After a Kentucky church voted to ban interracial couples from the congregation, I posted last week on media understanding of Free Will Baptist hierarchy — or more precisely, the lack thereof. Over the weekend, that tiny church reversed course. From the Lexington Herald-Leader:
A tiny Pike County church voted Sunday to affirm that it welcomes people of all races, a week after some members touched off a storm of controversy by voting against accepting interracial couples.
Members of the Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church voted 16-0 Sunday to make clear that everyone is welcome, "regardless of race, creed or color," and that the church wants to move forward in unity, pastor Stacy Stepp said.
"We voted as a church that we all get back in peace and love and harmony," Stepp said.
OK, am I the only one confused by that (it wouldn't be the first time)?
I'm referring specifically to the church's decision to welcome everyone "regardless of race, creed or color." Doesn't creed relate to religious beliefs? Here's how the Religion Newswriters Association defines "creed":
A statement of religious belief or faith that encapsulates official teaching. Most have developed over time amid religious and political debates. The word creed is based on the Latin word credo, which means I believe. The most common creeds in Christianity are the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed.
Does that mean the church now welcomes everyone into its fold, regardless of their religious beliefs? Wouldn't a church be the one place where what one believes would matter? What am I missing?
Alas, The Associated Press' report on the new vote confused me even more. From AP:
Stacy Stepp, pastor of the Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church in Pike County, told The Associated Press that the vote by nine people last week was declared null and void after it was determined that new bylaws can't run contrary to local, state or national laws. He said the proposal was discriminatory, therefore it couldn't be adopted.
Stepp said about 30 people who attended church services voted on a new resolution that welcomes "believers into our fellowship regardless of race, creed or color."
So churches can't discriminate based on creed? Could a church not refuse to allow a female pastor or to perform a same-sex wedding? Does the "free exercise of religion" come into play at all?
Kind GetReligion readers, please help me understand.
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