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Strife puts Broadway at cultural epicenter

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–“It’s a good day to be a Methodist,” joked one member of Broadway Baptist Church who asked not to be identified. “They just move ’em around whenever they need to.”

On this chilly March morning, several hundred members did what they do every Sunday at the Fort Worth, Texas, church. The difference was that they would vote after the morning service on whether to vacate the pulpit, in effect firing senior pastor Brett Younger.

Maybe within the proverbial back rooms (and certainly in the blogosphere) people were at each others’ throats. But here on Sunday morning it seemed as if Broadway members were just anxious for the controversy in their midst to be over -– even if it could mean losing some fellow worshippers.

Certainly there were signs that something was afoot. Younger joked that “this may turn out to be high attendance Sunday.” The bottom floor was filled, even the rows up front, and the balcony was approaching capacity.

The simmering controversy began with a dispute over whether homosexual couples in the church should be allowed to be photographed as couples for Broadway’s upcoming directory. Younger subsequently invited, then quickly uninvited, controversial theologian Marcus Borg, a proponent of the “emergent church” model which a sizable number of church members find unacceptable. There were rumblings within the church over a decline in attendance. Finally, in February a member offered Younger $50,000 to resign and another group of members called for a vote to vacate the pulpit.

As the March 8 vote drew near, those who strongly supported Younger, those who equally opposed him and those who were either on the fence or uninformed listened to the church’s internationally renowned organ, responded to the pastor and the Scripture readings where indicated in the order of worship, sang hymns and contemplated Younger’s sermon on Matthew 16:13-16. They listened as Younger introduced six new members of the church after the sermon.

At least on the surface, both sides played nice as this particular Southern Baptist church became the temporary epicenter in the struggle within American Christianity on how accepting to be toward those who live the homosexual lifestyle and postmodern theology. But things would not be truly settled at Broadway after the vote, no matter how things looked on the surface. The same can be said of the broader controversy in America.
Samuel Smith is a writer based in Fort Worth, Texas.

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