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Former SBC church taps lesbian as co-pastor

RALEIGH, N.C. (BP)–Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C., voted to name a self-described lesbian as co-pastor April 21, the Raleigh News & Observer reported April 28.

Pullen Memorial, as described by the newspaper, “won the distinction of being the first church expelled from the Southern Baptist Convention for agreeing to hold a gay union ceremony” in 1992. In actuality, the SBC enacted a constitutional change disqualifying churches that affirm homosexuality from sending messengers to the SBC annual meeting or from donating to the SBC.

The church’s new lesbian co-pastor, Nancy Petty, 38, has been with the church as minister of Christian education since 1992. Previously, she was a youth minister at St. John’s Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., according to the News & Observer.

Petty is a graduate of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., a key flash point in the SBC’s conservative-liberal struggle during the 1980s. The newspaper reported that, “At Southeastern, Petty had her first relationship with a woman.” Petty earlier earned an undergraduate degree from Gardner-Webb University, a Baptist-affiliated college in Boiling Springs, N.C.

Pullen Memorial’s constitution states that the congregation is affiliated with the Alliance of Baptists, a liberal breakaway group from the SBC, and the American Baptist Churches of the U.S.A.

The News & Observer reported that naming Petty as co-pastor required a three-fourths vote at a business meeting; neither the attendance nor vote at the church’s April 21 meeting was noted in the newspaper’s April 28 article. The idea of naming Petty as co-pastor was initiated by the church’s pastor, Jack McKinney, the paper reported.

The 118-year-old church has 850 members and is located in downtown Raleigh near North Carolina State University.

According to the News & Observer, Petty and her partner, Vickie Lee, have two daughters, Jasmine, 9, and Russian-born Nora, 4.

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