The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has ousted four of its churches, two for forming policies that are considered to be too welcoming of the LGBT community, while the other two for hiring pastors who were sex offenders.
According to the Associated Press, the announcement was made on Tuesday, during the SBC executive committee's two-day meeting in Nashville, Tennessee.
St. Matthews Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky and Towne View Baptist Church in Kennesaw, Georgia were expelled due to their LGBTQ inclusion issues.
Rev. Jim Conrad of Towne View Baptist Church said that he plans to affiliate with The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, which aligns with the church's perspective on LGBT community. The church started welcoming LGBTQ in October 2019 when Pastor Conrad allowed a gay couple with adopted children, who asked to attend their services.
"The alternative would have been to say, 'We're probably not ready for this,' but I couldn't do that," Pastor Conrad said.
Similarly, St. Matthews Baptist was ousted due to its policy that features LGBTQ inclusion for its members, stating that "a belief in Jesus as personal Savior is the sole criterion for membership in our Church."
The church said that SBC's decision does not change its commitment to carry out what God has called them to do in "worship and spiritual growth."
On the other hand, West Side Baptist Church in Sharpsville, Pennsylvania and Antioch Baptist Church in Sevierville, Tennessee were both ousted for employing pastors who were involved in sexual misconduct activities.
John Randy Leming Jr. of Antioch Baptist Church was convicted of two counts of statutory rape in 1998, when he was ministering in Shiloh Baptist Church in Sevier County in 1994.
In the same way, West Side Baptist Church's pastor, David Pearson, has a history of inappropriate sexual behavior. He was registered as a sex-offender in Florida for sexually assaulting a child in Texas in 1993.
West Side acknowledges Pearson's troubled past on their website, saying that "Pastor David lived as a great sinner and rebel" but he has found his salvation through Jesus Christ. And that he "has gone from disgrace to amazing grace and now has served the Lord Jesus Christ at West Side for 18 years."
The meeting also brought up a report about SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission president, Rev. Russell Moore. Moore reportedly criticized Trump and supported the current administration's stand on immigration policy, matters that dismayed some of SBC's conservatives. But the committee did not take an action on the report, declining to do something that would silence Moore.
In the meeting, SBC President J.D. Greear and executive committee president Ronnie Floyd have warned against divisions over critical issues, which they said are damaging the organization.
"This sound of war in the camp of Southern Baptists is concerning to me, and I know it is also concerning to many of you. While we hear and see how the American culture is so out of control, my friends, our own culture within the Southern Baptist family is also out of control," Floyd said.
"In this fever-pitch environment, each of us needs to be very careful with the words we write, speak, tweet or post. As SBC leaders and followers of Jesus, our public behavior matters," he further said.
Greear, on the other hand, tackled the race issue in the organization.
"We should mourn when closet racists and neo-Confederates feel more at home in our churches than do many of our people of color," Greear stated in his opening speech.
Several black pastors have reportedly left the SBC and the organization has also been criticized for electing six seminary presidents, who are all white.
"The reality is that if we in the SBC had shown as much sorrow for the painful legacy that racism and discrimination has left in our country as we have passion to decry CRT, we probably wouldn't be in this mess," he also said.
During the meeting, SBC has reportedly adopted an expansion plan called Vision 2025. The plan seeks to increase its full time international missionaries to 4,200, raise the number of its congregation by 5,000 and improve the record of teenagers being baptized.