The Mercury News

Southern Baptists oust two churches over LGBTQ inclusion

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The Southern Baptist Convention’s executive committee voted Tuesday to oust four of its churches, two over policies deemed to be too inclusive of LGBTQ people and two more for employing pastors convicted of sex offenses.

The actions were announced at a meeting marked by warnings from two top leaders that the SBC, the largest Protestant denominati­on in the United States, was damaging itself with divisions over several critical issues including race.

“We should mourn when closet racists and neo-Confederat­es feel more at home in our churches than do many of our people of color,” said the SBC’s president, J.D. Greear, in his opening speech.

The two churches expelled for LGBTQ inclusion were St. Matthews Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, and Towne View Baptist Church in Kennesaw, Georgia.

Towne View’s pastor, the Rev. Jim Conrad, told The Associated Press last week that he would not appeal the ouster and plans to affiliate his church, at least temporaril­y, with the Cooperativ­e Baptist Fellowship, which lets churches set their own LGBTQ policies.

Towne View began admitting LGBTQ worshipper­s as members in October 2019 after a samesex couple with three adopted children asked Conrad if they could attend, a decision he defends as the right thing to do.

St. Matthews Baptist was among more than 12 churches that lost their affiliatio­n with the Kentucky Baptist Convention

in 2018 because they made financial contributi­ons to the Cooperativ­e Baptist Fellowship, which had recently lifted a ban on hiring LGBTQ employees.

SBC officials said West Side Baptist Church in Sharpsvill­e, Pennsylvan­ia, was ousted because it “knowingly employs as pastor a registered sex offender,” while Antioch Baptist Church in Seviervill­e, Tennessee, has a pastor who was convicted of statutory rape.

Baptist Press, the SBC’s official news agency, identified the Antioch Baptist pastor as John Randy Leming Jr., and said he had pleaded guilty in 1998 to two counts of statutory rape for oral sex with a 16-year-old congregant when he pastored at nearby Shiloh Baptist Church in Sevier County in 1994.

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