After months of praying, leaders at the University Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, announced Sunday that they have decided to allow their ministers to perform same-sex weddings inside their church building even though it goes against the official policy of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
“Four months ago, the leadership team stood before you and asked for your prayers and your voices regarding building use and pastor autonomy for same-sex marriages,” church leaders noted in a letter to the congregation.
“We believed then, as we do now that UBC is a place that celebrates intellectual and theological diversity, but felt that our ambiguity on these polices had the potential to create harm for those in the LGBTQ community,” the letter continued.
Leaders then described the “prayerful contemplation” and other steps they took before making a decision that they are aware is not fully embraced by their congregation but is the “best collective/theological conclusion.”
“On the matter of building use for same-sex marriages, we have voted yes. On the matter of pastoral autonomy with regard to performing LGBTQ marriages, we have voted yes,” the letter said.
“Though it is not our polity at UBC to take congregational votes, in January we said that it was our aim to come to our best collective/theological conclusions on these decisions, and so it is important to share that our votes were consistent with both congregational and pastoral feedback.”
It continued: “We know that for some this announcement comes with great joy, and we sit with and among you today. We know that for some this announcement comes with loss, and we sit with and among you today. We know that for many this is a day of uncertainty or ambiguity—too much, not enough, or some other singular or mixed emotional highs and lows—and we sit with and among you, too.”
The official position adopted by the Baptist General Convention of Texas on same-sex marriage in 2016, is that it is grounds for declaring a church outside the bounds of cooperation with the state convention.
In February 2017 three churches — Lake Shore Baptist in Waco, First Baptist in Austin and Wilshire Baptist in Dallas — were declared “outside of harmonious cooperation” with the BGCT in line with that policy.
According to Baptist Standard, University Baptist Pastor Josh Carney "recognized the policy University Baptist Church has adopted regarding same-sex marriage is contrary to the stated position of the BGCT, as well as Baylor University and Truett Theological Seminary."
Truett Theological Seminary’s Kyle Lake Center for Effective Preaching is named for a 1997 Truett Seminary graduate who died while serving as pastor of University Baptist Church.
Joshua Minatrea, BGCT communications director, told the Baptist Standard that, “the convention’s executive leadership and elected officers will work together over the coming days to gather information and, if needed, refer the situation to the Executive Board for further consideration.”
Carney added, “We are interested in maintaining our relationship with the BGCT and with Truett. We will continue to honor them and speak well of them. We will celebrate the good work they are doing, despite what is decided."
Correction, May 28, 2019: A previous headline for this article stated University Baptist is "connected" to Baylor University. While Baylor's seminary has a center named after a former pastor of University Baptist, there is no official connection between Baylor and University Baptist.
Correction, May 28, 2019: A previous version of this story attributed a quote from Joshua Minatrea to a University Baptist Pastor Josh Carney. It also incorrectly attributed a quote and paraphrase from Josh Carney, "that University Baptist Church’s decision is contrary to the stated position of the BGCT, as well as Baylor University and Truett Theological Seminary," to Minatrea.