Broadway to vote on pastor termination

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)--Members of Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, will vote March 9 on whether senior minister Brett Younger should vacate the pulpit.

The church had been divided over whether to publish photos of homosexual couples in a pictorial directory planned for the congregation's 125th anniversary. On Feb. 24, about a third of the church's 1,500 members voted 294-182 to accept a recommendation from the deacon board to include photos of members in "candid, small and large group pictures" but not family portraits.

On Feb. 10, a group calling itself "Friends for the Future of Broadway" submitted their petition calling for a termination vote on Younger, who has led the congregation since April 2001. In response, more than 200 church members signed a statement opposing Younger's ouster. One deacon, Walt Hatter, offered Younger $50,000 to resign.

Over the years, Broadway Baptist Church had adopted a position of "welcoming" gays into membership and even leadership roles, without "affirming" homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle. Younger's critics feel he is moving the church toward an "affirming" position on homosexuality and took issue with his inviting liberal theologian Marcus Borg to preach at the church.

On Feb. 28, Younger asked the deacon board to schedule a vote on his termination, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

"I believe our church needs to move past our present impasse," Younger said in a statement given to the deacons. "I don't think I'm the only issue that divides our church, but I think I've come to represent a certain understanding of who Broadway is.

"I love Broadway, but if people don't want to live out the kind of hopes that I believe God has for the church, then the church and I need to know that." The vote will be held after regular services.

The deacons have recommended a task force to formulate a strategy for resolving the conflict, but the pastor's supporters said his critics were not interested in reconciling. "They clearly want the pastor gone; there is no new news there," deacon David Mallette told the Star-Telegram. "They are attempting to leverage his dismissal against their ongoing participation in the church."

Younger's leadership is not the root of the church's conflict, Mallette added.

"It is my strong opinion that if we dismiss the senior pastor, we have added to that pile of problems."

Broadway has been a significant part of Baptist life in Fort Worth since 1883, when it was founded by John Smith Gillespie. One of Broadway's pastors was involved in the effort to locate Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth and various others have been professors at the seminary.

However, the church has maintained a certain level of disagreement with the Southern Baptist Convention since 1979, when the Conservative Resurgence began to turn the SBC toward biblical inerrancy. Cecil Sherman, the congregation's senior pastor from 1985-92, was the first executive director of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a network of congregations organized in objection to the conservative direction the Southern Baptist Convention was taking.

Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Mark Kelly.

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