A Baptist group is considering whether to lift a ban on LGBT employees, putting it at odds with more conservative Baptists and putting some Kentucky churches in the middle.
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, which formed in the 1990s as an alternative to the ultraconservative Southern Baptist Convention, has formed a committee, the Illumination Project, to study the anti-LGBT policy and recommend changes, due in February, reports The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Ky.
But some Kentucky churches affiliated with the fellowship are also affiliated with the state’s Southern Baptist branch, the Kentucky Baptist Convention, which is monitoring the fellowship’s actions and is open to expelling churches that don’t conform to the Southern Baptists’ anti-LGBT dogma. To hire “practicing homosexuals” would be "redefining sin," Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, told The Courier-Journal. R. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, added that “a church that endorses homosexuality is no longer cooperating with the Kentucky Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention.”
The fellowship, a national group with about 1,900 congregations, began reconsidering the anti-LGBT policy after leaders offered a prayer for victims of the mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando last year. Some activists thought it was hypocritical in light of the fellowship’s homophobic policy and called for change.
Maurice “Bojangles” Blanchard, a volunteer who leads an LGBT ministry at the fellowship-affiliated Highland Baptist Church in Louisville, was one of those activists. But a problem with the Illumination Project is that it has no LGBT members, he told The Courier-Journal. “They’re discussing our inclusion without including us,” said Blanchard, who was also one of the plaintiffs in the Kentucky marriage equality case.
Chitwood said he doubts that many of the fellowship churches will OK hiring LGBT clergy or other employees. “I don’t think [the Illumination Project] will have a big impact,” he told the newspaper.