The Southern Baptist Convention executive committee voted Tuesday to oust four of its churches, two on policies deemed too inclusive of LGBTQ people and two others for employing pastors convicted of sexual offenses.
The actions were announced at a meeting marked by warnings from two senior leaders that the SBC, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, was spoiling itself with divisions over several critical issues, including race.
“We have to cry when closet racists and neo-confederates feel more comfortable in our churches than do a lot of our people of color,” said SBC president JD Greear in his opening speech.
The two churches expelled for LGBTQ inclusion were St. Matthews Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, and Towne View Baptist Church, in Kennesaw, Georgia.
Towne View pastor Reverend Jim Conrad told The Associated Press last week that he would not appeal the eviction and that he plans to affiliate his church, at least temporarily, with The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, which allows churches to set their own LGBTQ policies.
Towne View began admitting LGBTQ devotees as members in October 2019 after a same-sex couple with three adopted children asked Conrad if they could attend, a move he defends as the right thing to do. to do.
“The alternative would have been to say, ‘We’re probably not ready for this,’ but I couldn’t do it, ‘said Conrad, pastor there since 1994.
St. Matthews Baptist was among more than 12 churches that lost their membership in the Kentucky Baptist Convention in 2018 due to financial contributions to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, which recently lifted the ban on hiring LGBTQ employees.
SBC officials said the Westside Baptist Church in Sharpsville, Pa., Was ousted because it “knowingly employs a registered sex offender as a pastor,” while the Antich Baptist Church in Sevierville, Tennessee, has a pastor who was convicted of statutory rape.
The two-day executive committee meeting opened on Monday, with a schedule featuring speeches from Greear and executive committee chairman Ronnie Floyd lamenting the multiple acrimonious divisions within the denomination.
“This rumor of war in the Southern Baptist camp worries me, and I know it worries many of you as well,” Floyd said. “As we hear and see how out of control American culture is, my friends, our own culture within the Southern Baptist family is also out of control.
Floyd noted that the divisions reflect ideological, political, and racial differences nationwide.
“In this hectic environment, each of us must be very careful with the words we write, speak, tweet or post,” he said. “As leaders of SBC and followers of Jesus, our public behavior is important.”
Greear addressed the racial tensions within the SBC, a long-standing issue that has recently been reignited. Some black pastors have left the SBC and others express dismay at statements by the six SBC seminary presidents – all white – limiting how the topic of systemic racism can be taught in their schools.
Going forward, said Greear, Southern Black Baptists should be included in discussions on this topic, including the SBC’s stance toward the concept of Critical Race Theory, which seminary chairs have rejected.
“The reality is that if we at SBC had shown so much sorrow for the painful legacy that racism and discrimination has left in our country that we have the passion to speak out against CRT, we probably wouldn’t be in this mess. Said Greear
“Do we want to be an evangelical people or a people of southern culture? What is the most important part of our name – South or Baptist »
After the two speeches, the executive committee unanimously adopted an expansion plan called Vision 2025. It would increase full-time Southern Baptist international missionaries from 3,700 to 4,200, increase the number of congregations to 5,000, and seek to reverse the decline of baptism from 12 to 17 years.
Floyd said SBC churches baptize 38% fewer teenagers than in 2000.
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