LONGVIEW, Texas (Christian Examiner) – A Southern Baptist Church in Longview, Texas, has placed one of its paid musicians on indefinite leave after he officiated a same-sex wedding ceremony, the Longview News-Journal has reported.
According to the paper, Johnny Griffith, who has been licensed to officiate weddings for nearly two decades, said he was told by leaders of Mobberly Baptist Church Sunday morning, July 5, his services at the church would not be needed until the church could evaluate his actions.
Make no mistake, despite this 'new law,' my personal beliefs have not changed. Our church's convictions have not changed. The world looks for new insight into our changing culture, while we look to God's unchanging, inspired and inerrant Word in order to navigate life in our changing culture.
Griffith, who has worked at the church for nearly four years, officiated a wedding for a lesbian couple in Kilgore the day before.
The action taken by the church came as a shock to Griffith, but it shouldn't have. On June 26, the same day the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, the church's pastor issued a statement saying the church would hold firm to its beliefs about marriage being solely a union between a man and a woman.
"Make no mistake, despite this 'new law,' my personal beliefs have not changed. Our church's convictions have not changed," pastor Glynn Stone wrote on the church's website. "The world looks for new insight into our changing culture, while we look to God's unchanging, inspired and inerrant Word in order to navigate life in our changing culture."
Griffith said he knew his actions might cause the church to respond. He told the paper he believed officiating at the wedding was "the best representation of the example Christ portrayed in the Gospels, portraying the spirit of love, light and peace."
He also said the church "has the right, as a private, religious organization, to exercise their freedoms as they see fit."
"It's unfortunate that trying to do the right thing took money out of my family's budget," Griffith said.
Church leaders, however, said the right thing to do is always the biblical thing. Shortly after news broke of Griffith's hiatus from the church, Mickey Seward, a church spokesman, said "upholding the values of the church is an essential responsibility of men and women in leadership positions, whether full-time or part-time employees, contract workers or volunteers."
According to Seward, the church expressed a desire to discuss Griffith's spiritual convictions with him to make sure they align with those of the church. If they don't, and that appears to be the case, presumably Griffith will not return.
"Any person who is in a leadership or prominent position at Mobberly is expected to uphold the core values of the church," Seward said. "That is a longstanding policy of Mobberly Baptist Church, just as it is in most churches, organizations and businesses."
This year, the Convention issued resolutions on same-sex marriage and religious freedom. SBC President Ronnie Floyd said Southern Baptist Churches will not perform same-sex marriages and lend support to them through the use of facilities and other services.