While most Christian churches across the United States are strongly opposed to homosexuality and same-sex marriage, the First Baptist Church of Greenville in South Carolina has taken a totally different route: It has decided to allow not just gay unions, but also the ordination of gay and transgender ministers. The 184-year-old church, which is the home of the first Southern Baptist Convention, reached this decision after conducting a dialogue with its members for six months. The discussions centered on the question: “Can you worship and live with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in the church?” In the end, a consensus was reached to allow homosexual unions and ministers, with each member present giving a public affirmation. Senior Minister Jim Dant said the Baptist church ultimately favoured “embracing the complexities of gender identity.”
It was one of the original five downtown churches — Christ Church, First Presbyterian, Buncombe Street Methodist, St. Mary’s Catholic, First Baptist — deeded land from the fortune of Vardry McBee, who in the mid-1800s along with his heirs plotted the future of the fledgling town’s identity. William Bullein Johnson — a preacher who came to Greenville in the 1820s to lead the Greenville Female Academy — served as the chief fundraiser for what would become Greenville First Baptist in 1831, housed in a small building on the corner of Irvine Street and McBee Avenue. When the Southern Baptist Convention formed in 1845, Johnson served as its first president. Furman University, a Baptist denominational school, was born under the church’s wing. The strength of the church led to the formation of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary — today one of the largest Christian seminaries in the world — in the church’s former meeting house.
First Baptist is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And of course, Franklin Graham is furious:First Baptist Church of Greenville, SC, has decided that it is going to not only accept same-sex couples, but they’re going to ordain gay and transgender ministers into their pulpit! This is disappointing and discouraging. According to God’s Word, what they are embracing is sin. The Bible says, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness…” (Isaiah 5:20).