A Southern Baptist church in southwest Georgia has been expelled from its local association for what local media reports portray as unrepentant racism.
The executive committee of Mallary Baptist Association voted April 3 to withdraw fellowship from Raleigh White Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., for “un-Christian attitudes and acts” toward another church. A statement March 4 says those actions “were racially motivated” and “do not reflect the values and mission” of the association of 52 churches in three counties.
Since 2015, Raleigh White Baptist Church has shared space with New Seasons Church, an African-American congregation led by a Georgia Baptist Convention church planter. The pastor, Marcus Glass, told the Christian Index, the state Baptist newspaper, the relationship soured in recent months when the black church grew to six times the size of the predominantly white congregation, which had dwindled to about 20 members.
Things came to a head March 18, when Raleigh White Baptist Church held a homecoming and told New Seasons Church they would have to postpone their worship service until a later time. Visitors unaware of the change who showed up at the normal time were told they could not enter the building.
When a girl asked if she could use the restroom, according to the Christian Index, she was told to go to a convenience store down the road. Others were advised to wait in their cars until time for the rescheduled service.
Mallary Baptist Association informed both the Georgia Baptist Mission Board and the Southern Baptist Convention of the decision. While Southern Baptist associations have long cut ties with congregations over doctrinal issues or actions like calling a female pastor, Raleigh White Baptist Church is believed to be the first disciplined explicitly for racism.
Mallary Baptist Association says it will readmit Raleigh White Baptist Church if the congregation “openly repents of their sin” and agrees to a mediation process to reconcile with New Seasons Church.
New Seasons Church moved its equipment out of Raleigh White Baptist Church on April 4, according to Albany television station WTOC. Mallary Baptist Association says it will help the congregation find a new location.
Local station WALB News 10 reportedly reached out to Raleigh White Baptist Church leadership, but a representative said they had no comment at this time.
News of the dispute coincided with an event in Memphis, Tenn., to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King sponsored in part by the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
“Time and time again in the white American Bible belt, the people of God had to choose between Jesus Christ and Jim Crow, because you cannot serve both,” ERLC President Russell Moore said in remarks quoted by Baptist Press. “Tragically many often chose to serve Jim Crow and to rename him Jesus Christ.”
Southern Baptist leaders for more than a decade have been trying to redeem the SBC’s reputation from its segregationist past. A predominantly white Southern Baptist church in Mississippi made headlines in 2012 for refusing to allow an African-American couple to get married in its sanctuary. A church in Alabama reportedly fired its pastor in 2016 after he preached a sermon calling on the congregation to repent of the sin of racism.
Both churches are still listed in in a convention database for how to “find a Southern Baptist church.”