The 5,600-church Baptist General Convention of Texas apparently is paying close attention to new hiring practices at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship which would allow persons who identify as LBGTQ to be employed in some roles, though not others.
In a statement Feb. 12., the older of two organizations in Texas affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention responded to last week’s decision to modify a previous CBF policy forbidding the employment of “a practicing homosexual” as staff or a missionary.
“In light of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Governing Board’s vote to approve the recommendations of the Illumination Project, Texas Baptists reaffirms its long-held position on Biblical sexuality and marriage,” the statement said. “While we understand the decision-making process undertaken, our position remains unchanged. We believe the Bible teaches that any sexual relationship outside the bounds of a marriage between a man and woman is sin.”
Texas Baptist leaders responded on Facebook to questions about whether the BGCT will continue to list CBF as “extended family” on the convention website and allow churches to channel funds to the Fellowship through the state convention’s unified budget.
“This situation is being discussed and we anticipate a more in-depth statement early next week,” the Facebook response read.
History of close ties
The BGCT has since 1994 allowed churches to designate mission gifts to non-SBC entities including CBF and still count those funds as Cooperative Program gifts for purpose of qualifying for representation at the state convention’s annual meeting.
In 2000, Texas Baptists cut SBC funding by more than $5 million to signal dissatisfaction with the denomination’s rightward shift at the national level.
While other state conventions gradually fell in line with the SBC’s conservative shift in the late 1990s, Texas Baptists continued into the 21st century to elect leaders mostly aligned with the CBF and Texas Baptists Committed, another moderate resistance group that folded in 2017.
Last fall Texas Baptists withdrew fellowship from three CBF churches for voting to grant full inclusion to LGBTQ members, establishing same-sex marriage as grounds to rule a congregation “not in friendly cooperation” with the state convention’s mission.
The Fellowship recently launched a new region called Fellowship Southwest to help build the CBF brand in Texas, Oklahoma and other states in the far west.
And in Kentucky …
The BGCT is not the only Baptist state convention watching developments in CBF. Last fall the Kentucky Baptist Convention authorized a committee to monitor moral and theological stances of the moderate group in order to determine whether churches that affiliate with CBF can remain in good standing with Kentucky Baptists.
Kentucky Baptist Convention Executive Director Paul Chitwood tweeted “the game has changed” with the new hiring policy but predicted the compromise “will not satisfy” those desiring full inclusion regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
“Gonna be a battle in June at CBF annual meeting,” Chitwood said.
CBF-aligned Highland Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., meanwhile, is resuming talks about its future with the organization which were put on hold pending outcome of the Illumination Project discernment process on LGBTQ inclusion.
“As your ministers, we write to you to express our deep disappointment with and disapproval of the decision of the Governing Board of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship to approve a recommendation from the Illumination Project Committee with regards to a change in CBF’s hiring policy,” the ministerial staff said in an open letter to the congregation.
“In short, CBF will now allow LGBTQ persons to be hired for some positions, while maintaining a discriminatory policy and practice that will keep LGBTQ people from being hired to other positions,” the letter said.
“Pastorally, we fully affirm all LGBTQ people as loved by God: not in spite of who you are, but precisely because of who you are,” church leaders said. “Morally, as the ministers of Highland Baptist Church, we feel called to use our voice to faithfully advocate for LGBTQ siblings within our own congregation and in broader CBF life.”
“To our LGBTQ siblings who find themselves in membership and pastoring in CBF congregations across the country, we write to tell you that we see you, we affirm you, and we love you,” Highland Baptist ministers said. “We believe God sees you, affirms you, and loves you. We stand alongside you today and each day forward as LGBTQ discrimination persists in our churches and our country, dreaming of a day when all members of the Body of Christ can serve the world together.”