GREENVILLE, S.C. (Christian Examiner) – Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd said the "family of faith" is concerned about a decision by the First Baptist Church of Greenville, historic home of the denomination's first-ever president in 1845, to ordain and marry homosexuals.
"My heart was grieved when I heard of the decision made by the First Baptist Church of Greenville," Floyd told Christian Examiner.
Floyd said it was reported the Greenville church left the Southern Baptist Convention, what has grown to become a 15.5 million member denomination with over 45,000 churches, in 1999, but said, "their decision still concerns all of us in the family of faith."
A new non-discrimination policy at First Baptist Church in Greenville paves the way for same-sex marriage ceremonies and allow membership, leadership positions, church ordinances, and ordination to openly gay and transgender individuals without telling them their lifestyles contradict biblical teaching.
The policy was enacted following a six-month "discernment process" that began in November 2014 during which more than 200 church members discussed their personal experiences, their interpretations of Scripture, and who they believed they were as Christians and as Baptists, the church's pastor, Jim Dant, told the Greenville Online.
"It's going to open up a space for evangelical gay people to have a place again," Dant said of his church's recent consensus to "not discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity."
Floyd spoke to Southern Baptists' beliefs on the issue:
"Southern Baptists stand believing that marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime," he told Christian Examiner. "On June 16, 2015, our convention adopted a strong and clear resolution on biblical marriage. Unapologetically and unashamedly, we stand upon the teachings of Holy Scripture regarding sexuality and marriage."
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, to which the Greenville church is aligned, hosted a breakout session at its 2015 annual meeting in June in which two CBF pastors presented opposing views on the issue – but agreed leadership did not consider the matter theological.
Floyd had words for the church despite its alignment.
"We pray that this church will one day return to be biblically driven in their belief about marriage and family, rather than culturally driven as they have testified in the reported story," he told the Examiner.
- With some reporting by Kimberly Pennington