ATLANTA (BP)–Some of Atlanta’s largest Southern Baptist congregations are making a last-ditch effort to have two homosexual-affirming churches dismissed from the Atlanta Baptist Association.
Sam Boyd, senior pastor of Mount Vernon Baptist Church, sent a letter to the association’s executive director, Joel Harrison, urging his leadership in overturning a Jan. 30 decision by messengers that failed to dismiss Oakhurst and Virginia-Highland Baptist churches for “affirming and approving and endorsing homosexual behavior.”
Homosexual activists across the nation heralded the Atlanta Baptist Association’s decision as an affirmation of the homosexual agenda, with Tim Shirley, senior pastor of Virginia-Highland Baptist Church, telling Baptist Press the vote was an affirmation of their ministry to homosexuals.
Boyd told Baptist Press that Bible-believing Christians have one final attempt to dismiss the two congregations and that will happen at the association’s March 12 meeting at First Baptist Church, Hapeville, Ga.
“I plan on proposing that the association adopt the bylaw change originally adopted by the Georgia Baptist Convention in their 1998 amendment on membership,” Boyd said.
The amendment states, “This body shall be composed of messengers from cooperating Baptist churches. A cooperating church is one that is in harmony and cooperation with the work and purpose of the convention. A cooperating church does not include a church which knowingly takes, or has taken, any action to affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior.”
Boyd, in his letter to Harrison, wrote, “… if our present bylaws do not prohibit churches like Oakhurst and Virginia Highlands [sic] from membership in the Atlanta Association, your committee should have presented By-laws changes that would call for their dismissal. Neither ‘Autonomy’ nor ‘Priesthood of Believers’ should be used as a ‘smokescreen’ to give any individual, church, or larger body the freedom to practice or condone sin as defined by scripture.”
Boyd also wrote that he will ask the association to “put forward the adoption of the June 14, 2000 Baptist Faith and Message as adopted by both the Southern Baptist Convention and the GBC.”
“In doing so, there is a prohibition of homosexuality, among other behaviors, in Section XV, The Christian and the Social Order, which would give proper grounds as an association for the dismissal of churches such as Oakhurst and Virginia Highland,” he wrote.
Boyd said the vote would require a two-thirds majority. “I think this last vote caught us off-guard,” Boyd told Baptist Press. “I’ve got to believe there are enough conservatives in the association to pass this. If we don’t pass it, our church will withdraw from the association.”
For many of Atlanta’s Baptist congregations, the decision reached on March 12 likewise will determine whether they remain in the association. At least one church, the 7,000-member Rehoboth Baptist Church, voted Feb. 14 to sever ties with the association.
“Joel, should you not seek to lead our association in adopting these changes, you are failing to fulfill the leadership responsibilities expected of and entrusted to you by churches like Mount Vernon Baptist Church,” Boyd wrote. “Should you propose these changes and the majority opinion fails to adopt them, you have done the best you can do. At that point, Mount Vernon will have no other choice to withdraw our membership from the Atlanta Baptist Association and, more than likely, form a new association of like-minded churches.”
The 16,500-member First Baptist Church of Atlanta also could pull out of the association. “Ultimately, if the association doesn’t reverse it’s decision on those churches, we won’t have any other choice but to back out,” a spokesperson for senior pastor Charles Stanley said. “This is a big issue. The question is whether we want to stay in an association that condones that type of behavior.”
The First Baptist spokesperson said the church’s status in the association will be determined following the March 12 meeting.