Updated, Monday, Nov. 14: In a letter sent to church members Monday, George Mason, pastor of Wilshire Baptist Church, shared the results of a “motion to affirm that the church bylaws recognize a single class of membership, which would allow for all members to be treated equally, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, with respect to leadership, ordination, baby dedications and marriage.”
The measure, he says, passed by a 61 percent favorable vote.
“This result culminates a 14-month process of discernment in our church that included intense study, fervent prayer, vigorous conversation, sincere disagreement and record participation,” he notes.
Addressing the Baptist General Convention of Texas warning, Mason notes, “The outcome of this vote puts our church’s historic 65-year partnership with the Baptist General Convention of Texas [BGCT] in question. The BGCT has made public what we have sought to keep a church matter out of respect for them and for those who have struggled with the process within our church. We will take up the matter of our relationship to the BGCT on our own terms in the near future, as cooperation with such bodies is voluntary and springs primarily from the church to the convention, rather than the other way round.”
He adds, at the end of the letter, which further explains the church’s voting history and process, that, “Some of our cherished friends and longtime members have made or will now make the decision to leave our church. Others will struggle with how they will find their place among us in the future, while holding a different view. Still others will be coming to us, eager to participate in a church that welcomes them and their family members or friends who are LGBT Christians. The challenge before us is what it has always been: to love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor (Romans 12:10).”
Wilshire Baptist Church is one of two Texas churches facing expulsion from the Baptist General Convention of Texas—an umbrella group that “encourages, facilitates and connects churches in their work to fulfill God’s mission …”—due to its “accepting stance” on LGBT members and leaders.
According to The Baptist Standard, “officials with the Baptist General Convention of Texas notified two churches an affirming stance toward LGBT members places them outside the bounds of ‘harmonious cooperation’ with the state convention.”
BGCT Executive Director David Hardage, BGCT President René Maciel and Executive Board Chairman David Russell sent letters Nov. 8 to First Baptist Church in Austin along with the one to Wilshire.
Wilshire Pastor George Mason, who writes a column for the Advocate, told The Baptist Standard the decision by BGCT leaders is both “provocative” and “premature,” because at the time he received the letter, church members had not even begun voting on the matter.
During my last correspondence with Mason (we haven’t been in touch since this latest news, though we are working on that), he noted that over the course of two Sundays — that is, yesterday and next Sunday, Nov. 20, the church will vote on full inclusion of LGBT persons, including the possibilities of ordination and marriage.
God only knows what we will look like after the votes are counted, he said at the time, adding that this has been challenging, to say the least. The move leaves many members enthused (and others simply leaving).
Despite the letter of warning, Mason proceeded with voting yesterday, telling a WFAA reporter, “Our church knows that there are consequences of our decision. We think there will be many positive consequences for being able to say to the LGBT community that they are welcome here fully, in Christ.”
Thousands of readers expressed surprise and disappointment last month after we reported on a young man whose membership from a different local church was revoked due to his homosexuality.
While others reminded us that the belief that people who practice LGBT (currently a protected class, civilly) lifestyles are sinful and intolerable within a church body is a tenet of many common religions and denominations.
Other Baptist churches have broken ties over the years with the Baptist Convention for similar reasons. In 2010 Broadway Baptist in Fort Worth made news after ending its affiliation.