By Bob Allen
An association of Southern Baptist churches in Alabama voted March 16 to dismiss a church over its pastor’s support of same-sex marriage.
The executive board of Madison Baptist Association voted 74-5 to withdraw fellowship from Weatherly Heights Baptist Church in Huntsville, Ala., according to a statement to media.
The voluntary association of 85 churches affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention investigated Weatherly Heights, which is primarily affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, after news reports that an unpaid staff member ordained by the church officiated at a same-sex wedding Feb. 9.
Discussions revealed that the church’s pastor, David Freeman, also does not believe the Bible necessarily prohibits “adult, loving, monogamous, same-sex relationships” at the center of the marriage debate, and that he is open to officiating a same-sex marriage.
A statement on the Madison Association website affirms the Baptist Faith and Message definition of marriage as “the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime.”
“Thus, we are deeply saddened that, as of Feb. 9, 2015, homosexual couples have been permitted to marry in Huntsville and the state of Alabama,” the statement said. “The Madison Baptist Association in no way endorses this decision or its resulting actions.”
The Southern Baptist Convention excludes in its constitution “churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior.”
Leaders of the 3,200-church Alabama Baptist Convention released a statement declaring that “any church that allows staff members to officiate at same-sex ceremonies is clearly outside biblical teachings about marriage and human sexuality, and they demonstrate that they are not in like-minded fellowship or friendly cooperation with Alabama Baptists and Southern Baptists.”
The statement by Madison Baptist Association called the ouster of Weatherly Heights “truly a sad evening for Southern Baptists and Madison Association Baptists,” but the executive board “deemed it necessary that we remain true to the biblical definition of marriage in belief and practice.”
“The culture in which we live may change but we must stand firm upon the Word of God (the Bible) which remains constant,” the statement said. “We have a great opportunity before us as Madison Association Baptists to impact our city, nation, and world with the ‘good news’ of Jesus Christ.”
“We truly strive to love all people, regardless of what sin might entangle them, knowing that Jesus died on the cross for all of our sins,” the statement continued. If anyone repents of their sin and embraces Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, then they receive forgiveness of sin and eternal life in Christ. This is the best news we can share with you tonight, that ‘new life’ in Christ (II Cor. 5:17) is a free gift from God but it must be received by faith; faith in the One who died and rose again.”
A federal judge ruled in January that Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and that the state could not refuse marriage licenses because of a couple’s sexual orientation.
The Alabama Supreme Court challenged the ruling March 3, ordering probate judges to temporarily halt issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples until after the U.S. Supreme Court settles the question of whether or not gay marriage is a constitutional right.
On Monday U.S. District Court Judge Callie V.S. Granade denied a request to stay her Jan. 23 decision in light of the state Supreme Court’s challenge, ordering Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis to go ahead and issue licenses to same-sex couples.
Granade said while developments in same-sex marriage cases have “at times seemed dizzying,” the facts have not changed since her January ruling.
“This court has found that Alabama’s marriage sanctity laws violate the Plaintiffs’ rights under the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution,” she wrote.