SBC Gives DC Baptist Convention 90 Days to Sever Ties With Church Led by Lesbian Pastors

Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. seen in this undated photo.
Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. seen in this undated photo. | (Photo: Paul Rosstead)

The District of Columbia Baptist Convention has been given 90 days to remove a church with lesbian co-pastors from fellowship or risk severing ties with the Southern Baptist Convention.

SBC's official news service, Baptist Press, reports that the SBC Executive Committee approved a motion on Feb. 20 giving the DCBC until May 20 to end its affiliation with churches "that have demonstrated a faith or practice affirming, approving or endorsing homosexual behavior."

The motion effectively gives DCBC the option to either sever its ties with the 155-year-old Calvary Baptist Church or help lead the church to "repentance."

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In January 2017, Calvary Baptist hired lesbian couple Maria Swearingen and Sally Sarratt to be the new co-pastors. Although Calvary officially severed its ties with the SBC in 2012, DCBC gives its churches the choice of affiliation.

"If none of those scenarios materializes, the DCBC will lose immediately its authorization to receive and disburse Cooperative Program (CP) funds," Baptist Press states. DCBC also risks losing other SBC contributions.

Robert Cochran, executive director of the D.C. convention, told media that DCBC "has not affirmed, approved or endorsed homosexual behavior in any way at any time" and "respects the official statements" on homosexuality by both American and Southern Baptists."

The SBC amended its constitution in the early 1990s to exclude churches that affirm homosexuality, according to Baptist News Global.

"Calvary's actions do not reflect on the D.C. Baptist Convention or any other convention in any way," Cochran told Baptist Press in a statement.

Cochran also said he delivered a statement to the SBC Executive Committee Bylaws Workgroup and Administrative Committee explaining that the apostle John "never cut ties to any of these seven congregations [in Revelation 2 and 3], despite their shortcomings."

Baptist Press reports that just seven out of the 149 churches in the DCBC give to SBC causes.

The motion to give DCBC 90 days "was a decision that there's no doubt we needed to make," SBC Executive Committee chairman Stephen Rummage told Baptist Press.

Rummage added, however, that the decision was "made with great sadness."

According to Baptist News Global, the original motion called for the immediate severing of ties with DCBC.

However, the executive committee was asked instead to give the DCBC 90 days by Joseph Lyles, pastor of DCBC-cooperating Fort Foote Baptist Church in Fort Washington, Md.

Lyles said that the executive committee "was kind and considerate to try to bring about redemptive restoration."

"We're trying to extend the olive branch, and I think it was received," Lyles told Baptist Press. "So I was encouraged."

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