Southern Baptist Church to Bless Homosexual Union
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ Southern Baptist church, defying its parent church, has voted in favor of blessing a gay union.
″We’re taking a stand toward a responsible expression of sexuality,″ said the pastor, the Rev. M. Mahan Siler Jr. ″It’s a stand of support toward persons who want to commit to a long-term monogamous relationship.″
Nearly two-thirds of the congregation at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church agreed to permit a service blessing the union of two homosexual men. No date for the service was set.
Asked whether the policy violates the Bible, Siler said: ″I know of no reference in the scripture either way to a committed monogamous caring relationship between homosexual persons.
″The examples speak against promiscuous, exploitive sexual activity, which is regarded as sinful whether it is homosexual or heterosexual.″
The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest of more than 20 Baptist organizations in the United States. Most of its 12 million members are from the South.
Traditionally, Baptist churches are autonomous and democratic. Individual congregations make their own decisions, rather than following policy set down by central leadership.
The convention’s executive committee has denounced Pullen and Olin T. Binkley Memorial Baptist Church in Chapel Hill, which is considering whether to give a gay divinity student license to preach.
At its meeting last month, the committee reprimanded the churches for condoning ″the gross perversion and unquestioned sin″ of homosexuality and asked them to take a traditional stance on homosexuality.
″Neither the Southern Baptist Convention nor the executive committee has any control nor any desire to control those churches,″ said committee member T.C. Pinckney of Alexandria, Va.
He said the committee was taking what it perceives to be a biblical stand and that those who do not agree with it define themselves as not being in line with biblical belief regarding homosexuality. Pullen could be ousted from the convention for its decision.
″Homosexuality is against God’s word, and this clearly indicates to such a church that is not acceptable in Southern Baptist polity,″ Pinckney said.
Pullen members expressed little concern over the convention’s actions.
″The Southern Baptist Convention should not be allowed to tell local churches what to do,″ said Michael Viar, youth minister at Pullen. ″For them to now be able to dictate to the local church - the ayatollahs will be coming out of the woodwork.″
In a ballot, 94 percent of the congregation supported full membership for homosexuals and 64 percent backed a service to bless the union.
The secret vote was taken by mail, and 531 of the 750 ballots sent out were returned.