A Cooperative Baptist Fellowship partner church in Mississippi has been informed it is no longer welcome in the state affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Leaders of Northminster Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss., sent a letter Aug. 9 reporting to church members the executive committee of the Mississippi Baptist Convention no longer considers their congregation, established in 1967 as a mission of Hinds County Baptist Association, part of the 2,100-church statewide affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Last September leaders of the state convention declined to receive monthly gifts from the congregation in the state capital and followed up with a letter July 24 saying they no longer consider Northminster a sister church.
Mississippi Baptist Convention spokesperson William Perkins told Mississippi Today, a non-profit online news organization which reported the ouster Aug. 18, that Northminster was “found not to be in friendly cooperation with the convention.”
Perkins, editor of the Baptist Record newspaper, declined to say why, citing the executive committee’s respect for autonomy of the local church.
The Aug. 9 letter to church members from Pastor Chuck Poole and three lay leaders said being removed from the organization has no impact on Northminster’s Baptist identity.
“Baptist churches are Baptist, not by affiliation, but by practice and belief,” the letter said “However, since we have received that notification, we wanted to make the congregation aware of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Executive Committee’s decision.”
Conversations leading up to the decision reportedly began when Northminster was listed as a “spiritual/church” resource in a guide for LGBTQ youth in Mississippi produced by a non-profit organization that helps transfer youth out of foster care and funded by a grant from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
State convention leaders said the church could remain in good standing if they asked to have the listing removed, but after discussion Northminster leadership decided they had no problem being publicly identified as a safe place for individuals and families who would be using the guide.
Northminster has no specific policy on same-sex marriage or gay members, but its website says “all who seek to follow Christ are invited to join.”
Northminster was one of the last congregations affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Mississippi still in harmony with the Mississippi Baptist Convention. Like many established Baptist churches across the country in cities where a state convention’s home office is located, Northminster over the years has had members who either earned their livelihood from or were elected to leadership positions in the state convention or affiliated agencies and institutions.
Poole has been senior pastor at Northminster since 1997, minus a four-year hiatus with a Jackson non-profit before returning to the pulpit in December of 2007. Former pastors include John Claypool, a renowned Southern Baptist preacher and author who later became an Episcopal priest, and John Thomason, second president of the Southern Baptist Alliance, a group formed in 1987 by disenfranchised Southern Baptists now known as the Alliance of Baptists.