AUSTIN, Texas (BP)–University Baptist Church has notified the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship that the Austin church is pulling out of the national group because of its policy against homosexuals, according to a report in The American-Statesman.
“It’s believed to be the first church to leave,” said Greg Warner, executive editor of Associated Baptist Press, which receives money from the fellowship. Warner was quoted in the newspaper’s story.
It’s a new twist for the controversial University Baptist, which has felt the sting of Southern Baptist groups kicking it out for welcoming gay and lesbian congregation members, The American-Statesman reported.
The CBF’s policy prohibits the hiring of non-celibate gays and lesbians, bars them from missionary work and does not allow the organization to give money to homosexual groups or causes.
“We most deeply regret the condemning message you have sent in the name of Christ to all gay and lesbian persons by your action,” wrote the Rev. Larry Bethune in a letter from the church August 16.
“Because it is God’s call for our congregation to minister with gay and lesbian Baptist Christians and their families, we cannot in good conscience support an organization which discriminates against our brothers and sisters in Christ . . . any more than we could do so if the CBF discriminated on the basis of race or gender,” Bethune wrote.
This isn’t the first scrape University Baptist has had over its policy of welcoming homosexuals. The Austin Baptist Association voted to oust the church in 1995 after University Baptist ordained a gay deacon. The Baptist General Convention of Texas’s executive committee voted to end its affiliation with University Baptist in 1998.
University Baptist is a member of the American Baptist Churches, U.S.A., a Baptist denomination that continues to debate whether to take a stand on churches that allow non-celibate homosexual members.