At Baptist convention, N.C. pastor seeks Broadway’s ouster

Posted Wednesday, Jun. 11, 2008  comments  Print Reprints
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A North Carolina pastor has asked that Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth be disassociated from the Southern Baptist Convention.

The Rev. Bill Sanderson of Hephzibah Baptist Church in Wendell, N.C., who made the motion, declined to answer questions during a phone call from the Star-Telegram. But his supporters say Broadway Baptist doesn’t abide by biblical teachings about homosexuality.

The motion made Tuesday at the SBC’s annual meeting in Indianapolis was referred to an executive committee, which will present a report at next year’s meeting in Louisville, Ky., convention officials said.

The Rev. Bart Barber, a convention messenger, or delegate, familiar with the motion, said Broadway Baptist has some couples who are openly homosexual, and “the membership knows and has entrusted them with positions of church leadership.”

“The church has not risen up and said homosexuality is wrong,” said Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church of Farmersville.

Some at Broadway Baptist, which has about 1,500 members, expressed regret about the motion.

“I had hoped there would not be this action,” said Harriet Harral, former chairwoman of Broadway’s board of deacons.

“Southern Baptists honor local church autonomy, and this is an example of a church family that has dealt with difficult church issues and done it in love and with a lot of respect, following what we think the dictates of Jesus are,” said Harral, wife of Star-Telegram Editorial Director Paul Harral.

Kathy Madeja, current chairwoman of the board of deacons, said the church will cooperate with the executive committee.

Background

Several months ago, gay couples at Broadway asked to have their portraits appear in the church directory, which created a controversy. To resolve the issue, the congregation voted in February to publish a book without individual or family portraits — and with candid snapshots instead.

Church leaders said the photographs would help members recognize one another and follow church bylaws for equal treatment without making a Scriptural interpretation about homosexuality.

But the debate led to a vote on whether the senior pastor, the Rev. Brett Younger, should leave the church.

A group called Friends for the Future of Broadway collected more than 160 signatures calling for Younger’s ouster, expressing concern that he was leading the church in a too-liberal direction.

But more than 300 church members signed a letter supporting him, and the congregation in March voted by more than a 2-to-1 ratio to keep him.

Some members predicted Younger would have a difficult time leading the church, and he resigned in April to take a position at an Atlanta divinity school.

Younger declined to discuss the motion filed at the convention.

“I adore the congregation and have admiration for its ministries, but I think it would be inappropriate for me as a former pastor to comment,” Younger said Wednesday.

No Broadway messengers

“The problem is not the church directory,” Barber said. “That’s not a point of theology.” the reason.

The executive committee may recommend that messengers dismiss, accept or reject the motion.

Broadway Baptist did not send messengers to this year’s convention and has not done so for several years, church and convention officials said.

The Southern Baptist Convention, formed in 1845, has more than 16 million members in more than 42,000 churches in the United States.

This report includes material from Star-Telegram archives.

Terry Lee Goodrich, 817-685-3812

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