November 13th, 2007
The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina has does not have many requirements for association. As the Charlotte News-Record rather concisely put it
Churches must provide financial support and not affirm homosexuality.
During their meeting last year, the Convention voted to kick out of fellowship any church that did “affirm, approve, endorse, promote, support or bless homosexual behavior”. This definition includes accepting a single gay person as a member in a church.
As a consequence, several churches dropped their affiliation with the Convention.
Myers Park Baptist Church, a Charlotte church with membership of about 2,000, decided that their 65 year association should not be let go without comment. Their pastor, Rev. Dr. H. Stephen Shoemaker, wrote the following eloquent appeal, which I am including in full:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I appeal to you by the mercies of God to refrain from removing churches like ours from your fellowship. Christian fellowship is too divided as it is and is a scandal to Christ who prayed that we might be one.
I appeal to you as Baptists who treasure soul freedom, soul competency and the autonomy of the local church. These great Baptist principles argue on behalf of including those of minority witness and minority interpretation of scripture in its fellowship.
Our church studied the Bible, sought the Spirit of God and talked earnestly with each other for over 20 years to get to the place where we said we were “open to all and closed to none,” and fully welcomed gay and lesbian persons who wished to follow Jesus with us. We do not claim to have the whole mind of God, and we respect those whose interpretations of scripture differ. It is the spiritual freedom we offer one another.
I appeal to you as Biblical people led by the Living Spirit of God whose life is centered in Christ.
Jesus welcomed those considered outcasts and sinners by His culture and religion into the Kingdom of God drawing near. We seek — we hope — to live in His Spirit.
And we, like Peter in the Book of Acts, have overcome our original resistance to the inclusion of gay and lesbian persons as Peter overcame his resistance to accepting Gentiles into the people of God. He saw the Holy Spirit fall upon the Gentiles, he saw God working in their lives and said:
“If then God gave them the same gift that He gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?”
We could base the unity of our fellowship on any number of issues of Biblical interpretation: speaking in tongues, war, abortion, death penalty, divorce, homosexuality, and on and on. Let us base our unity on Jesus Christ as Lord and his call to discipleship and on the competence and freedom of the individual to open scripture and interpret it for his or her life guided by the Spirit of God.
H. Stephen Shoemaker
In response, the Executive Committee found his church is not “in friendly cooperation with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina” and today the membership as a whole gave Myer Park Baptist the boot.
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