Baptist Church Approves Gay Marriage

A few months ago, a Georgia Baptist church voted overwhelmingly to approve  allowing same-sex marriage ceremonies in the church. That’s right: a Baptist church,in a southern state of the USA.  The Macon Telegraph reported:

Members of First Baptist Church of Christ, one of Macon’s oldest churches, on Sunday overwhelmingly approved allowing same-sex marriage ceremonies in the church.

The Rev. Scott Dickison, the church’s pastor, said the resolution passed with 73 percent voting in favor. About 230 members voted by secret ballot in a conference following the regular Sunday service. Dickison said that was about the typical size of the congregation on Sunday.

“I’m grateful for the congregation traveling together to this point, and it is an important point but it comes with some tenderness,” he said. “We will continue to heal together as we move forward.”

Yet this is not by any means unique. As marriage equality continues to advance around the world, churches everywhere are having to face up to the implications for their own congregations – and many that were once implacably opposed, are finding that they can indeed live with the new reality – or even embrace it.

For the First Baptist Church in Macon, the decision came after a long process of reflection and discernment, which began five years ago, with discussions about the Christian ethics of homosexuality.  Their decision was a strictly local one, which is the way the Baptists operate.  In the same way, somewhat counterintuitively, it was a Baptist congregation that was the first church in the UK to host a gay wedding service.

More importantly, this decision did not come in a vacuum. A year previously, the congregation had undergone an exhaustive process to clarify their essential mission and charism, as followers of Christ. The decision to approve gay marriage, in church, followed logically from their conclusions. From their website:

In the Spring of 2016, our church affirmed the following Vision Statement and Core Values. These represent the best parts of who we are today and our deepest hopes for who we will be as we live into our future. To read the full Leadership Team report, click here.

These were the identified “core values”

The First Baptist Church of Christ seeks to be faithful to Christ, Scripture, and our Baptist heritage as we…

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• Accept, include, and value all people
• Worship with reverence and joy
• Strive to be courageous in action and identity
• Empower each other to grow and serve
• Embrace differences in thought and background
• Foster meaningful intergenerational relationships
• Engage in ecumenical and interfaith partnerships
• Cultivate strong lay leadership
• Nurture each other toward a faith that is authentic, thoughtful, and curious
• Commit to serving each other, our community, and the world

Soul Freedom

We affirm the freedom and responsibility of every person to relate directly to God without the imposition of creed or the control of clergy or government. We believe that this personal experience with God is indispensable to the Christian life and necessary for a vital church.

Bible Freedom

We believe the Bible, under the Lordship of Christ, is central to the life of the individual and the church. We affirm the freedom and right of every Christian to interpret and apply Scripture under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. We also affirm that the wisdom and counsel of the larger congregation should nurture individual believers as they seek to interpret Scripture.

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