Members of the congregation of D.C.’s First Baptist Church on 16th Street, N.W., near Dupont Circle, are scheduled to vote on Feb. 7 on whether the church should perform same-sex marriages, according to a recent announcement in the church’s bulletin.
The vote on what some say could be a contentious question will take place about one month after a forum on the issue of same-sex marriage is expected to be held at the church.
“During a Church Forum on a January Sunday after church, to be scheduled, two leading national Christian voices on both sides of the question will present and explain the positions, with emphasis on their scriptural foundations,” the church bulletin says.
“As part of this January forum, members are encouraged to ask questions of the authorities and among themselves as well as to share their views with one another,” it says.
Rev. Deborah Cochran, the church’s acting pastor, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. D.C. LGBT rights advocate and blogger John Boushka, who has been a longtime member of First Baptist Church, said the church has a long history of having both liberal and conservative members play an active role in church affairs.
He said the liberal-conservative split has sometimes resulted in strong disagreements over church policy, with the congregation usually tilting toward progressive positions on civil rights issues in general.
“In early 2015 on several dates, members of the congregation gathered in voluntary, facilitated circle groups in light of Interim Preaching Minister Stan Hastey’s call in his August 20145 sermon to discuss the question of ‘full inclusion’ of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender persons in the church,” the church bulletin says.
“In recent years, First Baptist has officially described itself as ‘welcoming’ but not as ‘affirming,’” on LGBT people, the bulletin says.
The bulletin says a decision to hold a vote on whether the church should perform same-sex marriages was prompted by the June 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing civil same-sex marriage throughout the country.