LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Executive Committee has recommended the SBC discontinue its relationship with Broadway Baptist Church of Fort Worth, Texas, because of its toleration of homosexual members.
The recommendation to sever ties with the Fort Worth congregation was approved without discussion or dissent by the full Executive Committee June 22, on the eve of the SBC annual meeting in Louisville.
The recommendation to remove Broadway did not specifically mention homosexuality. But that issue has been the backdrop of controversy at the church since late 2007, when a dispute arose regarding whether to include pictures of homosexual couples in the church’s membership directory.
The issue of the church’s affiliation with the convention surfaced about a year ago, at the 2008 SBC annual meeting. William Sanderson of Hephzibah Baptist Church in Wendell, N.C., asked the convention to declare the church “not to be in friendly cooperation” with the SBC. Following standard practice, messengers to the 2008 meeting referred the motion to the Executive Committee for follow up.
The Executive Committee eventually voted to recommend “that the cooperative relationship between the convention and the church cease, and that the church’s messengers not be seated, until such time as the church unambiguously demonstrates its friendly cooperation with the convention under (constitution) Article III.”
That recommendation will be considered by SBC messengers in Louisville Tuesday, June 23. Broadway Baptist Church did not send any elected messengers to the 2009 SBC annual meeting.
Kathy Madeja, chair of Broadway’s board of deacons, expressed disappointment with the negative proposal the messengers will receive shortly after the annual meeting begins.
“We regret the recommendation of the Executive Committee,” Madeja said in an e-mail June 22, shortly after the committee’s vote.
“We do not believe Broadway Baptist Church has taken any action which would justify its being deemed not in friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention. We trust the messengers, representing the local churches at the convention, will take appropriate action to preserve the 125 year affiliation of Broadway Baptist Church with the SBC.”
Article III of the SBC’s constitution notes that “churches not in cooperation with the convention are churches which act to affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior.”
In materials provided to the Executive Committee early this year, a Broadway staff member denied violating the convention’s constitution.
“Broadway never has taken any church action to affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior,” Jorene Taylor Swift, minister of congregational care at the church, wrote to August Boto, the Executive Committee’s general counsel.
Swift called the assertion that Broadway has violated the SBC constitution “an unsupported and untrue allegation.”
“Broadway Baptist Church considers itself to be in friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention and has every intention of remaining so,” Swift wrote.
In fact, the church decided to publish its membership directory “with candid photographs of our members participating in many ministries and activities of Broadway,” she said.
“One of the factors in choosing this style of directory was our belief that it does not make a statement to anyone to indicate that Broadway has in any way affirmed, approved or endorsed homosexual behavior.”
Swift’s letter acknowledged the church’s membership reflects “a variety of views” on homosexuality.
“Like a number of other Southern Baptist churches, our congregation is trying to understand how to minister to those who are engaged in a homosexual lifestyle,” she added. “Our church has not adopted the position that the Bible condones this behavior.”
A letter to Boto from Broadway’s board of deacons, dated May 21, 2009, addressed what it called “innuendo and gossip” regarding the church’s position on homosexuality.
“We have not denied that we, like most other churches, have a few gay members,” the deacons’ letter said. “We do not inquire about sexual orientation when people present themselves for membership. We do require their profession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord followed by believer’s baptism.”
The deacons’ letter reiterated Swift’s statement that the church has not acted to “affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior.”
“Broadway Baptist Church desires to maintain its longstanding and historic affiliation with the SBC,” the letter said. “We believe our continued association with the Southern Baptist Convention will benefit both Broadway and the convention and further the kingdom of God.
“It is our sincere hope the Executive Committee will recommend Broadway Baptist Church be deemed in friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention.”
The outcome of the Broadway vote could have significant impact on several of the church’s members.
Swift’s letter noted four faculty members at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth are members of the church. If the church is removed from the convention, those faculty would be required to join congregations in good standing with the national convention or resign their teaching posts.
Madeja declined to identify those faculty members, citing the private and painful nature of the situation.
The Fort Worth church has been pastorless for most of the past year, since the previous pastor, Brett Younger, joined the faculty of Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta.
Brent Beasley, who will begin his tenure as Broadway’s pastor next month, was moving from Memphis, Tenn., to Fort Worth the week of June 22 and was unavailable for comment.