CORDOVA, Tenn. (ABP) – The pastor of a Tennessee Southern Baptist mega-church defended a decision to bar a coach from its softball league because she is a lesbian.
The Memphis Commercial-Appeal reported June 16 that church leaders told Jana Jacobson her team could not compete in Bellevue’s adult women’s softball league because of her “deviant” lifestyle.
A USA Today religion blog commenting on the story ran under a headline “Can there be a sin-free softball league?”
Bellevue Pastor Steve Gaines told members of the congregation Sunday morning, June 20, that any church member caught in serious sin would be disqualified from coaching, because it is a leadership position that influences other people.
“We all know that every coach is a sinner, every player is a sinner,” Gaines said. “We understand all of that. It’s not that we are trying to have a sin-free ball league as one person tried to say. That’s not it at all.”
“We don’t go looking for this stuff, but if it becomes apparent that one of our coaches, for instance, was cohabitating with somebody, we would have had to make the same decision,” Gaines said. “If we had a situation where a coach was committing adultery openly and said, ‘I’m in an adulterous relationship’ or ‘I’m a fornicator, having a relationship sexually with someone I’m not married to’ or ‘I’m hooked on pornography right now’ … or the sin of homosexuality, then we cannot in good conscience put that person in a leadership position.”
In 2007 Gaines survived calls for his firing after he kept quiet for six months after learning that a long-time staff minister had sexually abused his son 17 years earlier. Paul Williams, minister of prayer and special projects, reportedly confessed in private to Gaines that he molested his adolescent son over a period of 12 to 18 months before quitting and apologizing to the boy.
Gaines honored the confidentiality until information leaked out, prompting an internal investigation that led to suspension and eventual firing of Williams, who had worked at Bellevue for 34 years.
Gaines told church members June 20 the handling of the softball coach would have been different if they were talking about something in her past.
“You’re engaged in it now,” he said of the offending behavior that disqualifies persons for leadership. “I’m not talking about something that happened in your past or that you’ve repented of. [It’s] something that is ongoing right now.”
Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press. mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org