GREENVILLE, S.C. – A historic Baptist church in South Carolina that gave rise to the first president of the Southern Baptist Convention has adopted a new non-discrimination policy that will allow its leadership to perform same-sex “marriage” ceremonies and also ordain open homosexuals.
First Baptist Church of Greenville, South Carolina, was founded in 1831. Though the church’s organizer, William Bullein Johnson, became the first president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the church parted ways with the Southern Baptist Convention in 1999.
Late last year, members of the congregation gathered in small groups to discuss the church’s position on homosexuality. Eventually, the members concluded that “being open and welcoming to all people is part of the essential nature of our community of faith.”
According to The Greenville News, the congregation then decided to adopt a non-discrimination policy that effectively endorses all “sexual orientations” and “gender identities.”
“In all facets of the life and ministry of our church, including but not limited to membership, baptism, ordination, marriage, teaching and committee/organizational leadership,” they affirmed, “First Baptist Greenville will not discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The results of this new position are far-reaching. Not only can First Baptist Church of Greenville now officiate same-sex “weddings,” but homosexual and transgender individuals may now hold leadership roles and serve as ministers.
Jim Dant, the senior minister, described the decision-making process as “a beautiful, internal discussion,” and says he doesn’t care what others think about the congregation’s unorthodox viewpoints on sexuality.
“We need to do the right thing, regardless of what anybody thinks or says about us,” he told The Greenville News earlier this month.
Dant believes the Bible’s teachings on family values are not applicable today.
“There’s no family value system in the Bible that we would lay into the 21st century,” he claimed. “We don’t have two wives and sleep with our maids and have a bunch of children and that be fine. What we believe about marriage and family is culturally driven, not biblically driven.”
The senior minister hopes First Baptist’s new position will be seen as an alternative to common evangelical beliefs.
“In some ways, it’s going to open up a space for evangelical gay people to have a place again,” he said. “There will be a voice of biblical interpretation in the evangelical world that says the way this has been interpreted by the average preacher on AM radio every Sunday is not the only way that evangelicals read biblical literature.”
Though most members reportedly supported the decision, other Christians in the area expressed dismay at the church’s departure from biblical Christianity.
“I can’t believe the stance that First Baptist Church of Greenville is taking on this same-sex marriage abomination,” Nancy Goodwin, a resident of nearby Simpsonville, wrote in a letter to The Greenville News. “Evidently they have just thrown out the words of God on this subject. The idea that a gay man can teach a boys’ class is so wrong.”
“They say, ‘What we believe about marriage and family is culturally driven, not biblically driven,’” she continued. “Wonder what Bible they’re using. Certainly not the one I use. This is so sad. This church needs our prayers.”