Baptist church ordains gay man, asked to leave Baptist group

Published: Oct. 13, 2012 at 1:57 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 18, 2012 at 2:13 AM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A local church could get kicked out of a Virginia Baptist organization for ordaining an openly gay man. The Baptist General Association of Virginia says it doesn't want people in leadership who are gay and acting on it.

Ginter Park Baptist Church in Richmond has been affiliated with the Baptist group for almost 100 years. Now, they're being asked to stop affiliation with the group, because of who they're letting lead the church. If they don't withdraw by December, they will get kicked out.

The BGAV says it will stop accepting money from Ginter Park Baptist Church, because the organization says it does not want to support this church's decision.

"We've asked them to withdraw because we prefer they make that decision by the end of the year, but if not we would stop receiving their contributions," said John Upton, Executive Director of the Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV) and the Virginia Baptist Mission Board.

BGAV arranges mission work and other faith services, representing Baptist Churches in Virginia. Now, the board has decided it won't take money from Ginter Park because of the church's decision to have a gay worship leader.

"We also highly esteem the Biblical view of marriage," explained Upton. "And the way that most of our churches view that is they affirm the Biblical principals of marriage being between one man and one woman. There's no celebration here at all. There's deep grief in this and we're losing some friends here."

Upton went on to say that, "Virginia Baptists really have no desire to join many groups that demonize or shun or reject homosexuals. Those who struggle with same-sex attraction and I also say that we stand firmly against bigotry, violence, prejudice, slander, and harassment of any group or individual."

Dissenters and religious leaders who support gay colleagues in the church say this stance is wrong and offensive.

"I think it very unfortunate that the BGAV continues to uphold an archaic understanding and judgmental interpretation of scripture -that in the end says very little and is certainly inconclusive about this issue," said Rev Warren Hammonds, who is on the Board of the People of Faith For Equality in Virginia. He is also a former minister and employee of the BGAV.

Hammonds goes on to say, "Its stance and action along with Dr. Upton's statement basically presumes to decide for God whom God calls, and places the notion that all of God's children being created in God's image into a small, confining, comfortable box. The action also goes against the long-known Baptist principle of the autonomy of the local church."

"This is how people get demeaned. Clearly this congregation knew and understood the ministry this man- Reverend Henderson-- had touched their lives," added Rev. Jeanne Pupke, who is the Senior Pastor at Unitarian Universalist Church, which supports the LGBTQ community in leadership roles. "I find it disappointing in this day and age that we still are finding ourselves singling out groups of people as though it weren't true that Jesus would have said that the Great Commandment is to, 'love one another as I have loved you.'"

On the Ginter Park website, the church still claims an affiliation with the Baptist General Association of Virginia, saying they are continuing their membership and proud to be part of the BGVA.

There's also a board about a search for a pastor in which they say they are seeking a person who "Welcomes and affirms all God's Children."

The church has until December to withdraw from the organization and stop making financial contributions, or they will get kicked out and financial contributions will be reject.

NBC12 did call, email, and stop by Ginter Park Baptist Church but was unable to speak to anyone with the church.

Copyright 2012 WWBT NBC12.  All rights reserved.