Updated Nov. 10, 10:30 a.m.
Editor’s note: Messengers to the 2015 annual meeting of the South Carolina Baptist Convention Nov. 10 approved a motion from the SCBC Executive Board that Augusta Heights Baptist Church “be disaffiliated from the South Carolina Baptist Convention.”
Greenville Baptist Association messengers voted unanimously Oct. 22 to dismiss Augusta Heights Baptist Church after the church’s pastor officiated at a same-sex marriage.
The marriage service was not held at the church, but Augusta Heights’ pastor Greg Dover performed the Oct. 10 ceremony with the approval of his deacons, said Al Phillips, director of missions for Greenville Association.
In a written report to Greenville Association churches following the association’s Oct. 22 annual meeting at Eastlan Baptist Church, Phillips said it was “with deep sorrow, yet firm conviction” that 119 messengers representing 45 churches voted to dismiss Augusta Heights from the association.
Phillips said the association’s Church Relations Committee had met with Dover and his deacon chair. “It was clear that Augusta Heights had left the biblical view of marriage as being between a man and a woman and accepted same sex marriage,” Phillips said in his report. “We expressed our desire that the pastor and church would repent and return to the biblical view and closed the meeting with prayer to that end. We were left with no choice but to act.”
The resolution for dismissal was worded as follows:
“It is with great sorrow that The Church Relations Committee moves, as instructed by the Constitution and By-laws of the Greenville Baptist Association, that Augusta Heights Church be dismissed as a member of the Greenville Baptist Association unless the church repents and returns to the biblical position on marriage as being between a man and a woman and we further move that a final report be made by this committee to the Executive Committee at the January meeting.”
Phillips said that if the church responds with repentance and “publicly acknowledges that marriage is between a man and a woman,” then the association will rescind its action at its Jan. 28 meeting at Holly Ridge Baptist Church.
“If not, then the separation will be final,” said Phillips. “Our goal is not to punish Augusta Heights but to hold her accountable. Our deepest desire is to see the church repent and return to the biblical position of marriage as being between a man and a woman. But we must speak the truth in love.
“Our attitude is that of Christ. Jesus offered grace, but He required repentance. He confronted sin unflinchingly. He knew we don’t really love sinners if we allow them to continue in harmful, self-destructive behavior without confronting them with the truth. We have tried to follow His example.”
The Courier has learned that a motion to dismiss Augusta Heights Church from the South Carolina Baptist Convention may be offered on Tuesday, Nov. 10, when SCBC messengers gather for their annual meeting at Spartanburg First Baptist Church.
Augusta Heights is the second Baptist church in Greenville to endorse gay marriage. In September, Greenville First Baptist Church withdrew from the South Carolina Baptist Convention after receiving a letter from SCBC Executive Board chairman Dwight Easler asking the church to reverse its policy of allowing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people to be married and ordained. Greenville First Baptist ended its affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention in 1999.
Greenville Baptist Association is made up of 114 churches and new works.