The Louisville-based Kentucky Baptist Convention (KBC) is considering plans to expel a liberal group of affiliated churches if it lifts a ban on hiring gay and transgender people.
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF), a group of churches formed in the 1990s as an alternative to the conservative Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), has created a committee to discuss dropping the ban on hiring LGBTQ people.
The proposal to drop the ban has threatened to trigger a rift between Kentucky Baptists as some churches that have joined the CBF are also affiliated with the KBC.
Earlier this month, a KBC committee voted to monitor the actions of the CBF and suggested that churches aligned with the liberal fellowship might be expelled if it lifts the ban.
Paul Chitwood, executive director of the KBC, warned that relaxing the rules against hiring practicing homosexuals would be a perilous step in the wrong direction, noting that the churches would be "redefining sin."
Chris Sanders, a lawyer who is serving as interim executive coordinator of the CBF in Kentucky, said that he was surprised by the KBC's decision, as the fellowship had not discussed the issue with the convention yet.
The CBF, which has 1,900 member churches across the U.S., reportedly began reconsidering the ban on hiring homosexuals after its leaders in Georgia offered prayers for the 49 victims of the mass shooting at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando. Critics have contended that the gesture was hypocritical given the fellowship's ban on hiring LGBT people.
In response to the criticism, the CBF formed the committee called the Illumination Project to discuss the issue with church members and leaders in several states. According to Courier-Journal the group is expected to recommend changes to the policy in February.
Chitwood said that the KBC has become concerned that the fellowship is now preparing to change course. He contended that the CBF "has always held the same position as Southern Baptists have held" and dropping the ban would be akin to "redefining 2,000 years of Christian teachings."
R. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said that the KBC's decision to monitor CBF was not surprising because "a church that endorses homosexuality is no longer cooperating with the Kentucky Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention."
However, Rev. Dwight Moody, a retired professor of theology at Georgetown College who attends a CBF-affiliated church in Lexington, believes that the KBC's actions are unfair and unnecessary if each church is truly free to set its own course.
He said that the convention would be "punishing local churches for the actions" of national leaders if it expels the churches affiliated with the CBF.