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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-12-13



Gay youth pastor from Lake Street Church removed from Baptist World Alliance Commissions
by Kayleigh Padar

This article shared 3861 times since Thu Jun 22, 2023
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A youth pastor at Evanston's Lake Street Church, T.J. Williams, was removed from two global commissions run by the Baptist World Alliance because he's gay, he said.

Since 2020, Williams served on the Baptist World Alliance's Racial Justice and Interfaith Commission without issue. The commissions are made up of members of Baptist churches throughout the world who meet regularly to discuss global issues.

This year, Rev. Elijah Brown, a leader at Baptist World Alliance, asked Williams to resign because he's married to his husband, Williams said.

Williams said he's been open about his marriage since joining the commissions and his 2005 wedding was famously the first ever held at Riverside Baptist Church in New York City. He speculated the decision to remove him from the commission came after he asked leadership if his husband could travel with him to an upcoming meeting in Norway.

Williams refused to resign and was told his position on the commissions was rescinded, he said. Williams said they told him other LGBTQ+ people would be removed from commissions if he spoke out about the issue.

"Rev. Brown and the executive community decided that because I am a gay man I don't have access to the Divine and have the calling to serve the children of the Divine," Williams said. "This spiritual abuse is death-dealing and colonizing."

A spokesperson at Baptist World Alliance said the organization doesn't comment on the specifics of any current or previous commission member.

"As a Christian World Communion, the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) represents Baptists in 128 countries and territories with a governing General Council comprised of global representatives," the spokesperson said in an emailed statement. "Drawing upon over 400 years of shared Baptist history and more than 100 years of organizational history, the BWA remains committed to our mission to network the Baptist family to impact the world for Christ."

While Williams was on the commissions, he was vocal about protecting people's human rights and addressing systemic oppression, he said.

"I've always said that we have to address sexism, homophobia, white supremacy and colonization," Williams said. "We have to play a part in addressing the societal issues eroding people's humanity and if the church doesn't do that, then it needs to die because it's no good to anybody."

"As one of the only LGBTQ+ voices on the commission, I was able to remind folks that LGBTQ+ people should be included in conversations about justice and global inequality. I do wonder if I was removed because I've been such a progressive voice."

American Baptist Churches in particular have a long history of supporting social justice movements and furthering progressive causes, Williams said. The American Baptist Church originally split from the Southern Baptist Church because American Baptists opposed slavery.

Some notable members of the American Baptist Church include civil-rights leaders John Lewis, Joseph Lowery and Martin Luther King Jr.

"There's a historic legacy of American Baptist Churches advocating for justice for all people and the liberation of marginalized voices," Williams said.

A number of Baptist churches globally are accepting of LGBTQ+ people because Baptist congregations are allowed to define their individual churches' beliefs, Williams said. Williams' colleagues at Lake Street Church have supported him throughout this ordeal and have been intentional about hiring LGBTQ+ clergy and staff, he said.

Since churches are allowed to choose their own policies, Williams believes the Baptist World Alliance should make room for different perspectives instead of weeding out LGBTQ+ people from its commissions.

"The Baptist World Alliance is supposed to be a global body that encompasses all the churches and acknowledges their local church autonomy," Williams said.

Williams is seeking the opportunity to speak with the Baptist World Alliance's board privately to explain why marginalized people should be allowed to participate in their global commissions. But, he said he's not interested in rejoining the commission again unless he receives an apology and the board commits to better representing marginalized people on its commissions.

"There would have to be a culture change for me to go back onto the commission," Williams said. "There has to be an intentional effort to change, and more advocacy around social justice issues."

This article shared 3861 times since Thu Jun 22, 2023
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