Southern Baptist Convention expels Louisville church over LGBTQ policies

Holly Meyer Emma Austin Holly Meyer
Nashville Tennessean

The Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee expelled four churches — including one in Louisville for affirming LGBTQ people — during a Tuesday meeting in Nashville, Tennessee.

The 80-plus member body, which acts on behalf of the Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention when it is not in session, deemed St. Matthews Baptist Church to be no longer in friendly cooperation with the conservative evangelical denomination over its LGBTQ-inclusive policies.

Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a leader in the Southern Baptist Convention, announced the disfellowships Tuesday afternoon on Twitter and called the actions “necessary and proper.”

“Anyone who argues that the Bible — OT and NT — is not clear about the sinfulness of homosexuality is either very confused or deliberately dishonest about the structure of biblical theology and the clear meaning of the texts,” Mohler wrote on Twitter.

Michael Payne, chair of the St. Matthews Baptist Church Administrative Council, said the convention cited its membership policies as the reason for the action.

"The Convention's decision was apparently based on our congregation's November 2019 reaffirmation of SMBC's long-standing policy that a belief in Jesus as personal Savior is the sole criterion for membership in our Church," Payne said in a statement. "... Nothing in the Southern Baptist Convention's decision changes St. Matthews Baptist Church's deep commitment to carrying out what God calls us to do in our worship and spiritual growth, as well as in ministries to those in need and fellowship within our Church family."

A new type of 'Sunday Service'? This church needs your help to feed the hungry

Towne View Baptist Church in Kennesaw, Georgia, was removed from the convention for the same reason. Antioch Baptist Church in Sevierville, Tennessee, and Westside Baptist Church in Sharpsville, Pennsylvania, were removed for employing pastors convicted of sex offenses.

The churches are the latest to be expelled from the largest Protestant denomination in America through its new Credentials Committee process. While the committee can consider an array of compatibility issues, it was created in 2019 as an answer to the Southern Baptist sexual abuse crisis exposed in news reports.

“We take no pleasure in recommending that a church is not in friendly cooperation with the convention,” Credentials Committee Chairman Mike Lawson told Baptist Press, the convention's publication. “We would like nothing more than for all our churches to be in harmony on such vital issues. But when the available information shows clearly that we are not, it is necessary to take action."

St. Matthews Baptist

The Southern Baptist Convention is not the only entity to sever ties with the Louisville church over its support of LGBTQ people.

The Kentucky Baptist Convention in 2018 ended its relationship with St. Matthews and about a dozen other churches also affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, which had lifted its ban on hiring staff who identified as LGBTQ. 

Payne said the Louisville congregation in 2018 adopted the policy of maintaining its existing denominational relationships unless and until a partner chooses to disaffiliate with the church.

"We continue to stand by that policy as we seek to work collaboratively with others for the greater good," Payne said.

Also:Seminary president has no remorse for endorsing Trump, despite violence at Capitol

Reach Emma Austin at eaustin@gannett.com or on Twitter at @emmacaustin.