Raleigh White Baptist Church, a small white congregation in Albany, Georgia, charged with being racist towards a black congregation that they shared their building with, was expelled from the Southern Baptist Convention Monday and will not be allowed back into the fellowship unless they repent of their sin.
Roger S. Oldham, spokesman for the convention's executive committee confirmed with the Tennessean that the committee voted to withdraw fellowship from the church during its morning meeting in Dallas where the organization's annual convention officially kicks offs at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center on Tuesday.
The church did not immediately respond to calls for comment from The Christian Post Tuesday.
In an April 3 statement however, the Mallary Baptist Association, which oversees more than 50 churches in Southwest Georgia, said they were first forced to expel the small white church over "racially motivated" attitudes toward the growing New Seasons Church which is predominantly black.
"The reason for this action involved the church's un-Christian attitudes and acts toward another associational church. These attitudes and acts were racially motivated. Thus they do not reflect the values and mission of the Mallary Baptist Association," the MBA said.
After their decision, the MBA returned all the 2018 financial gifts made by Raleigh White Baptist Church but also left the door open for reconciliation.
"A pathway to reinstatement to fellowship with our association" is available, the MBA said, "If the church openly repents of their sin against the other church and demonstrates the genuineness of repentance by allowing an associational-appointed mediator to work to reconcile biblically the relationship between the congregations so that both churches can minister effectively to the surrounding community."
The Christian Index, the Georgia Baptist Mission Board's newspaper, said the relationship between the two churches began in June 2015, when the declining white congregation allowed New Seasons Church, led by Pastor Marcus Glass, to worship in its building with open arms.
In about six months however, as New Seasons Church continued growing and began using more of the white church's facilities, such as their gym with a basketball court, their fellowship hall and Sunday School rooms, disagreements emerged and the attitudes of the white congregation members began to shift.
The white church members accused New Seasons members of things like not returning dinner plates to their proper storage location on kitchen shelves.
Relations between the two churches worsened when Raleigh White planned its annual homecoming. The church gave New Seasons a 30-day notice on Feb. 18, stating that they would not be able to use its facilities until 2:30 p.m. on the day of its homecoming event, set for March 18. Glass protested the time change noting that during most of the blocked off time no one would be using the church facilities for most of the period. Raleigh White relented, allowing the New Seasons to start their service at noon – a half hour later than normal.
On the day of the homecoming visitors to New Seasons who were unaware of the change, showed up early for the worship service but were turned away at the doors of the church.
A daughter of one of the visitors was directed to a convenience store down the road when she asked to use the restroom and other visitors were told to wait in the cars until the service began. A pastor who had showed up early to discuss his late wife's funeral arrangements was also turned away, the Christian Index reported.
San Diego Pastor A.B. Vines told the publication that while he knows that the SBC has been preaching against racism this is the first time, to his knowledge, that the convention had ever disfellowshipped a church for racism.
"As far as I know this is the first time the Southern Baptist Convention has ever disfellowshipped a church for racism. We have preached about it, have talked about it, passed resolutions about it but this is the first time we have actually taken action about it," he said.