The Reverend Graham J. Baird is the senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Colorado Springs.
He’s also my friend.
Prior to coming to Colorado, Graham served as the founding pastor of Highlands Church in Paso Robles, California. The ministry started with twenty-five people in a drive-in movie theater and has since grown to over two thousand weekly attenders.
Graham’s philosophy has been to pull down the barriers and make it easier for those wanting to come to church to learn about God. He has done a good job. Wherever he’s been a pastor, whether in rural California or the front range of the Rocky Mountains, he has led with a straightforward ministerial motto:
“No perfect people allowed”—pastor included.
During his time in Paso Robles, Graham encountered a variety of family scenarios, including a lesbian couple married in a state where same-sex marriage was legal. They began coming to his church and eventually had twins via in vitro fertilization. He had an opportunity to lovingly share the Bible’s perspective on human sexuality. They continued to attend.
When the couple asked to have their children baptized, he had a dilemma on his hands.
According to his Reformed theology, the baptism of a child does not “save” a person but represents a commitment from the Christian parent to raise the child—or children—in the faith. Graham explained that given the couple’s same-sex relationship, he couldn’t ask them to present the child and make that commitment since they weren’t actually members of the church. They were disappointed. Graham asked why they didn’t simply find a church that would accommodate their request.
Their response was powerful.
“This is the only church where we have felt loved in,” they told him. The children were later presented for baptism by their grandparents, who were members of the church.
Graham went on to explain what I believe strongly—that people know very quickly whether or not they are loved. The fact that this couple continued to attend—even though the church’s theology with regard to sexuality was at odds with their personal actions—suggests that Highlands Church truly loved them for a variety of reasons, but especially for this one:
They know that nobody is beyond the reach of God.