The Credentials Committee met this week and announced two churches would be disfellowshipped from the Southern Baptist Convention. The first was a gay church that wasn’t even SBC. The second was a Amazing Grace Baptist Church in Franklinville, NJ under charges of discrimination. Conspicuously absent in the list of disfellowshipped churches was Saddleback Church who ordained women and hired a husband wife pastor team to replace Rick Warren. At the 2022 Annual Southern Baptist Convention, the Credentials Committee claimed it did not know what a pastor was as an excuse for their inaction.
Amazing Grace Community Church is the notable story here. After receiving allegations of racism against AGCC, it appears that the Credentials Committee was subsequently blown off when they tried to investigate. This lack of cooperation, rather than the validity of the allegation, led to the disfellowshipping.
AGCC is not a woke church. Their church constitution upholds biblical sexuality. However, despite the purported affiliation with the Southern Baptist Church, AGCC is not even a Baptist church. Despite being a credobaptist church, their polity is not congregationalist, stating in their constitution:
In any growing congregation, there will be people at all stages of spiritual growth and maturity. For that reason, it is not proper to submit the affairs of the church to a democratic vote as the same is not God’s way, for the purpose of the church is not to do the will of the majority, but the will of God. Any disputes that arise over the interpretation of these bylaws shall be deferred to the highest human authority of this church, the Board of Elders, who shall remain under the authority of the Biblical Head of the church, Jesus Christ.
Yet this theological difference between the SBC was not the direct cause for the disassociation, but perhaps the elder’s refusal to acknowledge the authority of the Credentials Committee to investigate was a factor in their refusal to cooperate. AGCC has not responded to request for comment.
In any case, it appears the Credentials Committee did not act on a preponderance of evidence but rather an agenda. Disfellowshipping a gay church that explicitly proclaims affiliation with apostate Baptist denominations on its website could be a ploy to placate conservatives in the denomination while disfellowshipping a small Presbyterian-polity church for refusing to deny allegations of racism is a signal that perceived racism is a disfellowship-able offense.
When the Credentials Committee was first launched, it was a concern that this would be used to purge SBC churches who were not woke because of its explicit purpose in cracking down on racism. And while Evangelical Dark Web noted the slippery slope potential for abuse, in the nearly three years since it’s launch there has yet been any questionable decisions, until now.
The next step is for the messengers of the convention to affirm the disfellowshipping, presumably when they assent to the Credentials Committee report in next June. Section 2 of the SBC Bylaw 8 states:
(2) When, during an annual meeting, an issue arises whether a church is in cooperation with the Convention, the Credentials Committee shall consider the matter and review any information available to it. The committee shall either: (a) consider the question in the manner described in section (3)a below and, when prepared, recommend any action to the Executive Committee, in which case messengers from the church shall be seated pending any action by the Executive Committee; or (b) at the earliest opportunity, recommend to the Convention whether the church should be considered a cooperating church. The Convention shall immediately consider the committee’s recommendation. One representative of the church under consideration and one representative of the Credentials Committee shall be permitted to speak to the question, subject to the normal rules of debate. When debate is concluded, the Convention may decide whether the church is a cooperating church or refer the matter to the Executive Committee for further review and a decision. Unless the Convention decides that the church is not a cooperating church, messengers from the church shall be registered and seated in accordance with the Convention’s rules.
It’s doubtful there will be much debate over this, considering that a non-Baptist church is unlikely to attend the annual convention. However, the precedent has just been set by the liberal Credentials Committee that churches will be disfellowshipped over allegations of racism.