Meeting in Dallas, Texas, this week, delegates at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting elected Triangle-area megachurch pastor J.D. Greear as their next president yesterday. Greear, pastor of the nearly 9,000-strong The Summit Church, has a long history of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric — including comparing the present-day church’s fight against homosexuality to the fight against slavery and racism.
Greear, 45, will become the Southern Baptist’s youngest president. Though several past presidents were North Carolina natives, Greear is the first North Carolina-based pastor elevated to the volunteer position since Charlotte’s First Baptist Church’s Carl Bates was elected in 1971.
The young pastor’s backers have touted his focus on intergenerational missions and outreach to younger members of the church. They’ve also extolled his focus on bridging cultural and racial divides that still plague the nation’s largest Protestant denomination — itself formed in 1845 after splitting with Northern Baptists on the issue of slavery.
But despite Greear’s seemingly progressive views on race relations, he has also been known as a staunch defender of anti-LGBTQ theology and exclusion.
He regularly preaches against LGBTQ equality, including dangerous and disproven theories citing childhood sexual abuse as a cause for same-sex attraction. A great deal of his beliefs on LGBTQ equality were outlined in a four-part series of blog posts in 2012.
Greear strongly believes homosexuality is an “abomination.” While he has called his followers to “love their neighbor” who might be LGBTQ, he has also taught that it is impossible to “fellowship” with LGBTQ people.
“We can’t say that we love God and have fellowship with what He finds abominable,” Greear wrote in 2012.
He has also said the government should ban marriage for LGBTQ couples and has compared fights for LGBTQ equality to efforts to legalize incest and pederasty.
Greear has also seemingly drawn a line in the sand on the issue of LGBTQ equality, calling the church’s anti-LGBTQ advocacy “one of the most important tests of faithfulness in our generation.”
Greear has repeatedly compared his anti-LGBTQ stance with historical fights for racial equality and liberation.
“Our faithfulness to Jesus is tested by whether we maintain His decrees in things our culture finds offensive,” Greear wrote in 2012. “It took courage for Martin Luther King to stand against the status quo in the 1960s; it takes that same courage to stand against the status quo today.”
Greear took a similar position during a 2014 message at the Southern Baptist’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission conference.
“The Bible offends every generation in different ways,” Greear said at the meeting (video below). “Preaching against homosexuality in our day is about as popular as preaching against slavery and racism in Charleston, S.C., in 1861.”
Greear, apparently ignorant of his denomination’s founding principles defending slavery and the human-property-owning rights of slaveowners, then added: “And back then, I’m sure the politically correct people are like, ‘You know what, you’re just creating a lot of waves that are unnecessary. Just teach the gospel.'”
Greear’s anti-LGBTQ political and theological stances will certainly get a visible boost in his new role as Southern Baptist Convention president. But Greear has already had far-reaching influence through his Triangle-area church, which has become a juggernaut in church growth and new church creation across the country and the globe.
During the 16 years Greear has led The Summit Church, worship attendance has grown from 610 in 2002 to just under 10,000, according to statistics available through the SBC’s Annual Church Profile. Total baptisms increased from 19 in 2002 to 631 in 2017 at the church’s nine campuses.
Summit has planted 248 churches to date, including 208 outside the U.S., with a goal of starting 1,000 churches in 50 years, according to North Carolina’s Biblical Recorder newsjournal.
Over the past two years, Summit has given a combined $1 million through the Cooperative Program (CP), making it the top CP-contributing church in the state in terms of total dollars given in 2016 and again in 2017.
In 2017, Summit gave 2.4 percent of its undesignated receipts through CP, the same percentage it gave in 2016, according to ACP data confirmed by the church.