The executive committee of the Southern Baptist Convention voted unanimously June 22 to recommend ending its more than 125-year relationship with Broadway Baptist Church in Forth Worth, Texas. The messengers at the SBC annual meeting will be asked to approve the motion recommending that “the cooperative relationship between the Convention and the church cease, and that the church’s messengers not be seated” because the church has allegedly taken action “to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior.”
Kathy Madeja, chair of the board of deacons at Broadway, shared the church’s official statement on the action to EthicsDaily.com in an e-mail. She also noted that the church did not send messengers to the annual meeting.
“We regret the recommendation of the Executive Committee,” read a statement from Broadway Baptist Church. “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 (SBC). 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.”
The executive committee recommendation stemmed from the 2008 SBC annual meeting when Bill Sanderson, pastor of Hepzibah Baptist Church in Wendell, N.C., asked that the church be declared “not to be in friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention.” In February 2009, the SBC executive committee decided against taking action on the motion in order to study the issue further.
The church’s interim pastor, Charles Johnson, attended the February meeting and told EthicsDaily.com at the time he was pleased “that the executive committee so graciously and warmly entertained our conviction that we are in fact in friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention.” Last month, the church hired its new pastor, Brent Beasley, who is moving from Tennessee to Forth Worth this week.
Church leaders had also written a letter to the SBC executive committee prior to the February meeting denying the allegations.
“Broadway has never taken any church action to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior,” read the letter obtained by EthicsDaily.com. “Broadway Baptist Church considers itself to be in friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention and has every intention of remaining so.”
Stephen Wilson, a member of the executive committee and vice president for academic affairs at Mid-Continent University, told the Baptist Press following the June 22 vote that the letter from Broadway leaders was not enough. He argued that their actions undermined their claims in the letter.
“[I]t was more from what they were actually doing in practice where the conflict was,” Wilson argued. “While they didn’t officially endorse it, they were allowing members and also people in leadership that were homosexual.”
Sing Oldham, vice-president for convention relations for the SBC’s executive committee, told EthicsDaily.com in an e-mail that “[c]hurches that choose to cooperate with the Convention” must stay within certain “parameters.” He added that executive committee members felt that the actions of Broadway leaders put them outside those parameters.
“The members of the Executive Committee noted ambiguity between written correspondence from leaders of Broadway Baptist Church and verbal statements from some of the same leaders concerning the actual practice of the church regarding this matter when they addressed the Administrative Subcommittee of the Executive Committee in February,” Oldham wrote, adding that Broadway leaders had not addressed additional concerns over the past four months.
One significant issue mentioned in the past by Broadway leaders concerned Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary faculty members who are members of the church. Since faculty members are required to be members of SBC churches, the church’s leadership worked to defeat the motion in order not to lose its members, who include a longtime music leader at the church.
Such relationships were a primary reason why Broadway leaders and members have worked to maintain their SBC affiliation.
Brian Kaylor is a contributing editor for EthicsDaily.com