More Drama & Division At Broadway Baptist Church
***This is an UPDATED Version****
Back in November, Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth made national news. A new pictorial directory was supposed to be part of Broadway’s 125th birthday celebration. However, controversy erupted over three gay couples that asked to have their pictures included. Questions such as whether allowing the portraits to appear in the directory would be an endorsement of homosexuality were raised by some in the congregation. You can read more about that here and here and here for coverage from EthicsDaily.com
Early in December, Sam Hodges of the Dallas Morning-News reported that Broadway Baptist had decided to postpone any decision about whether to include the gay couples in the church directory until the deacons make a recommendation on February 24. In a prepared statement, Kathy Madeja, deacon chair, stated that: “We will continue to discuss this issue together as a church family. We do not want to rush to make a decision, but rather to continue to listen to each other and for God’s leading for our church.”
Apparently, not everyone has been listening and the situation seems to have exploded.
J. Coleman Baker, Broadway member and author of ProgressiveBaptist.Net, posted on his blog following the January 27th service that Broadway pastor Brett Younger had been offered $50,000 (by a church member representing a secret committee) to resign as pastor by the end of February. Baker’s post was confirmed by this blog.
***Baker removed his post which snippets can still be found here, a few posts down.
This blogger (who notes that his wife is a youth minister at Broadway) reports that a group called Friends for the Future of Broadway has been formed. They have a website which is password protected. According to FFB, when a petition with 100 member signatures is obtained a special meeting “to vote to vacate the pulpit” must be called by the Deacon Chair in according with Broadway’s By-Laws. Here is a statement released by FFB (I indexed it here):
Dear Fellow Broadway Members,
A sizable, informal, intergenerational group of Broadway Baptist Church members has come together recently. We initially met because of a common uneasiness over the multiple divisive issues that have been before the church. This group expanded over the past weeks, and after much prayer, discussion and research, we decided the congregation must determine our church’s future.
Many members are concerned about the general unrest and distrust that has been caused by having one issue after another during the last eighteen months degenerate into polarization, turmoil, tension, discord, divisiveness, loss of membership, and more importantly, the loss of trust and confidence in our pastor’s spiritual and administrative leadership.
We decided we had no choice but to move ahead and seek the signatures of more than 100 members to call a special meeting of the congregation to “vacate the pulpit.”
The church Bylaws have procedures to follow if the congregation desires to remove the pastor: Section 5.10 provides that “any church officer . . . may be removed by the Members whenever, in their judgment, the best interest of the Church would be served thereby.” Section 4.04 provides that “Special meetings of the Members . . . shall be called by the Chair if he/she is requested in writing to do so by at least 100 Members.”
We are now gathering those signatures and will submit them to the Chair of the Deacons so she can call the special meeting to vote to “vacate the pulpit.”
Our group, Friends for the Future of Broadway (the Friends Group), was not a participant in the events of January 24-30 wherein the Pastor was approached by a church member who proposed that the Pastor’s voluntary resignation would be in his and the church’s best interest because of the turmoil within the church. The church member who met with the Pastor is not a member of the Friends Group. The Friends Group was not a participant in the pledging of any funds mentioned in connection with the church member’s meeting with the Pastor. The Friends Group had no advance knowledge of the meeting with the Pastor. The Friends Group was advised of the meeting after it had taken place.
We believe that our actions and plans are consistent with scripture and the church’s bylaws. It is with authority from these two sources that we are proceeding.
We are deeply concerned about our pastor, his future, and his family. We are equally concerned about our church. Our prayer is that God’s presence be in our midst as we all sincerely seek God’s leadership for Broadway, the church we all love.
Spokesperson for Friends for the Future of Broadway
P. S. You may email me at email@example.com with questions and suggestions.
Over at ProgressiveBaptist.net, J. Coleman Baker has posted several more snippets from the letter sent out by the Friends for the Future of Broadway Baptist Church. Here they are.
