SBC removes Kennesaw church over LGBTQ inclusion

The Rev. James Conrad, pastor of Towne View Baptist Church in Kennesaw, said the church will not appeal a decision Tuesday by the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee to disfellowship it for affirming LGBTQ members.

“We’re not going to try to convince them to change their position” said Conrad, who has lead the congregation for 27 years. “That’s just not going to happen.”

The decision followed the recommendations of the denomination’s Credentials Committee and was reached during an executive session in Nashville, according to the Baptist Press, the official news service of the SBC.

In addition to Towne View, St. Matthews Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, was also disfellowshipped for supporting the inclusion of LGBTQ congregants.

Conrad said in an interview Tuesday night that the church has not been officially notified by the Nashville-based SBC, which is the largest Protestant denomination in the United States with more than 14.5 million members nationwide.

However, “we know it happened and we knew it was going to happen,” he said. “Had they decided not to, that would have really made the news.”

He said the church was moving forward and said in a previous interview that it may be independent for a while. He did not rule out joining join another group at some point in the future.

The SBC opposes same-sex marriage and believes that homosexuality goes against biblical teachings.

Tuesday’s decision means Towne View will not be allowed to send messengers to the denomination’s annual convention.

Messengers are very influential in the Southern Baptist Convention, and can elect officers, approve trustees and vote on the direction of the convention until the next annual meeting. The 2021 annual meeting will be held in June in Nashville.

The situation began to unfold in 2019 when a same-sex couple approached Conrad to gauge how welcomed their family would be at the Shiloh Road church. There was nothing in the bylaws that prevented them from joining and the church began the process of clarifying its stance on the issue.

Conrad said the church probably lost about 30 percent of its membership pretty quickly, but said he would do it all over again, if given the chance.

Towne View has benefited from opening its doors to all, he said.

“They have helped us be a better church and we are all growing and learning together,” he said. “We have a transgender woman working with us and I’ve told her if I get it wrong, just let me know. These folks have shown us tremendous grace. Everybody is welcomed here and we believe that is the welcome that Jesus would offer.”

He said he doesn’t hold any ill will against the SBC.

“We’re not mad at anybody,” he said. “We’re not mad at the SBC. We don’t want to convey that and we also don’t want to be used by any group for any agenda.”

The Rev. Jeremy Hall, associate pastor of the church, said he has a sense of relief.

”Now it’s all about the future,” he said. “That’s how I’m feeling. I’m ready.”

In other action, the denomination also cut ties with two other churches: Antioch Baptist Church in Sevierville, Tennessee, for hiring a pastor who confessed to two counts of statutory rape; and West Side Baptist Church in Sharpsville, Pennsylvania, for employing a registered sex offender as its pastor, according to the Baptist Press.