"...a faith and culture writer who has published over 350 articles in outlets such as USA Today, The Christian Science Monitor, CNN.com and Christianity Today. He is author of Green Like God: Unlocking the Divine Plan for Our Planet, which Publisher's Weekly called "mandatory reading for churchgoers." As a respected Christian voice, he has been interviewed by ABC World News, CNN, Fox News, NPR, PBS, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. Jonathan resides outside of Atlanta, GA where he actively serves and teaches at Cross Pointe Church." [emboldened mine]
When Azariah's claim proved credible and not so outlandish at all, Ed Stetzer posted a confessional interview with Jonathan on his blog wherein Jonathan admitted in part to the allegations by Azariah which Azariah has since countered as inaccurate, "There was no dinner"...the "magic" happened in the back seat of his car after a drunken night on the town "in Chicago"...I was not the only one". Meanwhile, Peter's blog was removed from the listings of the prominent aggregator owned by Tony Kummer a children's minister, and edited by Dave Miller, an Iowa pastor and recently elected 2nd VP of the SBC.
But let us just look at Peter Lumpkins--the recently dubbed "weird cousin from Georgia" by Tony Kummer. In comparison to Jonathan Merritt, Peter is a virtual nobody in the world. Peter, like Jonathan, writes his personal opinions and started a little blog called SBC Tomorrow back in 2006 because he was concerned about the direction of Southern Baptists--just like Jonathan. The majority of Peter's blog consists of historical facts and information he has found in his research of Baptist history. He reads about, and reports what he finds. A smaller but more controversial portion of his blog addresses topics and behavior and rhetoric which he views inconsistent and duplicitious, of which could effect the views of Southern Baptists. Peter was so concerned about the acceptance of alcohol use in Baptist circles that he wrote a series on alcohol. That led to the publishing his first book, Alcohol Today, Abstinence in An Age of Indulgence. He is a pastor of a little church in Georgia. He's the son of an alcoholic father, not the son of a former SBC President. Peter is not on the public stage of national recognition. Peter is an enigma at times. On one post he may disagree vehemently with a leader's position and words, while the next day highly support said leader against all foes on another issue. That's because Peter is not writing about the heart or intentions, but the actions, positions, and words of others. Peter was so certain of one leader's position in the SBC, and certain that the leader had been misquoted, that he went to a microphone (for the first time in his Baptist life), and asked for clarification and verification on the convention floor in Phoenix. For his desire for truth he was ridiculed, smacked down and insulted repeatedly by fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. That didn't bother Peter as much as the shock he got when the leader confirmed that he'd indeed been quoted correctly about homophobia among his peers in ministry.
Jonathan, on the other hand, writes about the hearts of man-- the motives and intentions of their minds. He has repeatedly called evangelicals and Southern Baptist brethren homophobic. I, personally, would not have written about Southworth's outing or Jonathan's trist into gay activity, nor would I address many other topics Peter has, but that is not the issue here. Peter wrote his article about Azariah Southworth's claim against Jonathan because he saw it as important and newsworthy to the general conversation of Christians and how it may effect Southern Baptists in particular. His source of information was a gay man's testimony of having a relationship with Jonathan; the source wrote he had evidence to support his claim if need be.
Peter's act is deemed sinful by some critics. It's okay to tell the world that sisters and brothers in Christ are homophobes, to "out" them as liars about homosexuals without naming a single pastor in the Southern Baptist Convention, or citing a single sermon said pastors have preached. But it is not okay for Peter to write about a gay man's credible allegation regarding the secret life of Jonathan who hides his homosexual sin in a closet of deceit and self-righteousness while writing critical anti-homophobic admonishments toward the SBC family of God. No.
Yet, now, here in the court of public opinion of holy bloggers, Peter is censored, chastized, trashed, insulted, and belittled for not only this infraction of reporting a truthful accusation, but every single solitary word he's ever written is deemed suspect. Every angry feeling anyone has for Peter is brought to the surface of blogland. Every bulging vein of contempt is opened for everyone to comment upon at will. Several comments with links to appalling trash (of not only Peter but insults of other notables in the Southern Baptist family), are allowed to stand by Dave Miller (editor of SBC Voices, and 2nd VP of the SBC). They still stand on line, for hundreds to follow to the disgusting anonymously written website and read the slurs upon Peter, Dr. Jerry Vines, Dr. Gerald Harris and others. This kind of post is perfectly acceptable?
Throughout the comment section of the post at SBC Voices written to publically shame Peter Lumpkins was the call: "He sinned." "He gossiped." But not one word was written about Jonathan Merritt's deceit among us, was it? Peter was given a "time-out" and sent to the corner and then after he'd spent sufficient time in the corner, he was then stood before the class and painted with a brush of "shame, shame, shame on you". He was pulled into the public square and placed in stocks to be further condemned and ridiculed. What about Jonathan? Well...Ed Stetzer gave him an interview and whitewashed his guile in front of his peers. Case closed.
Make no mistake. I felt bad for Jonathan. I still feel badly for him. He had the weight of sin upon him and any of us who know the heaviness of sin (which is a terrible choice we freely make against a holy God), knows the pain of brokenness we have when we carry our private shame. We all know that "but for the grace of God go we". We know that Jonathan is hurting, all the more, because of Azaraiah's "outing". Yet, Jonathan knew this day was approaching. He said he'd been thinking about telling everyone. Exactly what Jonathan was going to reveal to everyone, we don't know. And I don't care. It doesn't matter because he didn't mean for me to know what we know or how we know it, and when we knew it. But now that we do, he is sorry. For something-- what, we still do not know. Certainly not for deceiving the brethren; it wasn't mentioned. Now everyone tells Jonathan how courageous he is for sharing his forced confession and explaining away Azariah's claims.
