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Atlanta churches ready to withdraw after vote

ATLANTA (BP)–Gloria Marlowe has served on the staff of Glen Haven Baptist Church for nearly 30 years and she has attended her fair share of church and associational business meetings.

“I’ve seen a lot of things happen at meetings, but nothing prepared me for what happened at that meeting last night,” Marlowe told Baptist Press.

The Jan. 30 meeting was a special-called session of the Atlanta Baptist Association. With a secret ballot, messengers voted overwhelmingly to retain fellowship with two churches that openly endorse and affirm active, practicing homosexuals.

“I never thought I would see the day when Southern Baptists would vote to support homosexual churches,” said Marlowe, the church’s administrator.

And neither did the rest of the Glen Haven Baptist Church messengers. Immediately following the meeting, 18 deacons and other church leaders decided to withdraw from the association.

“We just couldn’t stay in the association,” Marlowe said. “It was so shocking.”

Jimmy Wilson, Glen Haven’s associate pastor, told Baptist Press he couldn’t believe what was happening at the meeting.

“There were only 10 or 12 churches voting on our side,” he said. “But we knew that we had to stand up for the Bible, the Georgia Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention.

“We are pulling out,” he said. “We’re going to have a church business meeting to make it official, but we’ve already ordered the paperwork from the Georgia Baptist Convention.”

And Glen Haven isn’t the only church considering leaving the association, according to Robert White, executive director of the GBC.

“We have already had telephone calls from churches interested in pulling out of the Atlanta Baptist Association,” White told Baptist Press. “And we’ve also had inquiries from a number of churches on what it takes to form a new association.”

White predicted that in the coming days additional churches will join the exodus. “In Georgia, our constitution says it takes 15 churches to form an association,” White said. “I think they very well may have that many. Some churches are considering affiliating with other associations.”

One thing is certain, White said, the Atlanta Baptist Association will lose churches.

Bobby Atkins, pastor of the 5,000-member Rehoboth Baptist Church, told Baptist Press he was disturbed by the actions taken at the meeting.

“If this is the direction the Atlanta Baptist Association wants to go in, they have the autonomous right to do so, but each church will decide if they want to participate,” Atkins said. “My own personal opinion is that we cannot be a part of that.”

“I can’t speak for anyone else but we will take this to our leadership and ultimately, the church,” he said. “But it was very saddening and it grieved my heart.”

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  • Todd Starnes