Though some businesses are reducing or ending activity in North Carolina to protest the state’s new controversial LBGT law, the Alliance of Baptists says it will move forward with plans to hold its gathering next year in Raleigh in order to register its opposition to the legislation.
Alliance President Mike Castle announced April 9 that after considering the possibility of looking for a new meeting site for its 30th anniversary meeting, the Alliance board of directors opted to go ahead with plans to meet April 28-30, 2017, at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh in the name of “modeling and proclaiming welcome for all disenfranchised persons, and raising our distinctively Baptist voice for justice, mercy and love.”
Castle, senior pastor of Harmony Creek Church in Dayton, Ohio, raised the possibility of relocating the 2017 meeting before Bruce Springsteen canceled his concert in Greensboro, N.C., to protest a new state law that prohibits transgender individuals from using the bathroom of their choosing and assigns them to the public facility corresponding to their “biological sex” at birth.
“How shall we register our dissent against the unjust and blatantly discriminatory law enacted by the North Carolina legislature and signed by their governor with the collusion of conservative religious bodies?” Castle described the question he posed to the board of directors.
“Our board has now answered that question with clarity and resolve,” Castle said. “The Alliance of Baptists will intentionally go to Raleigh next year for our annual gathering.”
Castle said the Alliance would go to North Carolina as “protestors in the best sense of that word.”
“We will go to Raleigh to ‘pro’ and to ‘test,’ — to testify ‘for’ what is loving, and good, and just, and hospitable for all our neighbors, following in the way of Jesus, our Christ, and seeking to live the good news and wisdom that Jesus embodied and taught,” he said. “We will go to Raleigh and insist that we live into our highest ideals of what it means to be American, a people who value religious liberty and justice for all.”
Pullen Memorial Pastor Nancy Petty said in a letter to meeting planners that in light of backlash to HB-2 it would be “understandable” if the Alliance decided to move its 2017 gathering to another state.
“No one at Pullen would blame you,” Petty said. “Yet the good people of the Alliance of Baptists coming to North Carolina at just such a time could also be a witness to our LGBTQ community that there are good and faithful Christians, even Baptists, that stand in solidarity with them and stand against any kind of discrimination.”
In other business at the April 8-10 annual gathering at Kirkwood Baptist Church in St. Louis, the Alliance of Baptists unanimously approved consensus statements encouraging divestment from companies and corporations that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, supporting legislation to protect voting rights of minorities and calling for clean power with acknowledgement for “people currently dependent on fossil fuel economies as humanity transitions to a clean energy future.”