Church split may loom at Broadway
FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)--Members of Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth overwhelmingly voted 499-237 to retain senior pastor Brett Younger in a closed business meeting March 9.
"Regardless of the outcome, we know that people will be hurting and will need reconciliation after this," deacon board chair Kathy Madeja said before the vote, which was closed to the media. She also mentioned that the Texas church will retain the services of an outside consultant who specializes in church conflict resolution.
The motion to vacate the pulpit was brought before the church by 162 members who were at least in part represented by a group called Friends for the Future of Broadway.
Friends for the Future of Broadway did not respond to a request for comment from Baptist Press for this story. According to published accounts, however, group spokesman Robert Saul estimates that 300 people either are considering or have decided to leave the church because of the vote.
Broadway, which has long been an important part of the moderate faction of Southern Baptist life, has been embroiled in controversy for the last several months as members have struggled with issues such as whether to allow homosexual couples in the church photographed and presented as couples in a planned 125th anniversary pictorial directory.
At issue was not whether homosexuals should be able to serve, attend and hold positions of authority in the church but whether a pictorial directory that included homosexual couples would make it appear as if the church endorsed the homosexual lifestyle. That issue was settled Feb. 24 when the church voted 294-182 to leave family portraits out of the directory in favor of candid photos.
Friends for the Future of Broadway had brought a litany of complaints against Younger in recent months, criticizing his handling of the pictorial directory controversy, his invitation to controversial theologian Marcus Borg to preach to the church and a decline in church attendance since the beginning of his tenure in 2001.
In late February, the controversy came to a head when the petition to vacate the pulpit was brought to the deacons and the date was set for a church-wide vote on the issue.
According to Friends for the Future of Broadway's website, the group requested a 90-day "cooling off" period during which the pastor would go on paid administrative leave and the church would work with an outside consultant to try to resolve tensions within the church over a variety of issues, but Younger refused. Instead, the dismissal vote was set for March 8.
Samuel Smith is a writer based in Fort Worth, Texas.