The Atlanta Metro Baptist Association has severed ties with the First Baptist Church of Decatur over what it calls a “misalignment” of biblical standards.
First Baptist’s Senior Pastor David Jordan, though, thinks it boils down to the fact that the church has ordained gay deacons and is an LGBTQ-inclusive congregation at a time when the association has taken “a pretty hard right turn.”
“I don’t think anybody likes to be kicked out of anything, but in a way, we can feel good about it because we are being kicked out for a very worthy cause,” Jordan said. “It’s sad that people have this kind of mindset.”
The Clairmont Road church was notified of the action in a Jan. 31 letter from Atlanta Metro Baptist Association Executive Director Jimmy D. Baughcum.
The letter does not mention LGBTQ issues.
It says the church’s “misalignment with the qualifications of a member church by affirming, approving, or endorsing practices or behaviors that do not align with biblical standards as outlined in the Manual of Procedure adopted by the association in May 2019.”
Baughcum declined to elaborate.
“This is an association and church matter and I have committed to speak about it only with those within the church and faith community at this time,” he said in an email Thursday.
The letter also says that the Decatur church has not sent a representative or messengers to any Atlanta Metro meetings in the past two years.
However, Jordan, who came to the church from Charlotte, North Carolina, two years ago, said members have frequently volunteered at the association.
Jordan was visited by association officials last November.
The conversations started off on a good note, but the “tone quickly changed to basically you are in very clear violations of our bylaws. The wording was basically it’s your choice, you can either go quietly or we will vote you out. I told them that is your issue, not ours.”
He said the Atlanta-based association has been a good support system for churches through partnership in local missions, help for struggling churches and combining resources “but clearly we have a different vision of what a church should be.”
This is not the first time the historic church, which has an active membership of about 700 people, has been at odds with a Baptist association.
The Georgia Baptist Convention in 2009 severed its 148-year relationship with First Baptist Church of Decatur after it called a woman, the Rev. Julie Pennington-Russell, as its pastor. The church is now part of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
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SOURCE: The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Shelia Poole