Not so with the author and journalist who first reported it. No. Peter is dirt. Lower than dirt. He is the worm in a sewer. Funny how one man's choice is barely gray among peers while another man's choice is so clearly black among the same peers.
It is perfectly acceptable to not only block Peter's site, without even a courtesy email to let him know why, then plop a post on the screen with a silly-faced boy and a "yanh, yanh, yanh" attitude pictured as, what appears to me to be, another in-your-face slap across the Georgia bad boy's cheek. That's okay. Why? I am not sure. Perhaps because Peter is just a "sidenote in Baptist conversation". He's not a nationally known writer. He's not a prominent "respected Christian voice" in SBC heirarchy.
But hey, now, Peter has been "welcomed back" into the fold where he was once banned for daring to write a verifiable post. A post over which a group of people have appointed themselves jury and judge and pronounced him evil in the sight of God and man. I ask myself: Is their condemnation any more acceptable than Peter's alleged gossip and indiscretion? Is Peter's alleged sin any more sinful than deceiving the brethren? Is Peter's punishment any greater than the zero commentary or open comment section about another brother who has lived a lie and publically condemned and criticized his brethren regarding homosexuality? for addressing said sin in the pulpits of America? Is Southworth a greater sinner for admitting he is openly gay and wanting Jonathan to be honest? Does the righteousness of holy commenters (most of whom are pastors) exceed that of Peter who did not once condemn Jonathan in his original article?
Jonathan's accuser, Azariah Southworth was set to prove his account with evidence if people did not believe him. Texts? Photos? Who knows what? Had Peter not written about this, Jonathan might still be flying under the radar until Azariah unleashed "the rest of the story" with far greater embarassment. Or maybe today, Peter would not be facing the firing squad of public criticism if he had not chosen to highlight the hypocrisy of another SBC leader in connection with Jonathan's story and admonishment of another alleged fallen Christian...entire story/link.
To me, this whole debacle seems to be an odd set of double standards. It's so glaring I can barely see the connective sinews. Perhaps a commenter on Peter's blog best explains the oddity used in reporting opinions of unseemly and sinful behavior of the "weird cousin from Georgia":
"Merritt is SBC and trying to build a celeb [celebrity] profile. Schaap was the leader of an IFB [Independent Fundamental Baptist] cult started by Hyles. He is not ours [Southern Baptist] to deal with but we can sure beg people to get out of that cult. And the guy is a bonafide creep. The whole place up there is a huge cult.
The problem is, Schaap's heinous sin does not negate Jonathan Merritt living a lie while in ministry and promoting himself within the SBC with manifestos, public articles, etc. That is the truth the boys do not want to hear so they [Ed Stetzer and SBC Voices] change the subject to marginalize you [Peter] instead.
You are their whipping boy."
I am not privy to the behind the scenes machinations of SBC politics, nor the FBI investigation into Pastor Schaap. However, lately I have witnessed actions and words which repeatedly support the "marginalizing" of certain writers and Southern Baptist "voices" within our convention. I have witnessed the demonizing and maligning of certain people. I've seen the perjorative arrows directed at people who do not follow the leader like geese flying in a row. I've watched the way some people are targeted and picked off while others fly on unaware of the danger. With traveling geese, a leader flies on point, the leader drops back to rest and allows another to lead for a time. If only we were geese and could understand that the leadership is a chore for us all...not just one person. We all should be washing feet. No one is above reproach. Yet, we are left with the dirt of some feet having more weight than the dirt of others.
If you ask me, which you aren't, but if you were, I think it best if we all took a bit of a rest, and perhaps more than a few should be sent to "time-out". But as far as Peter Lumpkins is concerned? well, he ain't my "weird cousin from Georgia", he's my brother. And as far as some Southern Baptists are concerned, Peter is hardly a "side-note to the Baptist conversation" as Tony Kummer concludes. One blogger, in support of Peter Lumpkins, wrote:
"Peter - Your writings represent the heart of a multitude of silent "SBC Voices" ... majority Southern Baptists who would stand with you on the essentials of your reporting, but yet not engaged in the critical issues at hand (a group which better wake up soon). The movers & shakers in the SBC reformed movement should consider a time out for their youngsters over at that "other" blog, lest they become too visible and lose their momentum by exposing arrogance and agenda.
There weren't any time outs when I acted up as a kid. My folks preferred knock outs and black outs! Keep flushing them out Peter. Truth can never be timed out." Posted by: Max | Aug 07, 2012 at 09:10 AM at SBC Tomorrow
Now, my friends and readers, I pray with all my heart, that we will examine ourselves in light of God's Word. I pray for Jonathan in his struggle and shame. I pray he is able to not only forgive himself, but find the path on which to walk that honors the Savior who died to cleanse him from all unrighteousness. I pray he lives in the power of the Holy Spirit and accepts the offerings of a Father whose mercies are new each day. I pray that grace be upon him and his family and abound. I pray that as we point fingers at others we learn quickly that three point back at ourselves. I do not think God made a mistake in how He constructed the hand of man. May the gay community find it in their hearts to forgive Jonathan, also. If you think our criticism is harsh, the community which Jonathan has supported is cannibalistic. May we not be the same. May we extend the hand of mercy and grace. May we seek forgiveness for any shred of ambiguity on our part as we encourage and reconcile with our brothers in Christ--no matter how "weird" they seem to us, or how wrong we think they are. selahV