Homosexuals have been part of a Baptist church in Texas for decades but a new pictorial directory of membership has divided the church over whether homosexual couples should be pictured together.
Members of Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth postponed a vote originally scheduled for this past Sunday that would have determined the layout of the directory with options including photos of gay couples, photos of gay people individually but not as couples, or photos omitting all individual and family photos, according to The Dallas Morning News.
"We will continue to discuss this issue together as a church family," Kathy Madeja, chair of the deacons, said in a statement. "We do not want to rush to make a decision, but rather to continue to listen to each other and for God's leading for our church."
A decision is expected after deacons make a recommendation on Feb. 24.
The pictorial directory is part of the church's celebration of its 125th anniversary next year. While the moderate Baptist church has long welcomed homosexuals, the possibility of including photos of gay couples in the directory "was troubling to many," Brett Younger, senior pastor said, according to Baptist Press. "[T]hey saw it as a change of direction and it is understandable that they would feel that way."
Some members believe homosexuality is a sin, Younger mentioned during Sunday morning worship, according to the local newspaper. Others, he said, note that Bible verses have been used to justify polygamy, slavery and the oppression of women.
"Broadway has for years had an amazing policy on including gay people. It's not a policy that a committee came up with, or the staff or the deacons. It's an unwritten policy that came out of the shared life of this congregation, a policy I believe was inspired by the Spirit," Younger said, as reported by BP. "This church has for a long time included both gay people who are committed to Christ and members who aren't affirming and who have serious questions, but who are willing to share the church. This has allowed us to be a congregation where the conversation can take place about being gay and being Christians."
But including photos of gay couples in the directory would be too strong an endorsement of homosexuality, some members feel. On the other side of the argument, they say showing gay members in individual photos would constitute unfair "judgment" against gay couples.
"[I]t's hard not to feel like we'll all lose," the head pastor said regarding the controversy.
There's a third option, Younger recommended forgoing all individual and family pictures in favor of more attention to the church's worship, Sunday school and ministries.
"There are a lot of people who want to take this and make it a statement one way and a lot of people who want to take this make and a statement the other way," he said, according to BP. "But there are a lot more of us who just want to go on learning how to serve Christ and one another better."