NASHVILLE, Tenn.?The Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee voted unanimously without discussion to continue to study whether the convention should remain affiliated with Broadway Baptist Church, a historic Fort Worth congregation that was involved last year in a controversy over whether homosexual couples should be pictured in a church directory.
The Executive Committee began studying the church’s affiliation last year after a messenger at the SBC annual meeting in June made a motion that the convention declare Broadway Baptist not to be “in friendly cooperation” with the denomination. Article III of the SBC Constitution states that churches “which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior” are not in friendly cooperation.
The church last February decided in a 294-182 vote to publish a directory without family portraits but with candid shots of members involved in various ministries and activities. Additionally, the pastor who had presided over the controversy?Brett Younger?resigned from the church in June to take a position at McAfee School of Theology in Georgia after a vote to oust him failed, 68-32 percent.
Church members, though, said the desire by some to remove Younger had less to do with the issue of homosexuality and more to do with a host of other issues, including his leadership and his support of a project that allowed homeless people to stay at the church at night.
The Executive Committee agreed Feb. 17 that the study should continue and that “further inquiries and continued communications with the church be made,” with the goal of “arriving at an appropriate report” to the convention at the June annual meeting in Louisville, Ky.
The church has about 1,400 members with 400 to 500 attendees on Sunday mornings.
Three people from the church?interim pastor Charles Johnson, minister of congregation care Jorene Taylor Swift and denominational relations committee member Lyn Robbins?voluntarily appeared and asked members of the Bylaws Workgroup and the Administration Subcommittee, both of which considered the matter, not to recommend breaking the relationship.
Two representatives of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, with whom Broadway Baptist is affiliated, also addressed the subcommittee as well as Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson from whom Broadway’s interim pastor had sought counsel.
Much of the discussion during the workgroup and the subcommittee meetings focused on a Jan. 27 letter the church sent to the Executive Committee, which stated in part: “Broadway has never taken any church action to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior. Broadway Baptist Church considers itself to be in friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention and has every intention of remaining so.” It further stated, “While we extend Christian hospitality to everyone?including homosexuals?we do not endorse, approve, or affirm homosexual behavior.”
The letter also said the church chose a directory without family portraits because it believed such an action would avoid sending the message the church endorsed homosexuality. The letter was approved by the church’s deacons and presented to the church with no objections.
Some members of the workgroup and subcommittee said they would welcome a stronger statement from the church on homosexuality so as to further disassociate itself from the church directory controversy. The church is autonomous and must decide the matter on its own.
“The committee has asked us to sort of strengthen our statement on the matter of homosexuality,” Johnson, the interim pastor, told Baptist Press. “We receive that challenge … and we’re going to take it very seriously and prayerfully and go back to our congregation and follow the light and leadership of the spirit of God.”
Johnson said he was “very heartened” and “encouraged” by discussions with committee members throughout the day. The Bylaws Workgroup and Administrative Subcommittee meetings each went past their scheduled end times, with members asking Johnson and the other two church representatives pointed questions about the church’s position on homosexuality.
Johnson, who began serving in his role in July, told Baptist Press he came to the committee meeting in order to tell members the church does not endorse homosexuality and to urge them not to act while the church “is healing” from losing not only its pastor but some of its members following last year’s controversies.
“Everyone has been gracious to us. We have felt a sensitivity from the committee toward our congregational situation, and we’ve received the wisdom of the committee,” he said. “We feel that we’ve taken a step of constructive engagement with the denomination. This is our denominational family. Instead of a step away, we’ve kind of stepped toward each other.”
The church’s letter to the Executive Committee acknowledged that not every member of Broadway is “in agreement about the propriety of homosexual behavior or the language regarding homosexuality in Article XV of the current Baptist Faith and Message.” Regarding that issue, the Baptist Faith and Message says “Christians should oppose … all forms of sexual immorality, incl