"All are welcome, no exceptions." - First Baptist Church of Memphis motto
The congregation of the First Baptist Church of Memphis has voted to begin marrying same-sex couples. Just short of 70% of church members voted to pass the non-discrimination motion which read:
"As Christ’s church, First Baptist Memphis is called to minister equally to all persons, extending to them the privileges afforded to any follower of Christ, including, but not limited to, baptism, membership, leadership, ordination, and marriage, and will not discriminate based on race, gender, age, marital status, or sexual orientation."
David Breckenridge, pastor at First Baptist, (photo right) appeared pleased with the vote, telling Baptist News the change means "all followers of Christ will have equal access to all areas of church life and practice."
First Baptist Church of Memphis, which welcomes gay members, left the Southern Baptist Convention in 1991, when the conservative group threatened to ban any church that chose to “affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior.” It is now affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, which allows its member churches to decide whether or not they want to welcome gay members and recognize same-sex marriage. However, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship does not allow its member churches to hire openly gay staff or missionaries, which could become a bone of contention for Pastor Breckenridge and his congregation, which ordained its first openly gay deacon two years ago.
The vote to begin offering same-sex couples a place to marry should not come as too big of a surprise. First Baptist Church of Memphis has a long tradition of inclusiveness. In the early 70s, it was one of the first Southern Baptist churches to accept a Black family. It began ordaining women deacons in the 1990’s and had its first female minister in 2000.
The new non-discrimination policy takes effect immediately.
Photos are from First Baptist Church of Memphis Facebook album