Alabama Baptist church faces disfellowship after gay wedding

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez, |
In June, 2014 Weatherly Heights Baptist Church celebrated the first 50 years of ministry at the church. A Facebook post picturing the church's four pastors appeared on June 28, in thanks for their "strong" leadership. From Left to right: Rev. Shirley, Dr. Freeman, Dr. Wilson, Dr. Burhans. | FACEBOOK/Weatherly Heights Baptist Church

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (Christian Examiner) -- A "cordial" difference of opinion on conflicting beliefs between a church and the Madison Baptist Association could result in severed ties over the issue of same-sex marriage.

Following the legalization of same-sex unions in Alabama Feb. 8 Ellin Jimmerson, a minister from Weatherly Heights Baptist Church in Huntsville, officiated Madison county's first same-sex marriage.

The female minister told WHNT News that doing so was an "honor."

"I feel like I'm on the right side of history," Jimmerson said. "This is part of my calling. It is part of my faith journey."

Now the local Baptist association is recommending its other 86 churches disaffiliate from Weatherly Heights and withdraw its membership in the organization.

The recommendation will go to a vote on March 5 at an associational meeting where two representatives from each member church can vote regarding Weatherly Heights' dismissal.

WHNT reported the association released a statement regarding several conversations between the MBA administration and Weatherly Heights Pastor David Freeman.

"In telephone conversations with Dr. Freeman it was learned that he believed that adult, loving, monogamous, same-sex relationships are not condemned in the Bible. He had talked about his beliefs with a group of leaders in his church. The consensus of the group was that he had the freedom to perform a same-sex marriage. Dr. Freeman is very open and honest about his beliefs on this issue and has stated them in at least one sermon, the church newsletter, interviews, and in conversations."

The written statement went on to explain that a follow-up meeting between Freeman and the association's general officers where a "cordial" discussion "with respect for one another" occurred Tuesday.

As the meeting between leaders progressed it became evident that there would be no agreement on same-sex marriage, and that the association's constitution and bylaws, with relation to this issue, would not be adhered to by Weatherly Heights.

Madison Baptist Association bylaws direct readers to various Bible passages in defining marriage as "a union between one man and one woman, following biblical principles."

Weatherly's pastor also drafted a written statement to his church with his own explanation of the events where he ultimately encouraged church members to draw their own conclusions. 

"I just left a meeting with representatives from the Madison Baptist Association. They wanted to clarify my position on homosexuality and same sex marriage," Freeman wrote. Indicating the mutual respect held throughout the conversation he added "We simply agreed to disagree."

"My positions fall outside the beliefs embraced by the association, which are defined in the association's constitution and bylaws. The representatives indicated that they will recommend to the association's executive committee that our church be disfellowshipped."

He concluded with remarks that each church member must form their own positions on the matter of same-sex marriage.

"We talked at length about the beliefs of our church on these matters. I emphasized that our church has not formed a position on these matters. Members of our church are free to form their own positions. My positions are mine alone."

Both written statements can be read in their entirety here.

Neither parties could be reached for comment.