Thursday, January 13, 2011

At what point should we kick churches out of our Association, Convention, fellowship?

The news of Wake Forest Baptist Church calling a lesbian pastor makes me wonder how to answer the question of when to kick churches out of our groupings.

The SBC has already answered this with respect to a homosexual or lesbian pastor. The church would be quickly excised from the body. WFBC is not affiliated with the SBC.

The local association and the Baptist Convention of North Carolina have already answered the question with respect to the lesbian question, having previously kicked the church out.

What about other questions? When should a church be kicked out? Here are some issues:

On doctrinal matters, Associations, state conventions, and the SBC all have statements of belief. Violation of the same means you get kicked out. I agree.

On moral things it's a mixed bag. The SBC has codified the homosexual question. I suppose some state conventions have also. On other issues, I am unaware of any entity kicking out a church for racism, or for knowingly calling or keeping on staff a confessed or convicted clergy child sex abuser. I would vote to kick such churches out.

On having women deacons or a woman as senior pastor, I recall that Adrian Rogers, years ago, lead his Memphis association (Shelby Baptist Association?) to kick out a church that called a woman pastor. Not me. I wouldn't kick a church out on a women in ministry question.

I've never heard of an association kicking a church out for pastor abuse, though I would vote for that.

My guess is that the WFBC and their lesbian pastor is just a curiosity among SBCers, but the church is also affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. I'm guessing that the CBF will do nothing in this case and hope no one asks them about it. Their position will be that the decision is a local church matter. Aw, come on CBF, put on your big boy (or, your petite gender neutral) pants and take a position.


SNAP said...

Please keep in mind that child sexual abuse is not just a "moral" matter. It's also a criminal matter. Questions about the ecclesiastical status of child molesting clergy are secondary. Getting them put behind bars so kids are safe should be our primary concern.

David Clohessy, Director, SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, (7234 Arsenal Street, St. Louis MO 63143), 314 566 9790 cell (

David said...

Please allow me to echo what David Clohessy just posted. There is a huge gap in action taken when it involves a minister. I am a survivor of repeated rapes and abuse by a Catholic priest in 1961-62. My rapist was moved around repeatedly. Today I am a Southern Baptist and I see the same thing going on within my own denomination. An offender will be removed but allowed to keep his license to preach. He or she will often relocate to another church and before you know it, they are offending again.

I made a DVD with Andrea Conte's group, You Have The Power. Ms. Conte is the wife of former Governor for Tennessee. We made that DVD (Sacred Secret) as an educational tool on how to deal with clergy sexual abuse in the faith community. The main thing that comes of this video is you report this crime if you SUSPECT abuse. Do not try to investigate and you report this crime to the legal authorities. That way you will protect the victim and your flock from further harm.

Just imagine how a survivor feels when they see their offender walking the same halls of church. What message does that send? Sure you have forgiveness for him but there are consequences for his actions. He has forever forfeited the right to ever be in a position of authority.

Please do the right thing and report it.

David Brown
SNAP Director for Tennessee/Memphis
4500 Bonnie Brae Drive
Millington, TN 38053

William Thornton said...

David and David, when I referenced 'confessed or convicted' I had in mind for the former category any individual who was not prosecutable but who had confessed to such behavior.

I have often said (one of my first blogs was on Christa Brown) that churches should call law enforcement authorities when there are accusations of criminal activity by their clergy and that should take priority over what you call 'ecclesiastical status.'

Jon L. Estes said...

if the bible believing church does not rise up in our culture and become a significant voice for truth things like this will continue to happen. probably not so much in my life time on this planet but when my grandchildren are adults. is this what I want to leave them?

Jon L. Estes

BDW said...

I just wanted to add:

Wake Forest Baptist has been quite critical of the CBF in recent years due to the CBF's stance on homosexuality.

From the article linked above:

---On June 23, 2008, Wake Forest Baptist’s pastor, Dr. Richard Groves, sent a letter to Daniel Vestal, the executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Along with the letter was a check for $100, an unusually low sum when compared to the past $1,500 annual contributions to the group from the congregation.

Groves explained the contribution reduction was in response to the Fellowship’s decision to prohibit the employment of LGBT individuals.
“At the present time, approximately one out of six members of Wake Forest Baptist Church is gay or lesbian,” wrote Groves. “We could not justify continuing to support in a major way (major for our congregation) an organization that on principle would discriminate against 15% of the members of our church on the basis of their sexuality.”

Groves also explained his personal protest of the group. “I have not attended a meeting of the CBF since the policy was approved,” he wrote. “The desire to appeal to the broad middle of the moderate movement that has been present since the beginning of the CBF is not one that our congregation has chosen to embrace, nor is it one I have chosen to embrace in my own ministry.”------

The rest of the article provides a good overview of CBF's policy on homosexuality and why they don't do the disfellowship thing....

Anonymous said...

I'm a CBF'er and would support a removal of fellowship for this congregation, but that is just me.


Anonymous said...

I'm not exactly sure what to say here. I think John Pierce did a good job on the gay issue and how it should effect Baptist polity in his oped piece in the current Baptists Today, January issue.
I think you have a guest subscription if I am not mistaken.
I'm gonna call your bluff on this one; well maybe. But I know all kind of churches who bankroll the SBC and it gives me heartburn; I could name names of folks who sit side by side in Sunday school every Sunday with folks who don't practice your Shibboleth guidelines here.
When you preach a sermon that calls on your people to blackball the University of Georgia cause their humanities department is teaching something foreign to Preacher Thornton, then maybe I could begin to take you seriously.
But we know your bluffing.

Diarmand MacCulloch. Wouldn't hurt you to start wading in. February is not too late to start.

Random here, but Marian Wright Edelman was at Limestone College yesterday in Gaffney, South Carolina. Talk about preaching, now there was the evidence of things Not Seen, and evidence of some things I have seen with my own eyes, only a half a mile from where I slept and ate and listened to the wordagod for 16 years.

Stephen Fox
Upstate South Carolina

AND NE Alabama