Earlier this month, Journey Fellowship, a Baptist congregation in Owensboro, Kentucky, discovered that their local Baptist association would be voting on whether or not to allow the congregation to remain affiliated. Journey Fellowship’s alleged offense was providing meeting space for a local PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) chapter. On Monday, the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association voted 220-24 to remove Journey Fellowship from the association.
Journey Fellowship has adopted a position of “radical acceptance” when it comes to LGBT people, which previously put them at odds with the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association’s parent denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention. Journey Fellowship was formerly affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, but cut ties several years ago and has identified as an Independent Baptist church since then. Pastor Bob Coons says that he is saddened, but not surprised that Journey Fellowship was expelled from the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association. The letter he received from the association “demand[ed] PFLAG leave and [Journey Fellowship] sever our affiliation with them.” Journey Fellowship’s relationship with PFLAG is not a partnership or sponsorship, according to Pastor Coons. Rather, the congregation simply opens up their building space for PFLAG meetings. The association’s vote to expel Journey Fellowship will not change the congregation’s decision to allow PFLAG to hold meetings in their space, which have been held monthly for about a year. As Pastor Coons told us:
Although our initial invitation to PFLAG was simply a response to their request to use our building, the extremely negative reaction of [the] DMBA to our decision has led us to reexamine, clarify, and refine our position. […] Our reexamination of the biblical record in context has led us to conclude that ALL of God’s children matter!
The Southern Baptist Convention and its state-level affiliates are still unwelcoming of LGBT people, but not all Baptists agree with this doctrine of exclusion and shaming. The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists (AWAB), an association of Baptist churches that are welcoming of LGBT people, grew out of the American Baptist tradition and was formed about ten years ago. Now closely affiliated with both the American Baptist Churches and Alliance of Baptists traditions, the AWAB has churches in 25 states in almost all parts of the country. The AWAB is also closely tied to the Baptist Peace Fellowship, an organization concerned with social justice. The Southern Baptist Convention may be the largest Baptist denomination in the United States, but their position on LGBT people does not represent all Baptists.
GLAAD reached out to Pastor Coons and Becky Herbog, who runs the Owensboro chapter of PFLAG, to let them know how important their work is. We commend both for their dedication to treating all people with respect and dignity.