November 14th, 2016
Members of Wilshire Baptist Church of Dallas voted yesterday on a resolution which, according to a statement posted on its web site, “would permit all members to participate in congregational life on the same basis as any other church member regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. This affirms the ability of the church’s committees and lay and staff governance structures to consider all members for leadership, ordination, baby dedication and marriage based upon individual merit and the discernment of those duly elected to governance positions.”
Wilshire hasn’t yet announced the results of yesterday’s vote, but on November 8, the Baptist General Convention of Texas sent a letter to Wilshire and to the First Baptist Church in Austin notifying them that their affirming stances threaten their expulsion from the state convention:
The letter to Wilshire frames the congregation’s relationship to the BGCT in terms of “potential withdrawal.”
“Should your church choose to publicly affirm same-sex sexual behavior, the BGCT will no longer be able to accept funds from the church, seat its messengers to the annual meeting, allow the church to express affiliation with the BGCT or allow its members to serve on the BGCT boards, committees or other roles,” the letter states.
Wilshire pastor George Mason calls the letter “provocative” and “premature,” and added that the vote by his congregation hadn’t yet been completed when the letter was sent. The results are expected to be released to church members via email sometime today. Wilshire Board member Casey Boland says the decision that Wilshire is undertaking has been a difficult one for the congregation:
“This is not an easy decision. I mean, this is cutting to the core of very strong beliefs that people have on both sides,” said Casey Boland. She has been a member of the Wilshire Baptist Church for 10 years.
“The reasons that have been used for why people should vote ‘no’ are the same reasons that were used for – why divorced people should not be allowed to be in the church, why blacks and whites should not be allowed to be married, why women should not be pastors. It just, in my view, rings hallow.” said Boland.
Austin’s First Baptist Church responded to a similar letter from the state Convention putting FBC “on notice” for adopting a policy last year welcoming LGBT people into the congregation:
“As a church, we did our diligent theological work, being guided by the spirit, meditating on sacred scripture and hearing the stories and struggles of our own members,” the Austin church’s letter states. “As a result of that thoughtful process, we are proudly and openly welcoming and affirming of all God’s beloved children.”
The letter suggested the BGCT’s actions had been unfairly influenced by other churches that disagreed with the Austin policy and threatened to stop giving money to the convention until the church was “excluded from fellowship.”
Once we begin to listen to the voices who wield their power and financial strength in this way,” the letter continued, “we have begun a slippery slope to fundamentalism and irrelevancy.”
Dallas’s Royal Lane Baptist Church was the last to be kicked out of the Convention six years ago for appointing gay deacons.
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