A Southern Baptist church in Oklahoma is reportedly working internally to address a controversy involving a deacon whose company is working on a building that will be used to perform abortions.
An online petition with more than 500 signatures and a series of blogs accuses First Baptist Church in Blanchard, Okla., of publicly aligning the Southern Baptist Convention in the construction of an abortion clinic.
The petition urges SBC leaders to condemn Southern Baptist cooperation with the abortion industry by speaking out on a controversy that began with a YouTube recording of a March 17 phone call confronting a Christian-owned business about one of its trucks being parked outside the South Wind Women’s Center renovation project in Oklahoma City.
Yarbrough & Sons, a heating and cooling business led by First Baptist Church deacon Darren Yarbrough, said on Facebook the owners would not have bid on the job if they had known the clinic would provide services that go against their convictions, but since the work was 80 percent complete it would be unethical for them to walk away.
“Unethically breaking contract is not in our belief system as a company,” the posting said. “We believe in finishing what we have started.”
Another recording reveals Pastor Andy Finch, who has led sessions at Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma evangelism conferences and served on the convention’s board of directors, questioning tactics of members of the self-described “abolitionist” church trying to force the issue.
A Change.org petition calls on Russell Moore, head of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, to fulfill the agency’s responsibility “to assist the churches by helping them understand the moral demands of the gospel, apply Christian principles to moral and social problems and questions of public policy, and to promote religious liberty in cooperation with the churches and other Southern Baptist entities.”
A series of Pulpit and Pen blogs said it’s inconsistent for Moore to publicly condemn Planned Parenthood or Donald Trump and remain silent about “the horror that is within our own ranks.”
First Baptist Church in Blanchard broke silence on April 1 with a statement quoted by the Christian Post.
“The First Baptist Church of Blanchard’s pro-life position is well known throughout our community,” the statement reads. “We believe strongly in the sanctity of life, and we oppose abortion and any effort to expand abortion.”
“Accordingly, our church leadership always counsels our members to protect and defend the sanctity of human life. The church is continuing to work through the current situation internally, with all seriousness and prayer.”
Moore has not addressed the situation in Blanchard, but he said in an article March 31 that he disagrees with GOP frontrunner Donald Trump’s suggestion that women who seek abortions are as culpable as the doctors who perform them.
“These women are being lied to, and their consciences are under assault under the accusations of the Deceiver both leading up to and following an abortion,” Moore said. “No one is more pro-choice than Satan during the drive to the abortion clinic, and nobody is more pro-life than Satan during the drive home.”
Because of its congregational polity, the Southern Baptist Convention lacks authority over local churches, but Southern Baptists at both the national and state convention levels have withdrawn fellowship from congregations over issues such as calling a woman as pastor and welcoming and affirming LGBT persons.
In 2013 the SBC ordered an investigation into a Texas church with ministry links to a local Planned Parenthood, but it turned out the church had disaffiliated with the national body years earlier.