A Washington, D.C.-based Baptist church once affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention has decided to sever its ties over differences regarding ordination and political matters.
The leadership of Calvary Baptist Church, a 150-year-old congregation formed by abolitionists who broke away from a pro-slavery church, voted unanimously on Wednesday to disaffiliate itself from the SBC.
The Rev. Amy Butler, senior pastor at Calvary Baptist, told The Christian Post that the decision came due to differences the congregation had with the SBC on various issues.
"This is our 150th anniversary this year and our congregation is in the process of rebirth and it seemed to be the appropriate time to begin thinking about who we are," said Butler.
"We felt that the Southern Baptist Convention and their approach in dealing with public media and how they stand on issues [are] not in keeping with our Baptist principles: autonomy of the local church, separation of church and state, priesthood of all believers."
Calvary Baptist sent a letter to then SBC President Bryant Wright outlining its issues with the denomination back in February. Wright responded to the church's letter not long afterwards.
Roger S. "Sing" Oldham, vice president for convention communications and relations for the SBC executive committee, told CP that Wright's letter was brief.
"[Calvary Baptist] felt like some individuals who have had in the past or currently had leadership roles in the Convention have been identified with certain political agendas to use their phrase and they didn't like that," said Oldham.
"Dr. Wright responded to their letter briefly and did state that he respectfully takes exception with the allegations that the SBC has interfered with the autonomy of the local church."
According to Oldham, the process for disaffiliation involves a church contacting the SBC and making it known that they do not wish to continue being affiliated with the SBC.
"If a church chooses not to cooperate with the Convention any longer, they can do it quietly, in other words simply write a letter to the Convention offices," said Oldham.
"Once we receive word of that, we honor the request because all of our relationships are voluntary and based upon mutual cooperation. There is no quote 'member' church in the Convention; there are cooperating churches."
Regarding the issues of groups like Calvary Baptist about the nature of the SBC, Oldham told CP that the convention has been consistent with The Baptist Faith and Message and has not gone into a different theological or political direction.
"If you look at the resolutions adopted by the Convention over the years, they historically have been generally consistent with the theological positions we have embraced now," said Oldham.
"If the culture, or society in general, thinks that believing the Bible in its teachings on a particular matter is conservative or partisan then that would be their decision but we believe in the validity of Scripture."
According to Butler, Calvary Baptist plans to retain its affiliation with four other Baptist groups: American Baptist Churches USA, the Alliance of Baptists, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the District of Columbia Baptist Convention.