Church booted after pastor marries same-sex couple

by Kelly Ledbetter |

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)A rainbow is seen over a church in Arlington, Virginia, after a localized burst of rain and hail, May 4, 2011. Now the picture symbolizes more -- a changing culture. Historically, the rainbow symbolized God's promise in Genesis 9:14-17 to protect the earth. Now, the gay rights movement has appropriated the symbol to represent "diversity," or the inclusion of homosexuals in American life.

GREENVILLE, S.C. (Christian Examiner) - Greenville Baptist Association voted to dismiss Augusta Heights Baptist Church from its register on Oct. 22 after Pastor Greg Dover officiated a same-sex marriage on Oct. 10. The vote was unanimous.

Al Phillips, director of missions for Greenville Baptist Association, said the wedding, which was not performed at Augusta Heights, was conducted with the deacons' approval.

Our deepest desire is to see the church repent and return to the biblical position of marriage as being between a man and a woman. But we must speak the truth in love.
- Al Phillips

Phillips said in his report to the association after the vote, "It was clear that Augusta Heights had left the biblical view of marriage as being between a man and a woman and accepted same sex marriage."

The association's Church Relations Committee met with the church prior to the vote, Phillips told the Baptist Courier. "We expressed our desire that the pastor and church would repent and return to the biblical view and closed the meeting with prayer to that end," Phillips wrote. "We were left with no choice but to act."

The text of the motion was clear and brief: "It is with great sorrow that The Church Relations Committee moves, as instructed by the Constitution and By-laws of the Greenville Baptist Association, that Augusta Heights Church be dismissed as a member of the Greenville Baptist Association unless the church repents and returns to the biblical position on marriage as being between a man and a woman."

The association is willing to reinstate Augusta Heights if the church "publicly acknowledges that marriage is between a man and a woman" by the time the association convenes again on Jan. 28, Phillips said. Otherwise, the separation will be final.

SOUTH CAROLINA BAPTIST CONVENTION

At the annual meeting of the South Carolina Baptist Convention on Nov. 10, a motion from the SCBC Executive Board to disaffiliate Augusta Heights Baptist Church was approved.

"Our goal is not to punish Augusta Heights but to hold her accountable," Phillips said. "Our deepest desire is to see the church repent and return to the biblical position of marriage as being between a man and a woman. But we must speak the truth in love."

Dwight Easler, chairman of the state convention's executive board and pastor of Corinth Baptist Church, holds a similar view.

"We believe this action by the pastor — and the subsequent inaction of the church to correct this policy through an expression of repentance and returning to a biblical view of marriage and sexuality — is evidence that they are sadly and tragically no longer in friendly cooperation with this convention," Easler said, according to Baptist Press.

"Our convention must lovingly and without apology stand together for the Word of God in order to call sinners to repentance," said the chairman. "We cannot seek relevance and acceptance by celebrating and applauding sin."

As with the Greenville Baptist Association, the South Carolina Baptist Convention would welcome Augusta Heights' return with its "corporate repentance" and an acceptance of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.

Dover became pastor of Augusta Heights in March of this year.