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Baptists mend split caused by pastor's remarks

South Carolina
Baptists mend split caused by pastor's remarks

Leaders of the Baptist Association for York County, S.C., agreed to allow a local church to remain a member months after the pastor made comments to state lawmakers that were perceived as pro-gay. The York Baptist Association's executive committee reversed its August decision to severe ties with Oakland Baptist Church. The committee said it thought the Rock Hill church offered to withdraw, and it accepted. But Oakland officials said they never formally offered and planned to do so only if necessary. The executive committee reversed its decision only after receiving and approving a written clarification of the church's stance on homosexuality. Statements that the church does not perform same-sex marriages or commitment ceremonies and does not approve of or condone a nonbiblical lifestyle were key to the committee's decision to keep Oakland in the association, said the Reverend Steve Hogg, a committee member and pastor of Rock Hill's First Baptist Church.

"We're glad to have it behind us," Hogg told The [Rock Hill] Herald on Friday. He said the issue is settled, unless "someone in the future said or did something that was contrary to Oakland's stated position."

The controversy began in March, when the Reverend Robert Shrum spoke against a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would ban same-sex marriage. He said the state already bans it, so an amendment would just beat up on a marginalized group. York Baptist Association launched an investigation after two unnamed pastors claimed that Shrum made antibiblical statements by telling a senator that gay members of his church can participate in the church and in leadership positions. During the investigation, Shrum cowrote a letter saying the church "does not condone homosexuality, adultery, murder, gossip, slander, or any other of a number of enumerated sins referred to in the Holy Scriptures."

A report by the association's administrative support committee said Shrum said nothing contrary to the Bible and recommended taking no action. But the executive committee thought the church had offered to withdraw. In reversing its decision last month, the executive committee agreed that Oakland, which has been an association member since it opened in 1950, never formally offered to split. Shrum said much of the confusion could have been avoided if members of the executive committee had listened to the other committee. "That committee spent many hours examining all the allegations and innuendo which had previously been circulated and determined that they were without merit," Shrum wrote The Herald in an e-mail. (AP)

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