Atlanta association leaders ask gay-friendly church to leave
August 31 2001 by Bob Allen , Associated Baptist Press

Atlanta association leaders ask gay-friendly church to leave | Friday, Aug. 31, 2001

Friday, Aug. 31, 2001

Atlanta association leaders ask gay-friendly church to leave

By Bob Allen Associated Baptist Press ATLANTA - The executive committee of Atlanta Baptist Association has asked Oakhurst Baptist Church of Decatur, Ga., to voluntarily leave the association or be removed. Oakhurst is one of two churches in the association to survive earlier ouster votes for their "welcoming and affirming" stance toward homosexuals.

The other church, Virginia-Highland Baptist Church in Atlanta, voted May 20 to withdraw from the association after deacons met with the association's director of missions, said Pastor Tim Shirley.

Meeting Aug. 26, the assocication executive committee voted 44-20 to ask Oakhurst to comply with a bylaw banning churches that "affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior" or withdraw voluntarily. If the church doesn't leave the association by Oct. 31, according to the resolution, it will be dismissed.

The executive committee vote reverses decisions at two associational meetings earlier this year. In January, the association voted 253-164 in favor of a membership-committee recommendation to keep the two churches in membership. The action said the association did not "support or condone homosexual activity," but respected the autonomy of the local church.

In March the association approved a new bylaw against full inclusion of gays, but a subsequent vote to expel the two churches didn't receive a required two-thirds vote.

A staff member at Oakhurst said the church desired to remain a part of the association but hasn't yet met to consider a response to the most recent vote.

"We were saddened by the decision and hoped we would be able to work together," said Melanie Vaughan-West, interim minister at the church. The congregation's senior pastor, Lanny Peters, is scheduled to return from a sabbatical Sept. 18.

Vaughan-West said it would now be up to the congregation to decide how to respond.

The executive committee defeated a motion by Robert Walker, pastor of Peachtree Baptist Church, to table the action.

Shirley said at one time his church might have considered leaving quietly but others in the association urged them to stay and fight. Those dynamics changed, however, with a change of personnel on two key committees formerly strongly supportive of the churches and intense pressure over the issue.

After the January vote, the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board and the Georgia Baptist Convention both announced plans to defund the Atlanta Association for its refusal to expel the gay-friendly churches.

About 50 Atlanta-area Baptists met in early March to begin a new metropolitan association in protest of the vote sustaining the churches.

Another 20 churches were said to be waiting on the sidelines to see how the executive committee vote came out before deciding whether to defect as well.

With the prospect of losing additional churches and financial support, Shirley said even some of the association's more progressive leaders appeared to be losing their resolve. "It's easy to take a stand on Day One," he said. "How easy is it to take a stand on Day 100?"

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8/31/2001 12:00:00 AM by Bob Allen , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments
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