MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - For those familiar with the history and progression of First Baptist Church Memphis, it comes as no surprise that congregation members approved a measure allowing gay marriage and ordination.
Located at Poplar Avenue and East Parkway, the church baptized its first openly gay man in 2001. Then in 2013, the congregation ordained its first gay deacon.
According to its website, the church appears to be continuing to follow its mission of "A Different Way to Be Baptist" which includes, "We strive to be grace oriented, not judgment focused. All are welcome, no exceptions. Both women and men serve in every area of church life and leadership. We welcome diversity of thought and opinion, dialogue and debate. We believe in the priesthood of every believer."
The church is led by Pastor David Breckenridge, who came to First Baptist Church in 2008 as Senior Pastor.
"Preaching is the art of connecting the ancient stories of scripture to our story and in the process, revealing the storyteller behind them all as one who loves us more than we will ever know or understand," Breckenridge said.
It is that love which, according to Breckenridge and the church, caused the church to choose to affiliate with the more moderate Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) and leave their membership with the Southern Baptist Convention. The Southern Baptist Convention excludes from their fellowship any churches which "act to affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior."
CBF has not taken an official stance on homosexual marriage or ordination--they allow individual churches to make their own decisions. The churches can do almost whatever they want. The one exception is as follows: CBF does not allow churches to hire homosexual staff members or missionaries.
The motion First Baptist Church Memphis approved Sunday reads:
Almost 70 percent of the 133 individuals present voted for the measure. The motion was approved by the church's board of deacons in November.