“When Dr. Brett Younger came to Broadway seven years ago, we were a divided church and desperately needed a pastor who could bring healing and unity. Today our church is more divided, and has some 26% fewer people attending Sunday School, than when Dr. Younger arrived. In addition, the Pastor has neglected Broadway’s own historic moderate Baptist theological heritage. And in the course of his pastorate the Pastor has abused Broadway’s policy and practice of self-governance toward his own ends.”
“These members have the courage to make a stand, with the aim of rescuing their church and its future. With prayerful consideration of God’s direction, they have decided that it is time for the congregation to have the opportunity to determine the church’s future, by being able to vote on ‘vacating the pulpit.'”
“Members of this group, Friends for the Future of Broadway (Friends Group) believe that the church should continue to welcome all kinds of people. They believe every church should minister to the poor. Broadway has been a leader in mission outreach to the underprivileged, and the Friends Group wants this to continue.”
Baker, a Progressive Baptist and supporter of the Pastor and Staff, provides commentary here.
1. The Pastor has demonstrated ineffective spiritual and administrative leadership by allowing, in the last year and a half alone, one issue/project after another (such as those listed below) to deteriorate into extreme divisiveness within the congregation, resulting in significant loss of membership.
(c) The picturing/listing of homosexual members as couples in the 125th anniversary pictorial directory.
The Pastor stopped the production of the directory because he objected to prior church policy and practice of not having homosexual persons pictured and listed as couples, and attempted to substitute his own format for the directory, without authorization from the Board of Deacons and the congregation. (With respect to homosexuals, Broadway has been a “welcoming” church, but not an “affirming” church [i.e., Broadway has not endorsed/affirmed homosexual practice]. The problem the Pastor created was that Broadway was perceived to be on the verge of endorsing or affirming homosexual practice by picturing and listing homosexuals as couples.)
(i) This stance eventually resulted in embarrassing adverse local and national publicity for Broadway, risked our church’s being expelled from the Baptist General Convention of Texas and Tarrant Baptist Association, jeopardized the employment of church members (including staff) who are employed by other Christian organizations (one church member has already lost such employment), jeopardized the business of members whose work is with other Christian churches, and jeopardized some of Broadway’s mission projects.
(ii) The Pastor publicly stated, long before the congregation became aware of the subject, that Broadway was an “affirming” church. In a story originally published in 2004 and republished December 12, 2007
(d) Invitation to preach extended to a very controversial theologian
The Pastor extended an invitation to preach from the pulpit to a very controversial theologian, Dr. Marcus J. Borg, whose published theological views are well outside Broadway’s own historical moderate Baptist heritage based on timeless core foundational doctrines of the Christian faith. While Broadway has always appreciated diverse theological perspectives, the pulpit has been considered the source of Christian proclamation. This invitation was extended while the members were still struggling with the church directory crisis created by the Pastor. The Pastor withdrew the invitation to preach from the pulpit, but only upon the strong objections of several church members.
B. Departure from Broadway’s own historical moderate Baptist theological heritage
1. The Pastor has taken Broadway, without authorization from the Deacons or the congregation, far away from its own historical moderate Baptist heritage based on timeless core foundational doctrines of the Christian faith. This is in spite of the fact that in October 2000, the congregation re-affirmed its adoption of the “Baptist Faith and Message,” which it had originally adopted in 1963. Also, the Pastor’s Job Description requires that he be “guided by…historic Baptist principles…” and have “significant … appreciation for Baptist polity, theology, and history.”
2. The Pastor has neglected Broadway’s association and cooperation with Tarrant Baptist Association, the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, even though, in its Bylaws, the Church “recognizes the obligations of mutual counsel and cooperation which are common among Baptist churches of like faith and practice.”
