Anti-gay theology from afar pays off at 1st Baptist Church of Dallas for homeboy
Had I been sitting in a pew at the First Baptist Church of Dallas during the Rev. Robert Jeffress’ audition speech on Aug. 12, I fear I might have fell out when he got to the part about how God had told him when he was a Baylor University student he would one day become pastor of the downtown church.
If that line hadn’t disabled me, I’m sure his follow-up remark about having never revealed his conversation with God for a good three decades afterward not even to his wife would have.
I can just imagine his wife’s thoughts when he got to that part of the sermon. She might have been thinking, “I can’t believe he’s kept that from me all these years.” Or maybe she was thinking the same thing I am now: “That’s a bit far-fetched, even for the hyperbole of a Baptist preacher.”
Whatever she and the congregation were thinking, I am inclined to believe Jeffress, 51, was indulging in a little creative license in his sermon. The actual scenario was more likely that Jeffress told himself that he would one day become the church’s pastor, and then he spent the next 30 years making sure he accomplished that goal.
And accomplish it he did. The congregation overwhelmingly voted on Aug. 12 to appoint him senior pastor. He will be returning to the church where he was a member during the days of the church’s legendary pastor, the Rev. W.A. Criswell, and where he served as a youth minister early in his career.
Jeffress suffered through 15 years in Wichita Falls [which let me tell you from experience is no paradise], stirring up the wrath of conservatives at the First Baptist Church of Wichita Falls with his dire warnings about homosexual perversion and other sins while apparently keeping his eyes on the prize in Dallas.
He even managed to get the city sued in federal court for his attempts in 1998 to browbeat the City Council into at first banning “Daddy’s Roommate” and “Heather Has Two Mommies,” then when that failed, into hiding the books from public view in the Wichita Falls Public Library.
Now, he’s made it back to his hometown of Dallas. He will be senior pastor of the most influential church in the Southern Baptist Convention and get all of the perks that go along with it. He’s set.
He’ll be living quite well we’re probably talking the church’s old Swiss Avenue mansion where Criswell lived until his death in return for ranting and raving every week in the Baptist tradition about hellfire and damnation.
As a lapsed Baptist one who has once-close friends who worship in the First Baptist Church of Wichita Falls that only bothers me because he has achieved a position of enormous influence in Dallas. I’ve seen firsthand the effect he has had on some Wichita Falls residents.
And he has made it clear he intends to continue down the same ultra-conservative path he walked in Wichita Falls. Anyone who has so much to say about “Homosexuality Is a Perversion” that they have to separate it into Parts 1 and 2 to get it all told is a bit worrisome to me.
Based on what Jeffress had to say in his audition speech about God predicting his good employment fortune years ago, I suspect he wouldn’t have any problem again possibly stretching the truth with his congregation particularly when it comes to the “evils of homosexuality.”
After all, he told the Wichita Falls Times Record News prior to his audition sermon that he was waiting for God to decide what he was supposed to do when news of his possible appointment as senior pastor in Dallas broke. We now know from his sermon at the Dallas church that God allegedly had already given him his marching orders years ago.
All we can do is hope the congregation won’t take him too literally in years to come.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 17, 2007