Southern Baptists expel Texas church as too lenient to gays

The Southern Baptist Convention kicked out Fort Worth's Broadway Baptist Church on Tuesday, saying its stance on homosexuality is too lenient.

Convention delegates, known as messengers, voted to end the 127-year relationship with the historic Fort Worth church during the annual convention being held in Louisville, Ky.

The vote affirmed that the relationship between Broadway and the SBC cease, "and that the church's messengers not be seated," according to Roger Oldham, vice president for convention relations with the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Oldham said he did not know whether any Broadway members attended the convention.

The church could seek reinstatement if it "unambiguously demonstrates its friendly cooperation with the Convention under Article III," according to the executive committee.

Article III deals with membership and says, "Among churches not in cooperation with the Convention are churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior."

It was not immediately clear what the impact would be on the church, other than symbolism. Southern Baptist churches are autonomous and in charge of their own affairs, although the national convention does coordinate missions and relief organizations.

The impasse came to a head last year during a public debate over whether Broadway should allow photographs of same-sex couples in its church directory. The photographs eventually were rejected in favor of group pictures of all church members.

One reason for not allowing photographs of gay couples was to emphasize that the church is in line with the Baptist constitution, which does not include churches that "affirm, approve or endorse" homosexual behavior, according to a letter written to the Southern Bapist Executive Committee.

But on Monday, the executive committee voted unaanimously to recommend that the SBC end its relationship with Broadway.

Stephen Wilson, a member of the Executive Committee and vice president for academic affairs at Mid-Continent University, said the issue with Broadway is about the church allowing members who are openly homosexual and unrepentant.

"If churches are ministering to homosexuals, they are doing nothing more than what our own convention’s task force has asked us to do," Wilson said. "But in Broadway's case … the church was in effect saying that it was OK to have members who are open homosexuals."

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