By Bob Allen
The South Carolina Baptist Convention voted Nov. 10 to withdraw fellowship from a church whose pastor married a gay couple with blessing of the church deacons.
About 300 messengers at the 195th annual meeting of the state convention that predates founding of the Southern Baptist Convention by 24 years voted without discussion in favor of an executive board recommendation to disaffiliate with Augusta Heights Baptist Church in Greenville, S.C.
The ouster remains in effect “until such a time when they express corporate repentance and return to a biblical view of marriage and sexuality that is in agreement with the principles of God’s word as summarized in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.”
The vote, on the heels of similar action Oct. 22 by Greenville Baptist Association, is in reaction to a same-sex marriage Oct. 10 at the Artisan Traders venue in Greenville performed by Greg Dover, a Wake Forest University School of Divinity graduate who took over as pastor of the Augusta Heights congregation in March.
“We’re faced once again with the option to rally around God’s inerrant Word as people of the Book or choose to enter a time described by the Book of Judges when people did what was right in their own eyes,” Dwight Easler, chairman of the state convention’s executive board, introduced the motion to messengers meeting Nov. 10-11 at First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, S.C.
While the state convention is autonomous from Greenville Baptist Association, Easler said the executive board concurs that the Augusta Heights Baptist Church “should repent from placing opinion and man’s interpretation over the clear biblical created order that we find in the scriptures.”
“We believe this action by the pastor — and the subsequent inaction of the church to correct this policy through an expression of repentance and returning to a biblical view of marriage and sexuality — is evidence that they are sadly and tragically no longer in friendly cooperation with this convention,” said Easler, pastor of Corinth Baptist Church in Gaffney, S.C.
“We believe that the gospel is for the gay person and the straight person, the rich and the poor, the black and the white, the young and the old,” he continued. “However, we believe that no man can come to the gospel without the acknowledgement of sin and confession and faith in Christ.”
“Our convention must lovingly and without apology stand together for the Word of God in order to call sinners to repentance,” Easler said. “We cannot seek relevance and acceptance by celebrating and applauding sin.”
Richard Harris, a retired North American Mission Board administrator now serving as interim executive director of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, said both he and the director of missions at Greenville Baptist Association were “appalled that when folks met with the [Augusta Heights] leadership they saw nothing wrong with this.”
“What has happened to us in our land, in spiritual values and biblical truth, that we don’t see right is right and wrong is wrong?” Harris marveled. “The Bible says the day will come that we’ll call good evil and we’ll call evil good. I submit to you we are at that day.”
Augusta Heights Baptist Church is the second CBF congregation this year targeted by the South Carolina Baptist Convention over homosexuality.
First Baptist Church in Greenville voted in September to withdraw from the state convention under threat of expulsion over a new policy stating “in all facets of the life and ministry of our church, including but not limited to membership, baptism, ordination, marriage, teaching and committee/organizational leadership, First Baptist, Greenville, will not discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”