By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
LEOMA – The Lawrence County Association of Baptists voted during its annual meeting Oct. 12 to withdraw fellowship from Greater Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church in Lawrenceburg.
The African-American congregation, which was a church plant of Faith Baptist Church in Loretto in 1992, recently called a non-Baptist woman as pastor (Shonda Reynolds-Christian).
The association voted 73-4 to remove Greater Tabernacle Baptist Church immediately from its list of cooperating Baptist churches, according to Mike Kemper, director of missions of the association.
The church was officially informed of the association’s action by a letter dated Oct. 14, but about 10 members of the church were present during the association meeting, Kemper said. “They were present during the discussion and the vote,” he said.
WTVF (News Channel 5 in Nashville) reported Oct. 15 that the association had “kicked out” the church.
Kemper disputes that claim. “We didn’t cause this. The actions of the church led to this decision,” he said.
He told the Baptist and Reflector that Greater Tabernacle not only ignored Scripture and the “guiding documents” of the association, the church also “ignored its own Constitution and Bylaws.”
Kemper said the association took the action it did “because of our strongly held biblical perspective, as well as our guiding documents, including the Baptist Faith and Message.
“It was not an attack on women or the church. It indeed comes down to our biblical interpretation and perspective on leadership.”
Kemper stressed that the association’s action is not personal nor does the association harbor any “ill will” toward the church.
“However, we do intend to continue to stand firm on the Scriptures and our convictions about what God has said in His Word.”
The DOM said the association has been “meeting, talking, and praying about this situation since we learned that the church had called a woman pastor in June of this year.
“We felt that the church was not going to change its mind and thus it left us without an option. We feel like we had to do what we did, and without apology,” Kemper continued.
In the letter to the church, association leaders reminded them of a “reversion clause” in their deed which states: “If the congregation ever ceases to be affiliated with the Lawrence County Association of Baptists, the Tennessee Baptist Convention, or the Southern Baptist Convention, the real estate conveyed herein will revert to the Lawrence County Association of Baptists.”
The letter noted that the disposition of the “reversion clause” in the GTMBC deed has been referred to the association’s Executive Committee “for their prayerful decision as soon as possible.”