What to Expect after the Supreme Court Rules on Gay Marriage: An interview with AWAB’s Rev. Robin Lunn
By Mike Greer (June 8, 2015)
Rev. Robin Lunn, the Executive Director of the Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists (AWAB), has announced that she will be stepping down from her position on June 30. Under her leadership AWAB has grown to one hundred member churches that come from the American Baptist, Alliance of Baptist, Cooperative Baptist, and National Baptist traditions. Rev. Lunn and her wife Shayna, who is also a minister, reside in New Hampshire.
I recently had this conversation with Rev. Lunn about what to expect after the anticipated ruling on gay marriage by SCOTUS this month.
What are your thoughts about the biggest challenges facing organizations like AWAB in the near future?
For the last ten years much of the Welcoming Movement within the religious community hitched its wagon to the rights-based marriage equality movement. This has been necessary, to a large degree, because funders have wanted a win on this issue. And while AWAB has been supportive of this agenda, our focus has always been about seeking to live out a gospel imperative of full inclusion within the Christian community. For us it’s not so much about banging away at policy. It’s about hearts and minds all the time.
As the SCOTUS ruling approaches, and we all know what’s going to come down, the dynamics of funding are changing. Small donors, that many organizations like ours depend on, are saying that soon everybody is going to be able to get married and that their $25 or $50 is no longer needed. The big money donors, who have funded the larger movement-building process, have become much more transactional in their expectations and have turned their interests toward building a results-oriented movement in the evangelical community. This makes raising funds particularly difficult in the Baptist context where our organization focuses on building relationships and doesn’t dictate what happens in the local church.
The church in America is in a profound period of transition and there’s no way to predict what the iterations of this sea change are going to look like as we move forward. The Welcoming Movement will certainly need to look at its own lifecycle issues. AWAB must be ready to morph into something new. We will need to find new ways to be a part of the mission to create open communities of love, grace, compassion, inclusion, and hope. If we do this we will inspire funders both large and small.
What are your thoughts about the Religious Freedom debates and the recent events in Indiana that seemed to take everyone by surprise?
Although we do not always choose to live it out, we Baptists have in our DNA a particular capacity to dialogue about our differences without demanding conformity. I have recently had conversations with fellow Baptists about whether it is important to go after the baker, the florist, or the pizza guy. I understand the importance of legislation, but I also understand that there are times to be gracious, to let people have their convictions, and to stand alongside of them and weep together about our common brokenness as opposed to saying “I am going to sue you.” I think organizations like AWAB help make space for relationship-based changes. There will always be a need for a religious voice that is focused on hearts and minds and not just on legislative and judicial outcomes.
I have heard you say that the expected SCOTUS ruling will have some unintended adverse effects on the LGBTQ community. What do you mean by that?
My wife and I live in New England where we have had civil union laws for fifteen years and gay marriage has been in place for ten years. We enjoy all sorts of rights and privileges and that’s wonderful. Those of us who are economically privileged and have access to marriage are now assimilated members of the hetero-normative class. My fear is that as we celebrate the successful assimilation of some we will ignore those who can’t or don’t want to conform to this assimilation model for whatever reason. We forget that assimilation has its price too. I believe we will continue to see more queer identified kids on the street and more LGBTQ youth suicides. These realities are already epidemic in America and my fear is that we, the assimilated gay and lesbian class, will stop working for those who will need our help to survive.
The diehard hardline opponents of gay marriage have indicated that if SCOTUS rules in favor of gay marriage they plan to implement a strategy of abrogation that systematically eats away at LGBTQ rights, just as they did with abortion rights after Roe v. Wade. What does this portend for LGBTQ community?
What is different now is that there is at least one powerful force that will effectively counter all attempts to employ that post-Roe v. Wade strategy. There are a lot of very wealthy white gay men who are Republicans for fiscal reasons. They will use their influence in the business community to quash the agenda of eating away at gay rights. The RFRA bills are the opening salvo of this strategy and the immediate pushback by the business community demonstrates how rapidly this society is changing its mind in favor of LGBTQ equality.
I believe that these threats from the right are the last gasps of a boomer generation that has, up until recently, been in a dualistic struggle over the so-called “moral agenda.” My observation is that the rising Millennial generation is extremely fluid about all things. They live in a mindset of no boxes. They are the “AND” generation. They don’t live on a flat plane of dualities like we Boomers do. For them, rights are rights, and equal rights for all is a given. They will have no interest in any future attempts to disenfranchise the LGBTQ community.