This past Sunday afternoon, Macon, Georgia’s historic First Baptist Church of Christ voted to recognize same-sex marriages. The vote passed with a sizable majority. Beyond just recognizing same-sex marriages, ministers of First Baptist Church of Christ are now able to perform same-sex marriages in the church’s facilities.
Founded in 1826, First Baptist Church of Christ is a member of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. The CBF split from the Southern Baptist Convention in 1991 and styles itself as “moderate.” CBF’s split from the SBC was prompted by the older Baptist convention’s return to conservative theology, specifically within the seminaries. The trajectory of First Baptist Church of Christ is to be expected, and FBCoC’s acceptance and approval of same-sex marriage is in keeping with the progressive move to the left by the church and its affiliated convention.
The vote wasn’t without dissension, though. According to The Telegraph, a local Macon newspaper, “The initial 25-5 vote by the leaders and a congregational blog by Bonnie Chappell, the chair of deacons, indicate that not all members are on board.”
Chappell’s blog post indicates a concern that a potential rift in the congregation could happen because of the vote. She writes:
We are standing on the edge of a big decision, and that has brought with it an understandable measure of anxiety. I hope that naming our fears and hopes—hearing that many others share them—has given you a measure of peace about Sunday’s vote.
Many of us have worried about the potential of a vote on same-sex marriage to divide us. This fear has prevented many churches from having conversations like these at all. But here we all are, having spent time in a room together for three consecutive weeks, discussing openly how God might be calling us to something new. These conversations have been hard, but I am struck by how healthy it feels to have let everything out into the open air. … My hope is that the gentle, grace-filled spirit that has permeated our conversations will continue to guide us after the vote—regardless of its outcome.
That we will not define one another by the ballots we cast. That we will remember that our brothers and sisters have taken their vote as seriously as we have—are trying to be faithful to God, just as we are.
According to a post-vote blog post titled “Who We’ll Be the Next Day” from First Baptist Church of Christ’s pastor Scott Dickison, the church leadership is anxious to stave off disunity. Pastor Dickison explains:
In addition to all that we’re feeling here within our congregation, we’ve already learned that there will be many in our community and beyond who will have reactions to this news, both positive and negative. I suspect you’ve encountered some of both; we in the church office certainly have. Some of these have been incredibly touching, and we’re so grateful they would share their stories with us. Others have been hard to stomach; it’s never easy to hear unkind things said about you and people you love.
It remains to be seen if Pastor Dickison’s efforts can lead to unity and the continued health of First Baptist Church of Christ, but history is not on his side. The testimony of mainline denominations that have left orthodox teaching is one of falling attendance and shuttered doors. In their efforts to be more inclusive by their vote to affirm same-sex marriage, Macon’s First Baptist Church of Christ may have sealed their own fate of irrelevance. Straying from the clear teachings of the Bible is not a recipe for church success.