3. The Pastor has encouraged the teaching of the “emerging paradigm” view of Christianity in Broadway Baptist Church as an acceptable and legitimate alternative to traditional Christianity, even though:
(a) The “emerging paradigm” view of Christianity is in direct conflict with Broadway’s historical practice of moderate Christianity, more specifically as described in the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message, which was reaffirmed by congregational vote as recently as 2000, and
(b) The “emerging paradigm” view of Christianity is quite divisive. Marcus Borg’s own theology posits two paradigms throughout the Christian world and within local congregations: the “earlier paradigm” and the “emerging paradigm.” This presumes an ongoing conflict and continual division within the local congregation. Borg himself has said, “Both [traditional Christianity and the emerging paradigm] are present in the churches of North America today, deeply dividing Christians.”
Note: The “emerging paradigm” is described by the controversial theologian, Marcus Borg, in his most recent book, The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith by Marcus J. Borg, (2003) HarperSanFrancisco. Click here for an analysis of the “emerging paradigm” and a critique of Marcus J. Borg’s book.
4. Many feel that Broadway’s historic position as a moderate Baptist Church is being undermined by the pastor. Several years ago, after the takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention by fundamentalists, Broadway chose not to become a part of that movement. The Friends Group is opposed to the pastor’s leadership away from our moderate Baptist heritage.
I don’t know whether the newly formed Friends group will be successful in their attempt to “vacate the pulpit” or fire pastor Brett Younger. One thing for sure is that Baptist life has taken a turn for the nasty in Fort Worth. Both sides have taken this thing to the internet. During the initial directory controversy, both sides went straight to the blogosphere. And now, the Anti-Younger crowd has created a website for church members and a few Pro-Younger folks have headed straight to the Baptist Blogosphere.
In that regard, Broadway seems to be following in the footsteps of Bellevue Baptist Church of Cordova, Tennessee, First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Florida, Montrose Baptist Church of Rockville, Maryland, Germantown Baptist Church of Germantown, Tennessee and a handful of other prominent Baptist congregations that have publicized their church conflict via the blogosphere and world wide web.
Other Baptist churches that have gone public with their drama include Jerry Sutton’s Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., First Baptist Church of Daytona, Florida, First Baptist Church of Colleyville, Texas and First Baptist Church of Raytown, Missouri. In the cases of FBC Daytona, pastor David Cox resigned after having been attacked for an expensive sanctuary renovation. Sam Shaw, pastor of Germantown Baptist Church resigned due in part to his unsuccessful proposal to shift the church’s governance to elder-led instead of congregation-led. As Brian Kaylor reported for EthicsDaily.com last summer, in many of these lay-led conflicts, dissident members established web sites to explain concerns and garner support which often led to coverage from local and national media.
Todd Rhoades, who writes about conflict and other church leadership issues at www.mondaymorninginsight.com, has noted that while such church conflicts are not new, the technology has changed the nature of the fights. According to Rhoades this “trend is not going to go away, my fear is that this could happen to any church or pastor regardless of the situation.”
What makes Broadway’s situation interesting is that most of these nationally publicized church conflicts have been at large Southern Baptist congregations (i.e. Two Rivers, FBC Jax, Bellevue). However, Broadway is a well-known, historic moderate Baptist church. And the group that is trying to oust the pastor is accusing the pastor of neglecting “Broadway’s historic moderate Baptist theological heritage.”
As I previously noted, Broadway Baptist is one of the most historic congregations in the Baptist General Convention of Texas. BBC was the home to John Claypool from 1971-1976, Welton Gaddy from 1977-1983 and Cecil Sherman from 1985 to 1982. Throughout the SBC Controversy, Sherman was one of the most outspoken voices on the moderate side. He helped form the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and became the CBF’s first Executive-Director in 1992.
Personally, I have no sympathies for any church faction trying to oust their pastor. My childhood church, First Baptist Church of Lyons, Georgia split after a group of rather uneducated fundamentalists forced the Pastor, Music Minister and Youth Minister to resign. At least Broadway knows that their current conflict has something to do with homosexuality. Six years later and I still am unsure what my church’s miniature fundy takeover was really about (other than power and control).
**UPDATE: All files were saved from the Friend’s website and hosted here.