NASHVILLE, Tenn. (ABP) –Membership in a group that welcomes and affirms gays does not automatically disqualify a church from participation in the Southern Baptist Convention, the SBC Executive Committee decided Feb. 22.
Two years ago the convention expelled a Texas church for violating a membership requirement banning churches that "act to affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior."
Last year, a motion was made at the annual meeting and referred to the Executive Committee to take similar action against churches that choose to affiliate with the Alliance of Baptists, an organization formed in the 1980s in response to changes going on at the time in the SBC.
Since then the Alliance has adopted statements supporting gay marriage and welcomes members regardless of sexual identity. The SBC, meanwhile, has taken numerous actions to label same-sex relationships sinful. In 2009 the convention expelled Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, after investigating the congregation and learning that it allows openly gay members to serve on leadership committees.
At the SBC annual meeting last June, Wes Kenney, a messenger from Oklahoma, made a motion asking the Executive Committee "to consider any church's affiliation with the Alliance of Baptists to constitute an action which affirms, approves or endorses homosexual behavior." By rule the motion was referred to the Executive Committee, which after study recommended against the idea.
Convention leaders said it would be unwise to disqualify a church simply because the Alliance claims it as a member. Should questions arise about a particular church's qualifications, they said, they will continue to be handled on a case-by-case basis.
The Executive Committee recommendation, which will come in the form of a motion at this year's SBC annual meeting June 14-15 in Phoenix, reports that the group "already is authorized to make recommendations to the convention between annual meetings in regard to such matters which would call into question the friendly cooperation of any local church on any grounds."
It encourages any Southern Baptist "knowledgeable about why specific churches should not be in friendly cooperation" to convey that information to either the Executive Committee or SBC credentials committee if it is during the annual meeting.
Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.