Conflict over homosexuality at a moderate Texas Baptist church has become widely public despite the church leadership's hopes to keep the dispute internal.
Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth is debating whether an anniversary pictorial directory should feature family photos of congregants, which would include photos of homosexual couples who are part of the church. Deacons of the church voted on Monday to recommend no photos of families but just that of church groups in the directory.
The directory is part of the church's celebration of its 125th anniversary. It has raised the broader and more controversial question of whether the church would be moving beyond "welcoming" gay people to "affirming" homosexuality if photos of gay couples were to be included.
"Many feel so strongly about this issue that a church directory in which gay couples are pictured together seems dishonest. And others feel just as strongly that a church directory in which gay couples are pictured separately seems dishonest," Senior Pastor Brett Younger has said.
A congregational vote on whether to include photos was postponed from December 2007 to Feb. 24.
But in the weeks leading up to the vote, troubles are mounting and some members want to oust the pastor.
A group of congregants called Friends for the Future of Broadway submitted 162 signatures to the deacons on Sunday, requesting for a meeting to vote on whether Younger should "vacate the pulpit."
The letter, signed by Robert Saul, states the pastor has created an atmosphere of "polarization, turmoil, [and] tension" and mishandled the directory issue. The group also lists other complaints about Younger's leadership and says he has led the church in too liberal a direction on homosexuality and theology, as reported by The Dallas Morning News.
Only 100 signatures are required to force a vote according to church bylaws, group spokesman Robert Saul told the local newspaper.
Some church members, reportedly not affiliated with the Friends group, had offered Younger $50,000 to resign, the pastor confirmed with the local newspaper. He did not take the bribe.
"This is a chance for our church to grow spiritually, to learn more about who we are and who we can be under God," Younger said.
Younger has received support from more than 200 Broadway congregants who signed a statement opposing the effort to fire him.
Although Younger and the church deacons have asked members not to debate the issue with the media, the conflict has been detailed on several blogs which have been cited by the press.
The blogger of the Web site progressivebaptist.net had planned to stop blogging about the Broadway Baptist conflict, but after realizing the issue is already out in the open, has decided to continue.
One of the more than 200 signers supporting Younger, the blogger argued that the central issue is not Younger but the direction of the church.
"Those on the other side think that if we fire Younger, we will be on the path to being the historic, conservative church they want," the Broadway Baptist blogger wrote on Saturday. "That is not the case. If they succeed in firing Younger, we will still have all the same questions, conflicts, and problems that we currently face."