A progressive Baptist church known for its advocacy of LGBTQ inclusion is selling its building and donating more than $1 million in proceeds to 35 ministry partners, community groups and other non-profit organizations.
Jill McCrory, pastor of Twinbrook Baptist Church in Rockville, Maryland, since 2013, said the 63-year-old congregation realized two years ago that its time was coming to a close. Faced with choices of drastically changing the church model or hanging on until they were out of money, church members decided to do something different with their assets.
Centro Christiano Peniel, a Spanish-speaking Pentecostal congregation that has been renting worship space from Twinbrook Baptist for 14 years, recently obtained financing to purchase the property for about half of its market value.
“This made it possible for that church to stay here and establish roots,” McCrory said.
The second part of the legacy plan is to share proceeds of the building sale with other organizations to enable projects such as medical clinics, school lunch programs, hospice care, emergency housing funds, Habitat for Humanity builds, LGBTQ youth programs and other community support services.
“This decision allowed them to close the church with dignity and grace,” McCrory said of the congregation. “Rather than spending down their assets to pay for a building and Sunday worship for just a few people over several years, they decided to be bold, be a blessing and leave a legacy.”
McCrory was featured in a 2014 cover story in MetroWeekly – a publication that covers stories of interest to the District of Columbia’s gay and lesbian community – for her work for marriage equality, marching in gay pride parades and advertising her church as “out” when it comes to accepting LGBT congregants.
“I truly believe churches have to be out,” McCrory said in the feature headlined “Jill the Baptist.”
“They can’t just say, ‘Oh, we welcome everyone, and they’ll find us,’ because no other group of people have been told they’re not welcome in church,” she continued. “No other group has been told, ‘You’re not good enough to come in here unless you change yourself.’ That’s why we have a banner that says ‘All Are Welcome. Really’ and march in the Pride Parade. Our logo has the rainbow on it. My business card has the rainbow on it. Our website is very out about who we are.”
Twinbrook’s founding pastor, John Laney, spoke out in the 1960s in favor of white churches that were accepting black members and against the war in Vietnam.
When Southern Baptist Convention President Bailey Smith sparked controversy with the 1980 comment “God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew,” Laney voiced his disagreement in a letter to the editor published in two Baptist publications.
Laney told the Maryland Baptist and Capital Baptist the God posited by Smith “would be a God who would have listened to the silent Christians in Nazi Germany while turning a deaf ear to the millions of Jews who cried out from the concentration camps and the gas chambers of the Holocaust.”
“I cannot conceive of a God who would eagerly listen to Jerry Falwell and Bailey Smith but who would not tolerate a prayer from such great souls of the recent past as Martin Buber and Abraham Heschel,” Laney said in the letter quoted by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Sunday, August 18, will mark the last worship service at Twinbrook Baptist Church.
“Although we are closing, we have so much to be grateful for,” said Regina Gaither, a longtime church member who chairs the church council. “We rejoice that through the legacy gifts TBC’s commitment to ministry will continue.”
The church’s affiliations include the Alliance of Baptists, District of Columbia Baptist Convention and Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists.