The Baptist State
Convention of North Carolina has taken a formal stand
on homosexuality by voting to ask its board to define when a
member church is no longer "in friendly cooperation"
with the convention.
At the convention's 175th annual meeting,
delegates--also called messengers--voted
Tuesday to ask their board of directors what constitutes
a church "in friendly cooperation with the convention and
sympathetic to its purposes and work." The motion was
made by Bill Sanderson, pastor of Hephzibah Baptist
Church in Wendell, who said that such a policy "must
deal clearly with homosexual behavior and include that a
church that knowingly affirms, approves, or endorses
homosexual behavior is a church not in friendly
cooperation with the convention."
"Churches that contribute financially to the
convention are said to be 'in friendly cooperation'
now," said Norman Jameson, convention spokesman.
Executing the policy might not be easy, an
observer of religion said. "The convention becomes
essentially an investigatory agency...on one issue,"
said Bill Leonard, dean of divinity at Wake Forest
University. "It will be interesting to see how they police this."
The Reverend David Horton, president of Gate
City Baptist Church in Greensboro and the outgoing
state convention president, supported the motion. "I
hope [the public] will take it to mean that North Carolina
Baptists are voicing our biblical conviction...[but also]
that God offers love and forgiveness and healing," he said.
Not all delegates supported the motion. "Could
it be that homosexuality gains our attention primarily
because it's not 'our' sin?" said Rob Helton, a
messenger from Cherry Point Baptist Church in
Havelock. "If we write a policy [on homosexuality], it seems
only fair and right that we write a policy on every
sin in the Bible." Jo Godfrey, a messenger from
Emerywood Baptist Church in High Point, said the
motion showed a lack of respect for Baptist heritage, which
includes the autonomy of the local church. (AP)