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convention debates censuring gay-friendly churches

convention debates censuring gay-friendly churches

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)

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