According to the North Carolina-based Baptist Recorder, the Myers Park Baptist Church in Charlotte, NC, has sent a letter to North Carolina State Baptist Convention officials “outing” themselves as a gay-friendly, welcoming and accepting congregation:
The letter notes that BSC procedures call for two complaints about a church before an investigation is started.
“The purpose of this letter is to inform you there is no need to wait upon the secret reports of others,” the deacons wrote. “We, with our 1,850 members serving as witnesses, hereby turn ourselves in.”
Back in November 2006, the Baptist State Convention adopted new procedures ousting churches which are “gay-friendly.” Some churches have already removed themselves from the convention, but Myers Park’s approach to this controversial issue is a commendable one.
The letter invites BSC officials to visit the church and get to know the congregation this spring. It notes that the deacons “believe strongly in the gospel’s power of transformation through experience.”
“Please come join us in all facets of our church life, including our worship, Christian education, mission outreach and all of the other activities of our congregation,” the letter says. “We welcome the opportunity for dialogue with you.”
The letter acknowledges the BSC’s authority as an autonomous group to determine its membership, but also notes that the BSC’s Articles of Incorporation said the convention “is not set up to govern or exercise any authority over other Baptist bodies, but to assist churches in promoting missions, evangelism, education and social services.”
The letter says that the Sanderson amendment’s effect “is to govern interpretation of the Bible by majority vote.”
“We hope that a Baptist Convention operating in the spirit of the Baptist principles of soul competence, soul freedom and local church autonomy would provide for a wider range of scriptural interpretation than your decision indicates,” the letter says. “We are also concerned about what other differences of scriptural interpretation the Convention might use in the future to exclude North Carolina churches.”
The letter says Myers Park has been a part of the BSC since the church’s founding in 1943.
“We have happily contributed both our members and our financial resources to the purposes of the Convention,” the letter says. “While we have not always been in agreement with you (nor you with us), our differences were guided by a mutual respect and a spirit of fellowship.”
The deacons say in the letter that they recognize that both the church and the BSC are seeking to be faithful to God.
“We have a long and important relationship with North Carolina Baptists,” it says. “While we are not eager to see ties broken, we reaffirm Christ’s welcome to all persons and our commitment to being a healing witness in a world of divisions and a part of God’s dream to make all things one.”
Yes, indeed, I commend Myers Park Baptist Church for seeking dialogue instead of division. How easy would it have been to simply remove themselves from the Convention and go an easier path?
Instead, the church is seeking to bring people together, in Christian brother and sisterhood, dialogue and discussion. Their decision was, no doubt, a difficult one. Their decision is one which shows truly the power of the Gospel, that which has the grace and mercy to extend open, wide arms and instigate discussion, conversation and the bringing together of people who may not always agree on the finer points but who all proclaim one simple truth.
This type of discussion is badly needed in the religious, and even political, spheres of our lives and society. The discussion Myers Park is hoping to bring is the same type of discussion the Soulforce Equality Ride attempts to bring to religious colleges and universities across the nation. It is the same type of discussion which has led to great social changes throughout history.
The people of Myers Park Baptist Church are great and compassionate and loving people. I had the pleasure of knowing many of the youth when I was in high school and attended an Alliance of Baptists summer youth camp program for a couple of years. The youth from my church, Wake Forest Baptist in Winston-Salem, NC, as well as others across the South, gathered in the mountains of North Carolina for a week of awesome spiritual community and life. I wish the people of Myers Park the best and I pray that they may find the discussion and dialogue they seek.
When people come together in true human brother and sisterhood seeking nothing more than understanding, compassion and reconciliation, great things can happen.