Southern Baptist Convention Severs Ties with Affiliate for Open Homosexuals in Leadership Positions
By Kathleen Gilbert
LOUISVILLE, Kentucky, June 24, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to discontinue their affiliation with the Broadway Baptist Church in Forth Worth, Texas, based on the church's toleration of open homosexuality among its committee members.
The move came after the Convention's Executive Committee Monday unanimously recommended to end the group's 125-year relationship with the influential Texas community.
The committee recommended that the relationship be dissolved "until such time as the church unambiguously demonstrates its friendly cooperation with the Convention under Article III." Article III of the SBC's constitution states that churches "which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior" are not in friendly cooperation.
"We are disappointed with the decision of the Southern Baptist Convention," said Kathy Madeja, chair of Broadway's board of deacons. "Like other SBC churches, membership at Broadway is by acceptance of Jesus as Savior and Lord and the experience of believer's baptism by immersion."
Forth Worth's stance on the issue of homosexuality has been a source of controversy since 2007, when a debate arose whether the church's directory should include photographs of homosexual couples. The church voted 294-182 on a compromise measure to include no family portraits, but only candid shots of members in various activities.
Since then, SBC leaders were primarily concerned that Broadway Baptist welcomes active homosexuals, including some who serve as church committee members, according to church leaders cited by BP.
"If churches are ministering to homosexuals, they are doing nothing more than what our own convention's task force has asked us to do," Stephen Wilson, a member of the executive committee, told BP. "But in Broadway's case … the church was in effect saying that it was OK to have members who are open homosexuals."
While Broadway Baptist strongly stated that its community did "not endorse, approve, or affirm" homosexual behavior, the group apparently refused opportunities to prove that it did not welcome open homosexuality.
David Lowrie, pastor of First Baptist Church in Canyon, Texas, and president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, told BP that his suggestions that Broadway Baptist prove its fidelity to Christian teaching on homosexuality fell on deaf ears.
"They needed to actually express those convictions in some practical way," said Lowrie. "They, for whatever reason, weren't able to do that. … I felt that there were things that they could have done to minister to those within their church fellowship that struggled with those issues and other issues."
According to the Associated Baptist Press, August Boto, The Executive Committee's executive vice president and general counsel, asked Broadway officials in April to answer a series of questions about the church's views on homosexuality, in wake of the troubling reports, in order to "protect the reputation of the Convention."
Broadway Baptist deacons responded that the questions raised by Boto were "the same rumors that were circulated about Broadway during the last year" and that, having already met with the committee in February, "we should not now have to respond to innuendo and gossip."
"We have not denied that we, like most other churches, have a few gay members," said the deacons' letter. "We do not inquire about sexual orientation when people present themselves for membership. We do require their profession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord followed by believer's baptism."
SBC's Wilson said that the decision to break affiliation with the Texas church was "not a rush to judgment."
"We actually wanted - from the bottom of my heart - for this to be resolved by the local church where the convention wouldn't have to be involved in any way," he said. "I think [in February] there was a feeling that maybe this could be solved without having to go through the step that we had to do today."
Wilson said the church's actions contradicted the claims in the deacons' letter.
"It was more from what they were actually doing in practice where the conflict was," he said. "While they didn't officially endorse it, they were allowing members and also people in leadership that were homosexual."