Gay-Friendly Texas Church Breaks Away From Baptist Convention

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday September 15, 2010

A Texas church that had been in trouble with its denomination in the past for its friendly stance toward gays has broken away rather than exclude its LGBT parishioners.

Broadway Baptist Church, located in Fort Worth, withdrew from the Baptist General Convention of Texas, reported the Dallas Morning News on Sept. 15. In recent years, churches have left the Episcopalian mainstream rather than go along with that denomination's acceptance of gay congregants and clergy, and similar breakaway churches have left the folds of other denominations. But typically, the churches that pull away from the mainstream do so because they do not support GLBT members of the faith.

In the case of Broadway Baptist, the opposite was true. Pastor Brent Beasley said that it was "sad" for his church to strike out on its own. But the gay-welcoming church was determined to retain its identity as a place for LGBT people of faith.

"We're committed to welcoming all people here, and we would not want to do anything that would be hurtful to anyone just to please the BGCT," Beasley told the media.

The article recounted that two years ago the issue of the church's gay and lesbian members erupted into a disagreement over whether or not partnered gays could be shown in the church directory along with their same-sex significant others.

Last year, the Southern Baptist Convention expelled the gay-friendly church because, executive committee member Stephen Wilson said at the time, "the church was, in effect, saying that it was okay to have members who are open homosexuals." The church could be readmitted to the SBC if it "unambiguously demonstrates its friendly cooperation with the Convention under" the SBC's Article III, which sets out membership requirements--among them the stipulation that, "Among churches not in cooperation with the convention are churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior."

The SBC has stated its opposition to gays elsewhere, with its Web site setting out a number of position statements, including a dismissal of gays and lesbians as having made a choice to embrace an invalid "alternative lifestyle." The organization's position statement on gays declares that, "We affirm God's plan for marriage and sexual intimacy-one man and one woman, for life." The SBC historically has opposed social progress, including episodes in which it embraced white supremacy and defended slavery.

At its own website, Broadway Baptist Church assures readers, "Broadway Baptist Church is a community of worship, prayer, fellowship, service and celebration. We are a vital and diverse community of faith, coming from many different backgrounds, but unified in the love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. We invite you to be part of our family of faith! You will be warmly welcomed."

Rather than forsake that philosophy, the church voted "without dissent" to leave the Beasley said the church voted "without dissent" last week to leave the BGCT. Beasley made the break official with a letter to the group's executive director, Randel Everett, on Sept. 13.

"It is a sad day for us that we are unable to continue this relationship," Everett told the Dallas Morning News. "I don't know of any congregation that has been more of a strategic partner to Texas Baptists than Broadway."

But the BGCT recently voted to expel another gay-friendly church, Royal Lane Baptist Church of Dallas, the article noted.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.