Compiled by B&R staff
NASHVILLE — A Southern Baptist Convention church affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention and the Sevier County Association of Baptists is one of four churches that have been disfellowship by the SBC Executive Committee (EC).
Antioch Baptist Church in Sevierville was dropped for employing a pastor who confessed to two counts of statutory rape. Also disfellowship for affirming homosexuality were Towne View Baptist Church in Kennesaw, Ga., and St. Matthews Baptist Church, Louisville, Ky. West Side Baptist Church in Sharpsville, Pa., was disfellowshipped for employing as its pastor a registered sex offender.
The EC decisions came during an executive session following the recommendations of the SBC Credentials Committee. The decisions were announced in a plenary session at the close of its two-day meeting in Nashville on Feb. 23.
The SBC repurposed the Credentials Committee in 2019 to make inquiries and recommendations for action regarding instances of sexual abuse, racism or other issues that call into question a church’s relationship with the SBC.
“We take no pleasure in recommending that a church is not in friendly cooperation with the convention,” Credentials Committee chairman Mike Lawson told Baptist Press. “We would like nothing more than for all our churches to be in harmony on such vital issues. But when the available information shows clearly that we are not, it is necessary to take action.
“We are grieved, but we believe it was the right decision to recommend and will continue to pray for all involved,” Lawson said.
Antioch Baptist employs as its pastor John Randy Leming Jr., who pleaded guilty to two counts of statutory rape of a minor when he served as pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church in Sevier County. He pleaded guilty in 1998 to the offenses that occurred in May and June of 1994, when he was 31, and lost his appeal of the concurrent 18-month sentences he deemed harsh.
Leming has served at Antioch since March 2014, according to the SBC Annual Church Profile. He could not be reached for comment by Baptist Press or The Tennessean.
The Tennessee Baptist Mission Board was not informed of the SBC’s decision to disfellowship Antioch Baptist Church until after the decision was reported by The Tennessean on Feb. 23, according to Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the TBMB.
“Now that this has been brought to our attention we will begin the process to better understand the circumstances surrounding Antioch Baptist Church and its pastor,” Davis said. “Obviously, given the severity of the situation it is only right that we do our due diligence.