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Gay couples in church directory kindle flap

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Photo shoots for a pictorial directory have brought to light a dilemma over the acceptance of homosexual couples in a large Baptist church in Texas.

Members of Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth are divided over whether homosexual couples should be pictured together in the same way as photos of other couples within the church.

“For decades Broadway has had gay members as part of our membership, but no couple had been pictured as a couple in a church directory,” pastor Brett Younger said in a statement to the membership of the church. The possibility of including homosexual couples in the directory “was troubling to many,” Younger acknowledged, “as they saw it as a change of direction and it is understandable that they would feel that way.”

For now, Younger said the pictorial directory is on hold and the material that was to be used in it will be considered for inclusion in publications celebrating the church’s 125th anniversary next year.

Several church members were reticent to speak to Baptist Press on the record, but confirmed that several people serving on and leading committees within the church are living openly homosexual lifestyles.

For his part, Younger said he wants to avoid drawing attention to the controversy because it may inflame the debate on both sides within the church.

“There are a lot of people who want to take this and make it a statement one way and a lot of people who want to take this make and a statement the other way,” he said. “But there are a lot more of us who just want to go on learning how to serve Christ and one another better.”

In his statement to the church, Younger praised how Broadway has handled the issue of homosexuality among church members in the past.

“Broadway has for years had an amazing policy on including gay people. It’s not a policy that a committee came up with, or the staff or the deacons. It’s an unwritten policy that came out of the shared life of this congregation, a policy I believe was inspired by the Spirit,” he said. “This church has for a long time included both gay people who are committed to Christ and members who aren’t affirming and who have serious questions, but who are willing to share the church. This has allowed us to be a congregation where the conversation can take place about being gay and being Christians.”

Broadway has been a significant part of Baptist life in Tarrant County since 1883. One of Broadway’s pastors was involved in the effort to locate Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth and various others have been professors at the seminary. However, the church has maintained a certain level of disagreement with the Southern Baptist Convention since 1979 when the Conservative Resurgence began to turn the SBC toward biblical inerrancy. Cecil Sherman, the first executive director of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, came to that post after being senior pastor of Broadway from 1985-92. The church is listed as a CBF church on the CBF website.
Compiled by Art Toalston, editor of Baptist Press.

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