New policies adopted by two Baptist churches regarding full inclusion of gays and lesbians are now preventing them from participating in the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT), which is being held in Waco on Monday and Tuesday.
The First Baptist Church of Austin and Wilshire Baptist Church of Dallas are now performing same-sex marriages and allowing LGBTQ members to hold leadership roles at their churches.
As a result, the BGCT will no longer accept funds from those churches, seat their voting delegates at the convention, or let their members serve on BGCT boards or committees.
Wilshire Baptist announced it's decision of full-inclusion on Monday afternoon when it released the results of a congregational vote on the matter. In an email, Wilshire Baptist Church Pastor George Mason stated that 61 percent of its members supported treating all members equally regarding leadership, ordination, baby dedications and marriage.
“’Acceptance’ is the key word. The truth is that Wilshire already was an accepting church of LGBT Christians before this vote. While I cannot read the minds of all who voted against the motion, I believe I know their hearts,” Mason said.
South Main Baptist Church Pastor Steve Wells is a BGCT messenger or voting delegate from Wilshire Baptist Church. Before the results were released, he asked Texas Baptists to allow the executive board to vote on whether the church should remain in the convention when they meet in February.
Wells, who is a pastor in Houston, said the board should consider their prayer, their engagement in the convention and their financial support when making the decision.
“We should cherish fellowship so much, it should come from a considered decision and really, the vast preponderance of the folks should be in one accord about that,” Wells said. “It shouldn’t be a close call.”
Wells also referenced the autonomy of local churches within the Baptist religion saying that the convention doesn’t have authority over them or vice versa.
Texas Baptists said in a statement that they uphold the autonomy of local churches but if they are outside of the convention’s position, they withdraw from harmonious cooperation.
The Baptist General Convention released their own statement. It reads as follows:
“This is a painful time for Texas Baptists. We have deep respect and appreciation for the churches involved. While Texas Baptists are loving, respectful and welcoming to all people, we have a longstanding and often reaffirmed biblical position on human sexuality. As in the past, when a church chooses a position outside of the BGCT position, that church effectively withdraws from harmonious cooperation. The BGCT values the autonomy of the local church and the harmony which is vital to the Convention’s purpose of fostering cooperative missions and ministries.”
During the general session of the convention, another messenger asked the board to consider a motion stating that any church that affirms same-sex behavior is not in harmonious cooperation with the convention.
The two motions will be considered on Tuesday.
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