Wednesday 15 September 2010

Texas Baptist Church Takes a Stand FOR Gay Members.


As an ever-increasing number of denominations advance towards full LGBT inclusion as a Biblical and theological imperative, we have become accustomed to seeing some backlash, with some congregations voting to withdraw from their national bodies, to re-align with other groupings. We have seen it most dramatically in the US Episcopalian Church, where single parishes and even whole dioceses have withdrawn, to ally themselves (or to attempt to do so) with more conservative African bishops, in protest at the ordination of gay bishops. The ELCA, which last year agreed to recognize openly gay or lesbian pastors in committed and faithful relationships has also seen some congregations leave, to ally with other Lutheran groupings, or in a new body.  If the Presbyterian Church of the USA succeeds in ratifying their own similar decision that was taken this past summer, I am certain they will face the same prospect of some attrition and secession by unhappy members.

Now in Texas, we have an unexpected reversal of the pattern. Instead of withdrawing in protest at gay inclusion, a Baptist congregation is withdrawing from the Baptist General Convention of Texas – in protest against the failure to move towards inclusion.

From Dallas News:

Broadway Baptist Church of Forth Worth has pulled out of the Baptist General Convention of Texas in yet another congregation-denomination split over homosexuality.

The church’s move ends a relationship that began in 1886, when the BGCT was formed.

Brent Beasley, Broadway’s pastor, called the break “sad” but necessary.

“We’re committed to welcoming all people here, and we would not want to do anything that would be hurtful to anyone just to please the BGCT,” Beasley said.

Broadway has long had openly gay members, a reality that became widely known in 2008. That’s when the church had a much-publicized internal dispute over whether same-sex couples should be included in the church’s photo directory.

The Southern Baptist Convention and BGCT hold that homosexual behavior is a sin, and media reports of Broadway’s acceptance of gays brought the church into conflict with both groups.

The SBC cut ties with Broadway in 2009, and Broadway chose not to participate in the BGCT’s 2009 annual meeting, avoiding a likely challenge to seating the church’s messengers.

Beasley said the church voted “without dissent” last Wednesday to leave the state’s largest Baptist group. On Monday, he delivered a letter with the news to Randel Everett, executive director of the Dallas-based BGCT.

“It is time for us to move forward and keep all of our focus on our mission – the worship of God, ministry to those in need, bearing witness to the gospel of Jesus, and welcoming all into our church,” Beasley said. “This is all too important for us to be spending this much time on denominational politics and distractions.”

Everett said, “It is a sad day for us that we are unable to continue this relationship. I don’t know of any congregation that has been more of a strategic partner to Texas Baptists than Broadway. Two former executive directors served as pastors of the church. They have been an example of ministry to the least of these among us.”

In May, the BGCT’s executive board voted overwhelmingly to cut ties with Royal Lane Baptist Church of Dallas, another congregation that has been welcoming and affirming to gay people.

Beasley said the Royal Lane controversy did not affect Broadway’s decision.

Beasley described Broadway, which averages about 500 for Sunday worship, as doing well financially, with giving “well ahead” of last year.

He said Broadway will contribute directly to Baptist colleges and charities that previously it helped fund through the BGCT. The church also will remain part of the moderate Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

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