West Virginia Church Ejected by Baptist Denomination Over Pastor's LGBT Activism

First Baptist Church of Fairmont, West Virginia.
First Baptist Church of Fairmont, West Virginia. | (Photo: Facebook/First Baptist Church of Fairmont, WV)

A church in West Virginia was voted out of its state Baptist convention by a local church body due to the pastor's support for homosexuality.

The Fairmont Baptist Association, a local body of American Baptist Churches, USA, voted to remove First Baptist Church of Fairmont from fellowship over Pastor Valerie Gittings' views on LGBT issues.

In an interview with The Christian Post on Wednesday, Gittings explained what has changed at FBC Fairmont since they were removed from Convention membership.

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"We will no longer be able to work in cooperation with the Fairmont Baptist Association churches on shared worship services, mission projects, and other events. We will not have access to resources the Association and Region provide to member churches," noted Gittings.

Gittings also told CP that her church wants to remain affiliated with ABC, USA and so they are in talks to join the Rochester Genesee Region of American Baptist Churches.

While the vote was taken on April 9, the decision only gained local and national attention this week.

The Christian Post reached out to the West Virginia Baptist Convention for comment and will update this article when a response is received.

Last September, Gittings spoke in favor of a proposed ordinance for the city of Fairmont that would add "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to their list of protected classes.

That put her at odds with the West Virginia Baptist Convention's position against homosexuality and in particular its opposition to having clergy take differing stances on the issue.

Earlier this year, the Fairmont Baptist Association opted to go through with a vote on whether to disfellow the congregation due to Gittings' position and her refusal to resign as pastor.

In an interview with the Times West Virginia in February, Gittings explained that she did not believe FBC Fairmont had to be removed from the denomination over her views.

"I don't think this severance of the ties is necessary," said Gittings back in February. "I think we could work through something like we did at the church."

"We've had a long-standing relationship with West Virginia Baptist through the Fairmont Association and it seems a shame to just dissolve that, but they have a totally different view on this apparently."

Gittings explained to the Times West Virginia that she believed the passages in the Bible denouncing homosexuality were only meant to be understood as dealing with "inhospitality, heterosexual rape, pagan ritual sex and orgies, and pederasty" rather than "committed, monogamous relationships."

"We contend that gay orientation is not a choice; not only should gay behavior not be viewed as sinful, but gays are entitled to the same treatment as heterosexuals. We believe that gays should be welcome to participate fully in all areas of life, including the church," said Gittings.

Gittings' interpretation of the Bible's verses on the topic of homosexuality is not universally accepted, however.

The Committee for Bible Translation released the 2011 New International Version of the Bible, one of the changes made to the text was to make verses that address homosexuality clearer.

These included 1 Corinthians 6:9, having the term "homosexual offenders" changed to "men who have sex with men" and Leviticus 18:22 having the phrase "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman," changed to "Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman."

"The 1984 NIV rendering ... did not make clear whether homosexual activity per se was being condemned or whether only certain kinds of 'offensive' homosexual activity was being condemned," explained Douglas J. Moo, chair of the committee, in a 2012 interview with CP. "The updated NIV makes clear that the Greek words here indicate any kind of homosexual activity."

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