Times have changed, however and, with the addition of a graduate level school of theology, this once obscure institution of higher learning has taken center stage in the struggle of "moderates" to remain relevant in the conservative-dominated Southern Baptist Convention. A key player in Mercer's rise to prominence in this arena has been ethics professor David Gushee. At a recent conference on sexual ethics hosted by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Gushee deftly dodged the thorny issue of homosexuality by introducing a not so novel term.
Mercer University ethicist David Gushee, a key conference organizer, spoke passionately and forcefully about “covenant” in his address. Using his own parents as a model of covenantal faithfulness, Gushee noted, “I have thought from the beginning that the very important thing we could talk about would be the issue of covenant. I believe that covenant is a, if not the, single best way that has emerged in the Christian theological ethic-ecclesial tradition to talk about what we are supposed to with our sexuality, and for that matter, our relationality.”Gushee is starting to sound a little like an Anglican, is he not? Wasn't a "covenant" supposed to be the solution to all the ecclesial disputes brought on by several provinces sliding into apostasy in the area of sexual ethics? Of course, the "Anglican Covenant" never really had a chance. Covenants must be based on mutual trust and commitment and the wayward provinces had no intention of abandoning their brave new world of sexual nihilism.
But Gushee stopped short of addressing who ought to be eligible for entry into such covenants. And he urged embracing the concept of “covenant” before it disappears. “I don’t think our main issue is the fierce and tedious fighting on the boundaries about which categories of people ought to be viewed as eligible to make covenants.”
“Focusing on covenant,” Gushee said, “gives some positive normative vision that has the potential for inviting everyone into the conversation. It speaks deeply to our ecclesial problems, as well as to our marital problems.”
sums up their plight accurately.
R. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, criticized the conference as a catalyst for embracing progressive sexual ethics within the CBF.
“The CBF is in the death throes of denominational anguish over sexuality in general, and homosexuality in particular,” Mohler said. “They are making clear decisions to abandon biblical authority in pursuit of endless ‘conversations,’” he added.
According to Mohler, “The denominations that take a clear position on homosexuality have, in the least, the virtue of honesty. The CBF has decided not to take that approach.”