WASHINGTON, D.C. — A historic Baptist “church” in the nation’s capital has hired two “married” lesbian women to lead their congregation, a move that has raised concerns among Baptists nationwide.
Calvary Baptist Church, which disassociated with the Southern Baptist Convention in 2012, presented Maria Swearingen and Sally Sarratt as “co-pastors” this past Sunday, according to a press release from the Ministerial Selection Committee.
The two hail from Greenville, South Carolina as Sarratt had been serving as associate chaplain in the Greenville Health System and Swearingen as associate chaplain at Furman University. Sarratt had also been working part time at Greenville Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.
“As we met and talked with Sally and Maria about their vision for pastoral leadership at Calvary, we were struck by their deep faith and commitment to being part of a gospel community,” Committee Chair Carol Blythe said in a statement.
“We were impressed by how their gifts, talents, and experience matched our ministry priorities—and we are thrilled about their upcoming pastorate and the versatility the co-pastor model will provide our congregation,” she added.
The women are expected to assume their roles in February.
But some have expressed concern over the arrangement, including Albert Mohler of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
“Here you have a church—Calvary Baptist Church, one of the most historic congregations in the nation’s capital—that has now called a legally married lesbian couple as co-pastors,” he said on Tuesday during his podcast “The Briefing.” “The overarching pattern [in this matter] is the trajectory of American Protestant liberalism. That liberalism began as an impulse to try to modify Christianity so that it would fit better into a modern age.”
Mohler opined that the problems, however, go deeper than lesbianism, as he noted that one of the women works as a minister for a universalist assembly.
The Unitarian Universalist Association website outlines, “Few of us believe in divine judgment after death. It’s in our religious DNA: the Universalist side of our tradition broke with mainstream Christianity by rejecting the idea of eternal damnation.”
“If the [District of Columbia Baptist Convention] does not expel Calvary Baptist Church from their membership, then they by very definition simply become a convention that will accept—that indeed does accept—a church that has legally married lesbian co-pastors in terms of their own membership,” Mohler stated.
But Convention director Robert Cochran told reporters that the organization has no intention of expelling Calvary Baptist.
“We have no plans to disassociate [with Calvary]. To the best of my knowledge, the D.C. Baptist Convention, due to its respect for local congregational autonomy, has never withdrawn fellowship from any congregation,” he told the Baptist Press.
As previously reported, in 2014, Calvary Baptist ordained Daniel Robinson, a “transgender” who goes by the name Allyson Robinson.
“Allyson Dylan Robinson is a minister of the gospel, trained for the task, and ordained to the gospel ministry by another community in which she has served as pastor,” former leader Amy Butler wrote at that time. “Over the course of her journey, God has invited her to step into the faithful witness of a new identity, a true identity, and a new name.”
Robinson now speaks as an itinerant preacher and appeared at Bruce “Caitlyn” Jenner’s renaming ceremony in 2015.
“Frankly I consider Job, Gautama Buddha, Joan of Arc, Rumi and Johnny Cash to be my spiritual predecessors far more than Augustine, Aquinas or Barth,” he told the Alliance of Baptists in April. “My hymnal has a lot less Isaac Watts and Fanny Crosby, but it’s full of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Tupac and Beyonce.”