NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–In September, messengers to the annual meeting of the Nashville Baptist Association will consider action to withdraw fellowship from a church that has hired a lesbian minister.
The Tennessean reported Jan. 26 that last May Glendale Baptist Church had employed April Baker as associate pastor with responsibilities related primarily to children and families.
Baker is a lesbian, as reported by the Tennessean and confirmed by Glendale members to NBA representatives.
At the Feb. 17 NBA Executive Board meeting, members approved the following motion:
(1) “That the churches of Nashville Baptist Association continue in redemptive prayer and intercession for Glendale Baptist Church;
(2) “That the leadership of Nashville Baptist Association and its churches act redemptively toward Glendale Baptist Church; and
(3) “If there is no change in Glendale Baptist Church’s action, then the Executive Board recommends that Nashville Baptist Association vote at its annual meeting, Sept. 15, 2003, to withdraw fellowship.”
Prior to the Executive Board meeting, three representatives of NBA met with Glendale Pastor Mark Caldwell and other leaders from the church, according to Jim Freedman, NBA director of missions.
Freedman said the purpose of the meeting was to verify the accuracy of The Tennessean story. The Glendale group said the story was true, Freedman said.
Freedman said the NBA representatives then asked if by their action, Glendale was approving a homosexual lifestyle. Freedman noted the Glendale leaders said they were not approving the lifestyle. They said Baker, out of the candidates they interviewed, was best suited for the position, related Freedman, who said he was not present at the meeting.
Freedman said the NBA group advised them of the association’s position on homosexuality and told them if the church did not make a change, “the Executive Board would recommend that the association withdraw fellowship from the church” at its annual meeting.
According to the Constitution of the Nashville Baptist Association, the association can “withdraw affiliation from any church which (1) persists in doctrinal practices out of harmony with the Baptist Faith and Message, (2) fails to be represented either by letter or messenger for two successive years, or (3) notifies the association of its desire to withdraw.”
The action to withdraw fellowship requires a two-thirds majority of the messengers present during an annual meeting, according to the NBA Constitution.
Freedman said Glendale’s decision to call a lesbian minister is contrary to the Baptist Faith and Message.
When contacted by the Baptist and Reflector, on March 5, Pastor Mark Caldwell referred any comments on the NBA action to the Glendale’s Church Council. Caldwell is slated to retire at Glendale on March 16.
Glendale released the following statement on March 10 from Martha Jo Berry, chairperson of Glendale’s Church Council:
“If the Nashville Baptist Association officially acts to withdraw fellowship from our church, we would respectfully note that any such disfellowshiping is involuntary on our part.
“We have worked for decades on common mission endeavors with the Association and wish the NBA the best as it seeks to serve God in our community. We understand that many NBA members have strong opinions about decisions we have made as a community of faith.
“We appreciate the fact that representatives of the NBA, instead of acting on supposition and in reaction to news reports, came to visit with us directly about the situation. We also appreciate the cordial meeting.
“As Baptist Christians, Glendale will continue to follow the teachings of Christ as we understand them and to serve God, faithful to our Baptist heritage and traditions.”