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From WRAL Raleigh & the Associated Press:
Gay-Rights Group Denounces N.C. Baptist Stance On Homosexuality
POSTED: 8:34 pm EST November 16, 2005
UPDATED: 8:34 pm EST November 16, 2005
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- The nation's largest gay-rights organization has condemned efforts of the state's Baptist convention to expel any church that "knowingly affirms, approves or endorses homosexual behavior."
"The church should be a beacon, not a barricade," Harry Knox, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign Foundation's religion and faith programs, said Wednesday in a statement. "Gay parishioners contribute in meaningful ways to their local churches and communities and the convention should focus on love and compassion, not finding ways to demean and marginalize the faithful."
On Tuesday, delegates at a meeting of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina asked the group's board of directors to gauge the stance of individual churches on homosexuality. The decision would add that standard to the question of whether a church is "in friendly cooperation" with the convention.
Existing policy only puts the convention at odds with churches that fail to contribute financially to the association, said convention spokesman Norman Jameson. With 1.2 million members, the North Carolina convention is the second largest association of Baptist churches in the nation.
The convention has sanctioned churches for having openly gay members, but has never had a written policy. The organization expelled a Cabarrus County church in 2003 for accepting two gay men as members and later baptizing them.
"I hope (the public) will take it to mean that North Carolina Baptists are voicing our biblical conviction ... (but also) that God offers love and forgiveness and healing," said the Rev. David Horton, president of Gate City Baptist Church in Greensboro and the outgoing state convention president.
The vote was not unanimous. Some delegates opposed the idea because they felt it showed a lack of respect for Baptist heritage, which values the autonomy of local churches, while others felt the decision focused too much attention on the issue.
"Could it be that homosexuality gains our attention primarily because it's not 'our' sin?" said Rob Helton, a delegate from Cherry Point Baptist Church in Havelock. "If we write a policy (on homosexuality), it seems only fair and right that we write a policy on every sin in the Bible."
The Rev. Stanley "Stan" James Welch, pastor of Blackwelder Park Baptist Church in Kannapolis and the convention's newly elected president, said homosexuality has gotten Baptists' attention because of its visible role in American culture.
"Everything in our culture has pushed it to the forefront," he said. "I think it came out in the culture, and we have to deal with it."