OWENSBORO, Ky. (ABP) – A Kentucky Baptist church faces ouster from its local association for providing meeting place for a group opposed to discrimination against gays.
The credentials committee of Daviess-McLean Baptist Association is recommending expulsion of the Journey Fellowship Baptist Church in Owensboro for allowing a chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays to hold monthly meetings at the church.
“Journey Fellowship has given the appearance to not only the community but also to members of the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association that Journey Fellowship supports those beliefs by allowing that organization to meet within its facilities,” Jerry Tooley, director of missions for the 56-church association, told WTVW-FOX 7 in Evansville, Ind.
According to its national website, PFLAG exists to work toward a society that embraces all persons regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. Program goals include anti-bullying, employment discrimination and full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons into their chosen communities of faith.
Bob Coons, pastor of the Journey Church, said the congregation, a re-launch of the former Seven Hills Baptist Church that is affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship, is being judged because of another group that meets in its building.
"It is a rather strange irony, I think, that we would be dealt with such un-grace simply because we are an organization that wants to extend grace to others, following the example of Jesus,” Coons told the TV station.
The motto on the front page of Journey Fellowship’s website is “Welcoming All – Judging None.”
Core values include “to model unconditional acceptance” and “to be a safe place for people, whatever their background.”
Coons gave PFLAG permission to hold meetings at the church about a year ago. The group meets 3-5 p.m. on the first Sunday of each month.
The vote on whether to expel the church is scheduled Aug. 15.
The Southern Baptist Convention does not permit affiliated churches to “affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior.”
SBC President Bryant Wright recently told Baptist Press that Southern Baptists need to be concerned that hateful anti-gay rhetoric by some groups not be allowed to tarnish the image of other Christians.
"There's already that perception there, so we have to go the extra mile in showing the love of Christ while standing firm for the truthfulness of God's Word," Wright said. "It's not only upholding God's Word, but there's always that spirit of Jesus that we want to seek to communicate. When we feel passionately that something is wrong, we are still called to love that person who is ignoring what God's Word says. It's not always easy to do."
Tooley, the director of missions of Daviess-McLean Baptist Association, was honored as the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s “DOM of the Year” in 2010. He was the lone director of missions on the search committee that nominated Paul Chitwood as the state convention’s new executive director. Elected June 2, Chitwood, former pastor of First Baptist Church in Mount Washington, Ky., took over the position vacated by the retirement of Bill Mackey on July 1.
Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press.