The Baptist General Association of Virginia will no longer forward contributions from its affiliated congregations to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship because of a new CBF practice allowing the hiring of LGBTQ Christians to some, but not all, ministry positions.
The BGAV Executive Board voted in a closed meeting Feb. 25 to “have all of BGAV’s CBF contributing churches send their CBF gifts directly to the CBF national office as soon as this is feasible.” Congregations have long had the option of financially supporting the CBF through the BGAV’s unified Cooperative Program budget.
The action was in response to a change adopted by CBF leaders Feb. 9 in implementing a hiring policy for CBF staff which dropped a two-decade-old wording forbidding the employment of “a practicing homosexual.”
A statement released by the Executive Board following its meeting noted that the BGAV “at numerous annual meetings has affirmed and acted on its commitment to its orthodox and traditional view of biblical marriage and sexuality. The BGAV remains committed to respecting, welcoming, and loving all persons in the name of Christ while affirming an orthodox view of marriage between a man and a woman.”
The BGAV has withdrawn fellowship from at least one congregation for practices seen as at odds with that commitment. Ginter Park Baptist Church in Richmond was dismissed in 2012 after ordaining an LGBTQ person to ministry. The BGAV includes about 1,400 affiliated congregations, most of them in Virginia.
“In the coming weeks, the treasurer’s office will work with the approximately 200 BGAV churches that have a giving relationship with CBF to help them send their CBF contributions directly to the CBF national office,” the board’s statement said. It added that the 21-member board took action “on behalf of the General Association” believing that it “serves the BGAV, while respecting the CBF.”
Last year the BGAV, whose 2018 budget is $10 million, forwarded $458,826 to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship through its unified budget and another $213,000 to the CBF Global Missions Offering.
The Virginia response follows a similar one taken by the Baptist General Convention of Texas on Feb. 20.
In its statement the Virginia board said it “regrets it has had to address the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s approval of the Illumination Project Committee’s report permitting the hiring of LGBT personnel for certain staff positions in the organization. Though the BGAV respects CBF’s right to change its hiring policy, such a decision has had a direct impact on the BGAV. The Executive Board has sought to respond in the most prayerful and prudent way to the effects of this impact.”
CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter called the action disappointing but added “this action continues a trend that CBF has already noticed and provides an opportunity for congregations to give directly to CBF to ensure that 100 percent of their missions support goes to the mission field and is not caught up in the BGAV’s offices in Richmond or anywhere else for that matter.”
“More and more, churches have been giving directly to CBF rather than giving through Baptist state conventions like Texas and Virginia,” Paynter said in a statement. “We are grateful for our partner congregations in Virginia that support CBF missionaries bearing witness to Jesus Christ in 30 countries and our ministries that form healthy churches and nurture young Baptists. We now encourage all churches to give to CBF directly.”
The new CBF hiring policy expects all employees “to have the highest moral character” and display “professionalism and a commitment to the highest ethical standards,” but no longer addresses sexual orientation.
A separate implementation plan adds, for full disclosure, that the CBF will still “consider matters of human sexuality as one factor among many in employment for some positions, including field personnel, those who supervise field personnel and ministry/mission leadership at CBF Global.”
This story was updated on Feb. 27 to include additional financial information in the seventh paragraph.