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Southern Baptist Church cuts ties with two congregations over LGBTQ policies

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Southern Baptist Church

On Tuesday, the top executive body of the Southern Baptist Convention voted to sever ties with two churches — an LGBTQ-friendly church in North Carolina that quit the denomination decades ago, and a New Jersey church, it cited “So-called discriminatory conduct”.

The executive committee’s vote comes at the end of a two-day meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, even as the committee is responding to a Justice Department investigation. The federal-level scrutiny follows a blistering report earlier this year by a consultant into survivors of sexual abuse in Southern Baptist settings and abuse by former executive committee officials.

The committee on Tuesday approved a statement saying College Park Baptist Church in Greensboro, N.C., was not “friendly” because it “openly affirms, approves, and supports homosexual behavior,” which is inconsistent with the denomination’s theological conservatives conflicting positions.

In fact, College Park voted out of the denomination in 1999, and its website emphasizes that it is not a member of the Southern Baptist Convention, but of the more progressive Baptist group.

It is unclear why the executive committee has now decided to put the matter to a vote. But executive committee chairman Jared Wellman later said that until now, the convention still has a congregation in attendance.

The executive committee’s decision came at the end of a two-day meeting in Nashville, Tennessee.
Associated Press/Jae C. Hong

On its website, the church describes itself as a “pro-LGBTQIA Baptist church” and says it “completely welcomes and affirms all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, class, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other Human category.”

In a separate vote, the committee announced that the Amazing Grace Community Church in Franklinville, N.J., was no longer cooperating. It cited its “lack of cooperation … to address concerns about alleged discriminatory practices.”

Phone and email requests for comment from both congregations were not immediately returned.

Because Baptist congregations are self-governing, the denomination cannot force them to follow their policies, but if they do not conform to the denomination’s position in a particular area, such as for pro-LGBTQ policies, allegedly support racism, or allegedly fail to adequately address child sexual abuse , such as hiring criminals as priests.

The last category in the pipeline may have more congregations.

The Committee was informed that more than 200 hotlines regarding alleged mishandling of cases of abuse by SBC churches or organizations had been referred to the newly established hotline.

The news comes from the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force – created after consultants Guidepost Solutions released a scathing report on child sexual abuse in SBC settings and executive committee abuse survivors earlier this year.

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

Congress said in August that the U.S. Justice Department was investigating the Congress. The DOJ did not confirm the report, but the convention suggested in a statement that it was linked to sexual abuse. On Tuesday, the committee voted to shift $500,000 from investments to its operating budget, in part in response to the inquiry.

On Tuesday, the executive committee also added Sunday Cares to the official Southern Baptist Church calendar of events, designed to spread awareness and education about abuse. Churches can choose whether to keep these dates. But Wellman urged them to do so: “We want to build a culture that addresses and prevents abuse, and that’s a really good educational opportunity.”

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More than 200 referrals have been made to the hotline regarding alleged mishandling of cases of abuse at the SBC Church.
Associated Press/Jae C. Hong

“Our dream … is that our churches are safe for vulnerable people and unsafe for abusers,” Wellman said, citing the many reforms underway. “In the Southern Baptist Church, there is no place, no place where abuse is tolerated.”

Some abuse survivors found the committee’s action lacking after the social media meeting. Longtime advocate and survivor Christa Brown criticized it for tweeting “self-congratulations” and said it did not take concrete steps to compensate survivors or discipline former officials who erred in the Guidepost report measure.

Keahbone said he understands the criticism, and compared to what survivors endured, “anything we can say or do is commendable.” He said the task force is doing what it can to get the reform right.

Southern Baptist Church  Southern Baptist Church cuts ties with two congregations over LGBTQ policies southern baptist church 889
Under the convention, the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the convention.
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“We’re not celebrating anything,” he said. “We just wanted to find signs of improvement.”

Wellman echoed this idea. “I’m just sad and heartbroken by what they’ve been through,” he said. “We recognize that we still have a long way to go.”

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