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Tennessee pastor predicts motion to rescind CBF statement on homosexuality will go forward

ATLANTA (BP)–A motion to rescind a statement, she believes should never have been made by the CBF Coordinating Council, won’t die, said a Tennessee pastor. Council members voted it down during a June 27 plenary session. Instead, she predicts it will reappear for voting by the members and partners during the June 28-30 annual assembly in Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center.

Dixie Lea Petrey, a pastor at Shannondale Retirement Community in Knoxville, Tenn., brought the motion to rescind the statement on homosexuality. She previously presented the motion to rescind at the February CC meeting in Atlanta in order to give notice to the CC of her intent to bring it to the June meeting for consideration. At the June 27 session of the CC the motion failed to receive a simple majority vote after about an hour of discussion.

The motion Petrey wants rescinded was a statement passed by the CC at their October 2000 meeting. The statement affirms “celibacy in singleness” and “faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman” as the “foundation of a Christian sexual ethic,” and says, “”Because of this organizational value, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship does not allow for the expenditure of funds for organizations or causes that condone, advocate or affirm homosexual practice. Neither does this CBF organizational value allow for the purposeful hiring of a staff person or the sending of a missionary who is a practicing homosexual.”

In a personal interview, June 27, Petrey said her motion was not in support of or in opposition to homosexuality, but instead a response to what she calls a redefinition of what the CBF is about.

“I am concerned that what we did should have been a resolution, which means the whole body, all the members of the general assembly have to do it because it is a policy statement … it is ethical … it is a moral statement,” Petrey said. “It is, some people might say, it’s a political statement, and our constitution and resolution part of it does say there is a process of having a three-quarter vote of committee as well as a three-quarter vote of the assembly. Then it’s adopted as a CBF statement.

“If I understand the purpose statement, it says very clearly that we believe in the priesthood of the believer and we believe in the autonomy of the local church. In passing the organizational values it meant that the coordinating council part of the body had made a moral, ethical statement for the whole body … and from the first vote … and even today’s vote … it is very evident that within our organization and within the fellowship, the CBF, there are Baptist Christians of conviction who have different concepts related to homosexuality.

“I believe to stand behind who we said we are … is amazing. I don’t mind worshipping with … being with … people who have different interpretations with the help of the Holy Spirit, and their understanding of who Christ was about moral ethical issues. I have a real problem with closing our eyes to what everybody has voted on, which is our purpose statement, and doing what we did without gathering consensus, without asking the larger body to be a part of that.”

Stopping short of submitting her motion to the General Assembly, however, Petrey said she had heard many others are poised to take that action. She will speak in favor of a motion to rescind the statement if the issue comes up and she has the opportunity.

“I’ve been on the CC for five years,” said Petrey. “One of the things I have sensed is that the group itself wants to make it open for others to express their opinion and to use the democratic process, so on the floor there is the effort to do that.”

Petrey said the decision to oppose the move is simple. “What you do with your money needs to follow what your purpose as an organization is.” She said she’ll have to just wait and decide what she wants to do after the General Assembly votes.

“We have this group that’s been elected and then there’s the general body,” said Petrey. “It’s just like an autonomous local church; you have a process. I have felt like I have done what I needed to do within the council, and now I will see what happens in our General Assembly. I think CBF has done amazing things in the 10 years as an organization and I’ve been glad to be a part of it.”

One of Petrey’s concerns about the way the statement reads is that it might hinder the hiring process for missionaries and others.

“We hire many people, we have many places where we do missions,” said Petrey. “So what kind of questions do we have in the interview process?”

As far as teaching about whether homosexuality is right or wrong according to scripture, Petrey said her church encourages people to “be in prayer, to read their Bible, and as individuals come and ask [her]. Then I am in dialogue with them and encourage them to come to their own conviction.

“I would say I believe you’re a child of God and God reaches out to you in a way that helps you understand God’s leading,” Petrey said. “… I trust that you and God, with the help of the scripture, work together.”

On the authority of scripture Petrey said there are many different terms and views.

“I still think scripture is alive, the Holy Spirit is alive, and God is alive and moving,” said Petrey. “I in no way want to limit the movement of the Holy Spirit and so to be true to what I understand of God’s love in my own life and ministry, I want to give full credence to my brothers and sisters to do the same.”

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  • Joni B. Hannigan