The late Baptist statesman Louie D. Newton’s name is on the chapel at the Georgia Baptist Convention’s suburban Atlanta headquarters. Yet the in-town church where he was famously pastor is apparently headed for exclusion by and from the state’s Southern Baptist leadership — now in the firm grasp of religious and political fundamentalism.

GBC officials reportedly paid a visit to Druid Hills Baptist Church recently to inform them that — despite their valiant and continuous efforts to provide witness and service in one of Atlanta’s most unique and challenging communities — their calling of a female co-pastor is unacceptable.

The GBC theological watchdogs sniffed out this “offense” of yet another autonomous Baptist congregation that has recognized and affirmed the calling of a person whom the big Baptist brothers consider beyond such divine direction.

Perhaps if the Rev. Mimi Walker had smoked a pipe and worn a wide-brim hat like the late Rev. Newton, they wouldn’t have noticed.

Look for the annual gathering of Georgia Baptists next November to make this yet-another foolish and heavy-handed act of exclusion official.

The congregation of Druid Hills can be grateful. Though they bear the Baptist name, the publicity from this action will help many to know what kind of Baptists they are — and, in contrast to the GBC Pharisees, what kind they are not.

The legendary Louie D. Newton was a proud proponent of the historic Baptist principles lost on modern-day Southern Baptist fundamentalists — like separation of church and state, individual freedom and responsibility, non-creedalism and, yes, local church autonomy in which the convention stays out of the congregation’s internal business.

One can wonder if anyone at the Georgia Baptist Convention sees the irony in the group’s executive committee voting to toss out the church that Newton served from 1929 to 1968 while meeting in a room that bears his name. But then, trying to make sense — much less be compassionate and cooperative — has not been high on their agenda in quite a few years.

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