Southern Baptists cut ties with LGBTQ-friendly church

Sep 20, 2022, 3:28 AM | Updated: Sep 21, 2022, 9:28 am

FILE - A cross and Bible sculpture stand outside the Southern Baptist Convention headquarters in Na...

FILE - A cross and Bible sculpture stand outside the Southern Baptist Convention headquarters in Nashville, Tenn., May 24, 2022. On Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, the Southern Baptists' top administrative body voted to cut ties with two congregations: an LGBTQ-friendly church in North Carolina that had itself quit the denomination decades earlier and a New Jersey congregation it cited for “alleged discriminatory behavior.” (AP Photo/Holly Meyer, File)

(AP Photo/Holly Meyer, File)

The Southern Baptist Convention’s top administrative body voted to cut ties with two congregations on Tuesday — an LGBTQ-friendly church in North Carolina that had itself quit the denomination decades ago and a New Jersey congregation it cited for “alleged discriminatory behavior.”

The votes of the Executive Committee came at the end of a two-day meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, even as the committee copes with a Department of Justice investigation. The federal-level scrutiny follows a blistering report by a consultant earlier this year into sexual abuse in Southern Baptist settings and mistreatment of survivors by past Executive Committee officials.

The committee on Tuesday approved a statement that College Park Baptist Church of Greensboro, North Carolina, was not in “friendly cooperation” due to its “open affirmation, approval and endorsement of homosexual behavior,” which conflicts with the denomination’s theological conservative positions.

In fact, College Park had voted in 1999 to leave the denomination, and its website makes a point of stating it’s not a member of the Southern Baptist Convention but rather of more progressive Baptist bodies.

It wasn’t immediately clear why the Executive Committee decided now to put the matter to a vote. But Executive Committee Chairman Jared Wellman said afterward that the convention still had the congregation on its rolls until now.

On its website, the church describes itself as an “LGBTQIA Affirming Baptist Church” and says it “fully welcomes and affirms all persons without distinction regarding race, ethnicity, national origin, class, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other human category.”

The committee, in a separate vote, declared that Amazing Grace Community Church of Franklinville, New Jersey, was no longer in friendly cooperation. It cited its “lack of cooperation … to resolve concerns regarding alleged discriminatory behavior.”

Requests for comment from both congregations via phone and email were not immediately returned.

Since Baptist congregations are self-governing, the denomination can’t force them to follow their policies, but it can effectively expel them by declaring them not in “friendly cooperation” if they don’t conform to denominational stances in particular areas, such as for pro-LGBTQ polices, alleged support for racism or alleged failure in responding adequately to child sexual abuse, such as employing offenders as pastors.

There could be more congregations in the last category in the pipeline.

The committee learned that more than 200 referrals had been made to a newly established hotline about alleged mishandling of abuse cases by SBC churches or organizations.

That news came from the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force — created after the release of consultant Guidepost Solutions’ scathing report earlier this year into the sexual abuse of children in SBC settings and the mistreatment of survivors by the Executive Committee.

Mike Keahbone, vice chair of the task force, said it is working to hire personnel to receive and investigate reports of abuse and of mishandling abuse in Southern Baptist circles.

The convention said in August that the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the convention. The DOJ didn’t confirm the report, but the convention suggested in a statement that it related to sexual abuse. On Tuesday, the committee voted to transfer $500,000 from investments to its operating budget, in part to respond to that investigation.

The Executive Committee on Tuesday also added a “Caring Well Sunday” to the official Southern Baptist calendar of activities, which would aim to spread awareness and education about abuse. Churches have the option whether to observe such dates. But Wellman urged them to do so: “We want to be building a culture that addresses and prevents abuse, and this is a really great educational opportunity.”

“Our dream … is that our churches would be safe for the vulnerable and unsafe for abusers,” Wellman said, citing numerous reforms underway. “There is no place, there is no tolerance for abuse in a Southern Baptist church.”

Some abuse survivors, following the meeting on social media, found the committee’s actions lacking. Long-time advocate and survivor Christa Brown criticized it for “self-congratulatory” talk on Twitter and said it’s failed to take concrete steps toward making amends to survivors or to take disciplinary steps toward former officials faulted in the Guidepost report.

Keahbone said he understands the criticism and that compared to what survivors endured, “there’s nothing we could say or do that would be worthy of any praise at all.” He said the task force is doing what it can to implement reforms correctly.

“We’re not celebrating anything,” he said. “We’re just trying to have markers of improvement.”

Wellman echoed the thought. “I’ve just grieved and been broken-hearted for what they’ve experienced,” he said. “We recognize we have a really long way to go.”

___

Associated Press religion coverage receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

avalanche...

Associated Press

Body of avalanche victim in Washington state recovered after being spotted by volunteer

Search crews have recovered the body of a climber who was one of three killed in an avalanche on Washington's Colchuck Peak in February.

14 hours ago

Eugene and Linda Lamie, of Homerville, Ga., sit by the grave of their son U.S. Army Sgt. Gene Lamie...

Associated Press

Biden on Memorial Day lauds generations of fallen US troops who ‘dared all and gave all’

President Joe Biden lauded the sacrifice of generations of U.S. troops who died fighting for their country as he marked Memorial Day with the traditional wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

2 days ago

OpenAI's CEO Sam Altman, the founder of ChatGPT and creator of OpenAI gestures while speaking at Un...

Associated Press

ChatGPT maker downplays fears they could leave Europe over AI rules

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman on Friday downplayed worries that the ChatGPT maker could exit the European Union

3 days ago

File - Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, left, and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman arrive to the White House for a ...

Associated Press

Regulators take aim at AI to protect consumers and workers

As concerns grow over increasingly powerful artificial intelligence systems like ChatGPT, the nation’s financial watchdog says it’s working to ensure that companies follow the law when they’re using AI.

5 days ago

FILE - A security surveillance camera is seen near the Microsoft office building in Beijing, July 2...

Associated Press

Microsoft: State-sponsored Chinese hackers could be laying groundwork for disruption

State-backed Chinese hackers have been targeting U.S. critical infrastructure and could be laying the technical groundwork for the potential disruption of critical communications between the U.S. and Asia during future crises, Microsoft said Wednesday.

6 days ago

FILE - President Joe Biden speaks in the East Room of the White House, May 17, 2023, in Washington....

Associated Press

White House unveils new efforts to guide federal research of AI

The White House on Tuesday announced new efforts to guide federally backed research on artificial intelligence

7 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Internet Washington...

Major Internet Upgrade and Expansion Planned This Year in Washington State

Comcast is investing $280 million this year to offer multi-gigabit Internet speeds to more than four million locations.

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...

Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Southern Baptists cut ties with LGBTQ-friendly church