N.C. Baptists May Bar Churches Endorsing Homosexuality

The second largest association of Baptist churches in the nation is slated to vote Tuesday on a measure that would oust churches that endorse homosexuality.

Messengers to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina's annual meeting in Greensboro are expected to approve the exclusion measure after years of division that had already resulted in several expelled churches along the way.

"Bill [Sanderson of Raleigh] thought it was timely that the North Carolina Baptists address the issue head on, and we said we consider homosexual activity a sin," said state convention spokesman Norman Jameson, according to the Charlotte Observer. "We will not view favorably churches that allow that practice."

Sanderson had brought the homosexuality issue to the forefront at the 2005 meeting.

The state convention has 1.2 million members and 4,080 churches and is part of the Southern Baptist Convention – the largest Protestant denomination in the United States. The SBC position statement on sexuality affirms marriage between one man and one woman and states that "homosexuality is not a 'valid alternative lifestyle.' The Bible condemns it as sin."

It further states that it is not "unforgivable sin."

A group of about 20 churches listed as a supporter of the Alliance of Baptists – a support group that endorses gay rights – are under suspicion and opened to being questioned.

One of those listed churches is Myers Park Baptist Church in Charlotte. Its senior minister, Stephen Shoemaker, told the Charlotte Observer, "We regret very much that the state convention is taking this exclusionary action."

Approval for the exclusion measure requires a two-thirds vote of the nearly 3,800 convention attendants. And the expulsion of a church requires two people to file complaints to the state convention which would initiate an investigation.

One local pastor showed no surprise to the upcoming vote.

"There is sadness, but this is not a great surprise to any of us," said Richard Kremer, pastor of St. John's Baptist Church. "This is one small step in a spectrum of events. You can be sure they'll narrow the tent along the way."

This year's convention runs Nov. 13-15 and will address other significant issues with long term ramifications, including the way they nominate trustees, extracting their children from public schools in favor of Christian schools, leadership elections, and evangelism.