Local News

Homosexuality Debate Could Divide Baptist State Convention

Posted November 14, 2005 8:46 a.m. EST

— Some members of the state's largest Baptist organization say homosexuality has no place in the church, but the issue could either bring the group together or tear it apart.

Beyond the board and budget issues of the

Baptist State Convention of North Carolina

-- which represents about 4,000 congregations statewide -- discussion of the group's stance on homosexuality is expected at its annual meeting, which runs this week through Wednesday.

One local pastor is hoping to use the conference to get the entire organization to take a stand on the controversial issue of homosexuality.

"I'm introducing an amendment to our constitution that deals with homosexuality," said Pastor Bill Sanderson, of Hephzibah Baptist Church in Wendell.

Sanderson wants to exclude churches that support homosexuality in any way, saying the move will keep Baptists together and help avoid the divide affecting other denominations on the issue.

"I don't want that to happen to us," he said. "I want to avoid it before it happens."

But some pastors, such as Pastor Randy Sherron, of Greenwood Forest Baptist Church in Cary, already think the Baptist church is already fractured,

Sherron's church is one of more than 20 North Carolina churches that would be affected by Sanderson's resolution. Greenwood Forest supports the

Alliance of Baptists

, which openly supports same-sex marriage.

"We give money, we support them as a missions partner, and we partner with them on a church in Cuba," Sherron said.

Sherron is not convinced Sanderson's initiative will pass when it goes to vote Tuesday night, but thinks it could separate the moderate Baptist churches from the conservative ones.

"I hate to use the phrase 'test case,' but this may be kind of a test case as to how the North Carolina Baptist Convention is going to deal with those who maybe don't agree with their slant in theology or philosophy of doing church."

When asked if the churches in the Baptist State Convention could ever agree to disagree on the issue and come together as Baptists, Sanderson said his opinion was that they could not.

The Baptist State Convention is already preventing some churches, such as Greenwood Forest, from holding offices with the organization. Greenwood Forest may not wait for an invitation to stay; the church may go ahead and break off on its own, Sherron said.

Two years ago, the convention kicked out a Cabarrus County church for accepting two gay men as members. It was the first time the state's largest religious group targeted a church because of its openly gay members. The move was considered symbolic because affiliation with the state or national convention is voluntary.