The Southern Baptist Convention has voted to cut ties with a church in Albany, Georgia because of racial discrimination. The convention says it’s the first time a church has been “dis-fellowed” over race.
Membership at the Raleigh White Baptist Church had been declining for years when it agreed to partner with a growing, mostly black congregation, New Seasons, in 2015. Tensions began to build over shared church facilities within the first year, according to the Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s official news service.
The problems came to a head earlier this year during a Sunday scheduling conflict. Raleigh White had booked church facilities for an annual homecoming event well in advance, but not all New Seasons church members got the memo. When New Seasons congregants started showing up, they were reportedly turned away. One person who tried to use a restroom was told to use one at a store down the road.
Spokesperson Roger Oldham said a convention board voted Monday to cut ties with the Raleigh White church “on the basis of what appeared to be clear evidence of discriminatory acts toward individuals based solely on the color of their skin.”
“Racial reconciliation” has been an ongoing project of the SBC. In recent years it’s condemned the use of the Confederate flag and denounced white supremacy.
Oldham estimated there have been just two to three other disfellowships in the past five years.
“This is the first time as far as I’m aware in history that such an action has taken place on the basis of alleged racial acts,” he said.
“The larger number of reasons over the last 20 years have been over affirming, endorsing or approving homosexual behavior as a normative lifestyle, which we believe is antithetical to an informed, biblical worldview,” Oldham said.
The Southern Baptist Convention is currently in Dallas for its annual meeting. Attendants are grappling with a range of social issues, including the #MeToo movement.
Raleigh White Baptist Church could not be reached for comment.