SBC President J.D. Greear addresses the Feb. 22 plenary session of the SBC Executive Committee. The meeting was held in a large hotel ballroom to allow for social distancing. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the committee had not met in person since last February.
BP photo by Kyle Cochran

SBC Executive Committee disfellowships four churches, challenges Southwestern Seminary’s suspension of trustees

Meeting in person for the first time in a year, about 80% of the 86-member SBC Executive Committee gathered in Nashville, Feb. 22–23.

Other members were able to join the committee meetings virtually but did not have opportunity to vote. The plenary sessions were livestreamed and available to the public.

While TAB Media anticipated tense conversations dealing with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and others, it was a surprise topic — related to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary — that captured most of the attention.

Southwestern trustee debate

Southwestern recently settled a lawsuit involving two of its trustees, which resulted in those trustees resigning. But before the lawsuit was settled Feb. 8, the trustees were suspended because alleged “misconduct.”

Executive Committee attorneys argued that only messengers to an SBC annual meeting can take that action. Southwestern officials pushed back, and the in-person discussion Feb. 23 became heated.

The result? An EC task force was formed to study the issue.

A separate task force focused on the ERLC concluded its work Feb. 23 with a report basically noting that the “ERLC is functioning within the bounds of its ministry assignment. How well is up to the board of directors (and it is) undeniably, yes, impacting (Cooperative Program) funds,” said task force chair Mike Stone.

While no vote was taken on the report, the action items will be considered by EC officers and staff, according to Stone.

In other news, four churches were disfellowshipped for adverse policies and practices including employing convicted sex offenders and affirming homosexuality within their memberships, according to a news story by Baptist Press.

Four churches disfellowshipped

Disfellowshipped for affirming homosexuality were Towne View Baptist Church in Kennesaw, Georgia, and St. Matthews Baptist Church, Louisville, Kentucky.

Antioch Baptist Church in Sevierville, Tennessee, was dropped for employing a pastor who confessed to two counts of statutory rape.

West Side Baptist Church in Sharpsville, Pennsylvania, was disfellowshipped for employing as its pastor a registered sex offender.

The decisions came during an executive session Feb. 23, following the recommendations of the SBC Credentials Committee. The decisions were announced in a plenary session at the close of its two-day meeting in Nashville.

The SBC repurposed the Credentials Committee in 2019 to make inquiries and recommendations for action regarding instances of issues that call into question a church’s relationship with the SBC.

“We take no pleasure in recommending that a church is not in friendly cooperation with the convention,” Credentials Committee chairman Mike Lawson said.

“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.

“We are grieved, but we believe it was the right decision to recommend and will continue to pray for all involved.”

Towne View Baptist

Towne View Pastor Jim Conrad said he regrets being disfellowshipped and will now evaluate the church’s relationship with the Georgia Baptist Mission Board and the Noonday Association.

“We are grateful for our relationship with the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention over the history of our church, and we remain committed to share God’s love in and through Jesus with everybody and to welcome anybody who can profess Jesus as Lord into the fellowship of our church,” he said.

Towne View made the decision to accept a male homosexual couple with their three adopted sons who sought membership there in October 2019, Conrad has said, and at the time lost 30 percent of its membership. But he remains committed to his decision.

“We see them as all of us,” he said of homosexuals, “as children of God created in the image of God, and anyone who can profess Jesus as Lord should be welcomed into our church.”

St. Matthews Baptist

The Kentucky Baptist Convention was the first to disfellowship St. Matthews, dropping the church in 2018 over its support of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship that affirms homosexuality.
The church had continued its affiliation with the SBC.

St. Matthews Pastor Bob Baker wasn’t available for comment. But when the KBC disfellowshipped the church, Greg Barr, who led the church in 2018, described the decision as “disheartening.”

“The Kentucky Baptist Convention had an opportunity to demonstrate to a divided nation that we do not have to agree on everything in order to love each other and partner together in carrying out the mission Jesus called us to. Unfortunately, the Convention chose a different course,” Barr told the Louisville Courier-Journal.

“Our church believes that unity and difference of opinion can co-exist in the service of our Lord.”

Antioch Baptist

Antioch Baptist employs as its pastor John Randy Leming Jr., who pleaded guilty to two counts of statutory rape for oral sex with a 16-year-old congregant when he pastored Shiloh Baptist Church in Sevier County.

He pleaded guilty in 1998 to the offenses that occurred in May and June of 1994, when he was 31, and lost his appeal of the concurrent 18-month sentences. Leming has served at Antioch since March 2014, according to the SBC Annual Church Profile. He could not be reached for comment.

West Side Baptist

West Side Pastor David Pearson is listed on the National Sex Offender registry for his 1993 conviction of aggravated criminal sexual assault of a child in Denton, Texas.
Contacted regarding the EC’s action, Pearson said he had no comment.

West Side Baptist Church was previously disfellowshipped by the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey but continued to affiliate with the SBC.

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