The behavior certainly wasn’t “Christ-like,” which is probably why one Georgia Baptist church was unceremoniously kicked out of the Southern Baptist Convention on Monday after being accused of intentionally discriminating against a black congregation that shared its church building.
According to The Tennessean, the convention’s executive committee voted to withdraw fellowship from the Raleigh White Baptist Church (what an unfortunate name in this scenario) after finding “clear evidence of the church’s intentional discriminatory acts.”
Raleigh White Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., as a result, can no longer participate in the convention until it repents.
The decision comes some two months after the Mallary Baptist Association—which is made up of more than 50 churches in Southwest Georgia—first decided to expel Raleigh White Baptist over it actions toward New Seasons Church.
“The reason for this action involved the church’s un-Christian attitudes and acts toward another associational church. These attitudes and acts were racially motivated,” the association said in an April 4 statement. “Thus they do not reflect the values and mission of the Mallary Baptist Association.” The statement continued:
A pathway to reinstatement to fellowship with our association if the church openly repents of their sin against the other church and demonstrates the genuineness of repentance by allowing an associational-appointed mediator to work to reconcile biblically the relationship between the congregations so that both churches can minister effectively to the surrounding community. The Mallary Baptist Association shall actively pursue a location for New Seasons Church to meet for worship and ministry. The recommendation called for serious actions, but they were not meant simply to punish but ultimately to bring about reconciliation and strengthen our association’s witness in the communities in which we minister.
Raleigh White’s relationship with New Seasons started in June 2015, when the small and declining white congregation initially welcomed New Seasons, a growing African-American church, to worship in its building.
However, the relationship quickly soured as Raleigh White became less welcoming to the New Seasons crowd.
The big fallout came on March 18. Raleigh White had scheduled its homecoming event at the church during New Season’s regular worship time. Unaware of the time change, New Season’s members showed up at their usual time, and they were not greeted warmly.
Black visitors who showed up to church were told to wait in their vehicles. One visitor’s daughter was told to use the convenience store bathroom down the road.
“It was because of the color of their skin that they were turned away at the door,” Hans Wunch, director of missions for the Mallary Baptist Association, said. “That was kind of the final straw.”
Wunch was pleased with the Southern Baptist Convention’s stance on the issue, given the convention’s history of being pro-slavery and its continued efforts toward racial reconciliation, including condemning white supremacy.
“This is an extraordinary moment because the Southern Baptist Convention has talked about trying to heal race relations for quite some time, but this is tangible,” Wunch said.
New Seasons has also been moved to a new home, merging with another church in the association that is drawing only 15 people to service each Sunday.