LEXINGTON, Ky. (ABP) – A Baptist church in Kentucky has severed ties with its local association of churches, saying doctrinal uniformity has trumped cooperative missions in the Southern Baptist Convention.
Central Baptist Church of Lexington, Ky., voted unanimously in December to end its nearly 60-year membership in Elkhorn Baptist Association, according to a press release dated Feb. 10. The vote reportedly stemmed from a letter from a sister-church pastor to the association’s membership committee questioning a blog post by Central Pastor Mark Johnson.
The blog featured an Indianapolis church’s marketing campaign that asked “Who Stole Jesus?” which included the sentence: “The real Jesus celebrated diversity in God’s creation, including gay and transgender people.”
The complaining pastor affirmed Central Baptist’s right to follow its conscience but questioned “whether or not they should do so as a cooperating member of the Elkhorn Baptist Association.”
The congregation opted to leave the association rather than fight, but added a public statement to make clear that all Baptists do not agree on everything.
“We have been quiet for too long,” said church member Rachel Childress. “There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people in our community who do not know there is a Baptist church like us.”
Central Baptist Church’s website lists mission partners including the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. The church left the Southern Baptist Convention and Kentucky Baptist Convention a decade ago. Johnson said those decisions made the vote to leave the association “a natural and predictable course of direction.”
“Just as all politics are local, so are true Baptist relationships,” Johnson said. “We had cooperated with the Elkhorn Baptist Association on common projects of mission involvement in the Lexington community even if we disagreed with them on other matters. But 30 years ago, Southern Baptists started emphasizing doctrinal uniformity more than cooperative mission projects as a point of belonging and working together.”
Johnson said Central Baptist Church wants to identify itself as “an open and inviting fellowship for God’s people.” A motto on the church website says: “All are welcomed here. No exceptions.”
The press release said Central Baptist harbors “no feelings of animosity toward or alienation from the people or programs” of Elkhorn Baptist Association, but believes “it is best to officially part ways.” The church will continue to work with Irishtown Baptist Mission in downtown Lexington, a ministry supported by the association that Central took the lead in establishing 50 years ago.
Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press.