Elevation Church withdraws affiliation with Southern Baptist Convention

Steven Furtick, pastor of the popular Elevation Church in North Carolina discussing racism on Sunday May 31, 2020.
Steven Furtick, pastor of the popular Elevation Church in North Carolina discussing racism on Sunday May 31, 2020. | Screenshot/YouTube

The more than 10,000-member Elevation Church in North Carolina, led by celebrity preacher Steven Furtick, has withdrawn its affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention after more than 20 years of cooperation with the nation's largest Protestant denomination.

While Elevation Church did not appear to make the decision public, a copy of a letter published online dated June 26 shows that the church informed the SBC Executive Committee that its withdrawal from the denomination was "effective immediately."

"This letter is to inform you that Elevation Church is withdrawing its affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention effective immediately. You will find that our Statement of Beliefs on our website is very much in line with the Baptist Faith and Message — we have no intention of changing those core beliefs," Chunks Corbett, CFO of the North Carolina megachurch, wrote in the letter.

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"We have no plans to make a public announcement on this decision — we have too much to do in reaching a world that needs the love of Jesus. Should your Credentials Committee decide to make this decision by Elevation public, we will only respond with a copy of this letter in anyone inquiring about the notification," Corbett added.

The letter did not state a reason for the decision. Some Southern Baptists like Denny Burke, professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, the undergraduate school of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, surmise that it could likely be due to a recent vote by messengers at the SBC Annual Meeting in New Orleans to ban women from serving as a "pastor of any kind."

"I was today years old when I learned that Steven Furtick's Elevation Church was a part of the SBC. They are SBC no more," tweeted Burk. "Reading between the lines here, I suspect that this is a consequence of the clarity from messengers at the New Orleans convention."

The proposed amendment to the SBC constitution clarifying that women cannot serve as pastors passed with approximately 80% of the vote from more than 12,000 messengers on June 14 at the SBC's Annual Meeting in June.

The vote on the amendment also came just hours after messengers voted to uphold the removal of Rick Warren's Saddleback Church in California for allowing a woman to serve in the office of teaching pastor. The removal of Fern Creek Baptist Church of Louisville, Kentucky, for having a woman pastor was also affirmed.

During the meeting, roughly nine out of every 10 messengers voted to disfellowship churches that have women in the role of pastor. 

The Southern Baptist Convention's Baptist Faith & Message 2000 states that "the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture."

The amendment proposed by Virginia Pastor Mike Law of Arlington Baptist Church will become permanent if it gains majority support at the SBC annual meeting in 2024, according to the SBC Constitution.

Reactions to Elevation Church's withdrawal from affiliation with the SBC have been varied.

Dwight McKissic, who founded and currently leads Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, saw Elevation Church's decision as quite consequential for the denomination.

"The dominoes are falling, mostly privately, but they're falling. And they will continue to fall," he tweeted.

Christian blogger Michelle Lesley, a Baptist mother of six with over 18,000 Twitter followers, sees Elevation's departure as a positive for SBC, accusing Furtick of being a "false teacher."

"Since Furtick refuses to repent, this is the next best possible outcome," she said in a post on Twitter in response to the news. "It is right and good to praise God that a Scripture twisting, egalitarian, wolf of a false teacher has left the building. That's one of the major goals and instructions of the NT."

Contact: Follow Leonardo Blair on Twitter: @leoblair Follow Leonardo Blair on Facebook: LeoBlairChristianPost

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