Baptist group in Texas addresses removing churches accepting to gays

DALLAS (AP) — A Baptist group in Texas passed motions Tuesday aimed at consistently addressing the removal of churches that are accepting to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The Baptist General Convention of Texas passed the motions a week after notifying a church in Dallas and one in Austin that their actions related to LGBT people effectively withdrew them from affiliation. The group has cut ties in the past to churches welcoming and accepting of gays. Removal doesn’t affect the churches being Baptist.

The recent letters went to Dallas’ Wilshire Baptist Church, which announced Monday its congregation voted to permit LGBT people to fully participate in congregational life, and to First Austin: A Baptist Community of Faith, which issued statement about two years ago welcoming those of every sexual orientation.

“I think it’s sad that they didn’t give love a place at the table. We didn’t ask them to agree with us. We just asked them to respect our decision,” said the Rev. Griff Martin, senior pastor at the Austin church.

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Martin said their church has ordained gay leadership, celebrated the children of same-sex couples, performed gay weddings and “we will proudly continue to do that.”

Removal means that the churches will no longer be allowed to contribute funds to the BGCT, which is involved in education and social ministries, in addition to evangelism and missions. The group includes more than 5,300 Baptist churches in Texas.

“We’re trying to give them money to participate in their mission and they’re saying, ‘We won’t take it,'” said Mark Wingfield, associate pastor at Wilshire Baptist Church.

The BGCT passed the motions in Waco at its annual meeting. The first motion says that the convention reserves the authority to remove a congregation considered to be outside of “harmonious cooperation” with a two-thirds vote of its executive board. The second motion reaffirms its belief that any church affirming a sexual relationship outside of marriage between a man and a woman is considered out of “harmonious cooperation” with the convention.

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In 2010, the group’s executive board voted to cut ties with Royal Lane Baptist Church of Dallas over its stance on gays. That same year Broadway Baptist Church of Fort Worth severed its ties with the group, saying it would rather go its separate way than exclude people because of their sexual orientation. In 1998 the BGCT declined funds from an Austin church over the issue and asked that the church remove their name from its website.