OWENSBORO, Ky. (ABP) – A Baptist association in Kentucky voted 242-24 on Aug. 5 in favor of a recommendation from its credentials committee to remove a church that allows a gay-rights group to meet in its building.
“Grace takes it on the chin,” said a posting on the Journey Fellowship Facebook page reporting the vote. Pastor Bob Coons told a local newspaper reporter he wasn’t surprised, but had been “hopeful of a different outcome.”
The Daviess-McLean Baptist Association met in special session to vote on the recommendation to expel the Owensboro congregation, formerly known as Seven Hills Baptist Church, for permitting a chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays to meet on the premises once a month.
Leaders in the association said the church’s refusal to ask PFLAG to meet elsewhere implied acceptance of homosexuality, which the majority of the association views as sinful. Coon said he believes it is up to a local church to decide how to use its own buildings, and he hopes the vote doesn’t create precedent for other churches to come under scrutiny for groups that use their space.
“The association has not challenged their right to be autonomous in making those decisions,” Jerry Tooley, executive director of the 56-church association said in remarks toward the end of the meeting quoted by the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer. “Tonight the association has exercised (its) right to be self-governing as well. The credentials committee, the executive board and now the association have seen Journey’s decisions as disorderly in conduct and unorthodox in belief. We believe that we must take our stand for the truth that God’s word teaches.”
Coons said when the group asked him to use the building, it was natural to say yes, and the church wasn’t about to meet the association’s demand that they tell them to leave. One messenger said during discussion that he saw the separation coming for several years.
The Journey Fellowship had already distanced itself from the Southern Baptist and Kentucky Baptist conventions and is aligned with the more moderate Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Kentucky Baptist Fellowship.
The Owensboro PFLAG’s Facebook page described its host church’s ouster as “a sad day for all of society.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press.