQ community.
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest pro-gay lobby, defines conversion therapy as “a range of dangerous and discredited practices that falsely claim to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.”
“Such practices have been rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organization for decades, but due to continuing discrimination and societal bias against LGBTQ people, some practitioners continue to conduct conversion therapy,” the group said on its website. “Minors are especially vulnerable, and conversion therapy can lead to depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness and suicide.”
In 2018 Lopez unsuccessfully submitted a resolution to the Southern Baptist Convention supporting “pastoral counseling and biblically sound therapies that help restore the believer’s sexual identity” and resisting efforts by the government “to restrict or prevent counseling that churches would provide to help people turn from homosexuality to heterosexuality.” The SBC Resolutions Committee did not recommend its approval.
“So they’re sacrificing all of the things that really matter for Christ’s message that if you obey God’s design, if you live in obedience to God, you will find happiness and you will see all of the blessings that God gives you,” Lopez told Fischer. “If you live against his design, you won’t see that. So we’re sacrificing that stance.”