Evangelical Pastor Proudly Defends Welcoming LGTBQ Members: We're 'Guilty As Charged'

Pastor Jim Conrad's Georgia church was expelled from the Southern Baptist Convention for accepting a queer couple and their kids as members.
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A Georgia pastor who has been expelled from America鈥檚 largest Protestant denomination for welcoming a queer couple into his congregation insists he doesn鈥檛 regret the decision he made.

Pastor Jim Conrad, of Kennesaw鈥檚 Towne View Baptist Church, got in trouble with the Southern Baptist Convention after welcoming a gay couple with three adopted children as members of his church in October 2019.

鈥淲e decided that 鈥榓ll means all,鈥欌 Conrad told HuffPost in an email. 鈥淲e will share His Good News with everyone and welcome anyone who calls Jesus Lord.鈥

About 30% of the congregation left after Conrad took this stance, which meant the church鈥檚 budget shrunk and the pastor took a pay cut, according to The Associated Press. And on Tuesday, the SBC鈥檚 executive committee announced that it was kicking Towne View Baptist out of its network of churches for 鈥渁ffirming homosexuality.鈥

鈥淲e are guilty as charged,鈥 the pastor said.

Conrad, a longtime Southern Baptist, said he felt some personal grief over being expelled from a denomination that has been part of his spiritual life for decades. But the SBC has moved farther to the right in recent years than the pastor is comfortable with, he said.

Conrad also pointed out that conservative theology on sexual orientation and gender is 鈥渁t least complicit鈥 in the 鈥渁larmingly鈥 high rate of suicide attempts among LGBTQ adolescents.

鈥淭elling teens that the God who created them in his image hates them because they aren鈥檛 straight or cisgender is a dangerous message,鈥 he said.

Conrad said his church doesn鈥檛 plan to appeal the executive committee鈥檚 decision. Asked if he would make the same decision again, knowing the outcome, Conrad wrote, 鈥淵ES!鈥

鈥淚f the grace of God isn鈥檛 for everybody then it鈥檚 not for anybody,鈥 Conrad wrote.

If the grace of God isn鈥檛 for everybody then it鈥檚 not for anybody.

Pastor Jim Conrad

The SBC鈥檚 executive committee announced the expulsion at the close of the denomination鈥檚 annual conference in Nashville, Tennessee. In addition to Towne View Baptist, the committee disfellowshipped a second church for apparently affirming homosexuality 鈥 Kentucky鈥檚 St. Matthews Baptist Church. The church reportedly made financial contributions to another Baptist network, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, which lets member churches hire LGBTQ individuals in non-ministerial roles.

Two additional churches were also disfellowshipped at the meeting, both for employing pastors convicted of sex offenses 鈥 Tennessee鈥檚 Antioch Baptist Church and Pennsylvania鈥檚 West Side Baptist Church. The SBC has faced calls in recent years for greater accountability on the issue of sexual abuse.

The SBC, which was founded in 1845 in defense of slavery, views itself as a network of over 50,000 independent and self-governing Baptist churches. This doctrine of autonomy has sometimes prevented the group from acting in a unified way on certain issues, such as creating a denomination-wide database of sex offenders. But this doesn鈥檛 mean joint action is rare 鈥 the SBC has reportedly disfellowshipped at least six churches in little over a decade for affirming or endorsing queer relationships.

The expulsions come at a time when Black members of the SBC are questioning whether the denomination will also hold churches accountable for failing to understand how racism still affects Black Americans.

Earlier this year, two Southern Baptist pastors from Texas publicly compared Vice President Kamala Harris to the Bible鈥檚 Queen Jezebel 鈥 drawing on a trope that Black religious scholars say is both racist and sexist. One of those pastors, Steve Swofford, sits on the SBC鈥檚 executive committee and was the chair of the team responsible for selecting the committee鈥檚 president. He has yet to face discipline for his words. The SBC executive committee chairman was not available for comment, a spokesperson said.

Some Black pastors have left or have contemplated leaving the denomination over leaders鈥 unwillingness to grapple with how systemic racism persists in America. One of those pastors is Dwight McKissic, a conservative Black pastor from Texas whose ties to the SBC have been fraying in recent weeks.

McKissic suggested on Twitter that, while he agrees with the SBC鈥檚 decision to boot out churches over their approach to LGBTQ people, he thinks churches should also be disfellowshipped for not disciplining their members for 鈥渞acism & rebellion.鈥

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