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A former Southern Baptist Church has decided all are welcomed in their pulpit, going so far as to ordain gay and transgender ministers.
First Baptist of Greenville, South Carolina—the church home of the first Southern Baptist Convention president—has taken a bold move in "embracing the complexities of gender identity."
"What I heard was, 'We need to do the right thing, regardless of what anybody thinks or says about us,'" Senior Pastor Jim Dant tells Greenville Online. "There were a few people who said, 'Are they going to start calling us the gay church in town?'"
After a six-month exploratory time, Greenville asked their members to affirm the acceptance of same-sex couples. According to Greenville Online, those who didn't affirm the church's decision still remained in the congregation.
In moving forward, the church ministers can perform same-sex unions and ordain any person, regardless of sexual orientation and lifestyle, to serve in a leadership role.
Greenville split from the SBC in the early 1990s, and is now a member of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Before leaving the original denomination, however, Greenville was home to William Bullein Johnson. Johnson not only served as a minister at Greenville, but was inaugural president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
On their Facebook page, Greenville received several positive comments about their move.
"Thank you FBC Greenville. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:8," one commenter wrote.
Another: "One day very soon, the Southern Baptist Convention will find themselves marooned on a bigoted island of their own making, while the civilized world of sound, modern biblical exegesis goes on around them."
The SBC, however, has no plans of the sort. President Ronnie Floyd told the Christian Examiner that the SBC stands by their biblical definition of marriage, and are in prayer for Greenville.
"We pray that this church will one day return to be biblically driven in their belief about marriage and family, rather than culturally driven as they have testified in the reported story."
Jessilyn Justice is the director of online news for Charisma. Born and raised in a pastor's family in Alabama, she attended Lee University and the Washington Journalism Center. She's passionate about sharing God's goodness through storytelling. Tell her what you think of this story on Twitter @jessilynjustice.
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