Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Is Vermont Destined to "Turn Evangelical" After All?
I came across an interesting little report in the Baptist Press written by Terry Dorsett, Director of the Green Mountain Baptist Association. Mr. Dorsett first went to Vermont as sort of a "missionary" to the heathen, or at least the unenlightened. He's a Southern Baptist. Very evangelical and all of that. He reports no SBC presence in Vermont until 1963. In the past 8 years, the number of congregations has grown from 17 to 37. In 1999, there were less than 600 Southern Baptist worshippers. In 2008? Nearly 1900.
In fact, Dorsett reports that the SBC is one of the fastest growing evangelical churches in Vermont. The E Free, Assemblies of God, and Christian and Missionary Alliance are also on top of the game. In fact, one Alliance congregation sports an average attendance of 1,ooo+ every Sunday. All of this in the state that Gallup dubbed "the least religious state in America."
Even Dorsett admits that Vermonters don't find religion particularly important in their lives. Remember, this is the place that allowed the first same-sex unions. That is a battle that Mr. Dorsett seems particularly distressed to be losing. He writes how he has personally seen several homosexuals in Vermont find freedom from that detestable sin.
One has to wonder if he has read Mel White's Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America . Many gay folks "fought that battle" with "sin" as Dorsett would call it. They fought it valiantly. In the end, however, they decided that they loved Jesus but that the Church-- always accusing and condemning-- had little to do with him.
He wraps up his "Baptist orgy" with a prediction of eventual victory for evangelical forces in Vermont. After all, he promises, "we offer them the only Hope that can change their lives." What unabashed evangelical claptrap and hubris! To think that ONLY evangelicals have hope to offer and not Catholics, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Lutherans, United Church of Ch...... Oh brother! Get real!