FAIRMONT — First Baptist Church in Fairmont has been voted out of the Fairmont Baptist Association as of April 9.
The association voted to dis-fellow the First Baptist Church because its pastor’s views on homosexuality didn’t line up.
The church’s pastor, Val Gittings, emailed a statement to the Times West Virginian in February, saying “I think it’s important for people to know that many progressive Christians reject outright the idea that homosexual behavior is a violation of God's law. We believe that the references to homosexuality in biblical passages are not toward committed, monogamous relationships. Rather, what is being condemned is inhospitality, heterosexual rape, pagan ritual sex and orgies, and pederasty. We contend that gay orientation is not a choice; not only should gay behavior not be viewed as sinful, but gays are entitled to the same treatment as heterosexuals. We believe that gays should be welcome to participate fully in all areas of life, including the church.”
It was after her reaffirmation on her stance to the association that its board recommended disfellowship. Despite being ousted by the Baptist Association, the Greater Fairmont Council of Churches relayed its support for Gittings and First Baptist Church, releasing a statement confirming this in February.
After the final vote, letting go of First Baptist Church from the association, Gittings and the church’s Board of Deacons released a statement on the matter.
“The members of First Baptist Church are greatly saddened by the action taken by the Fairmont Baptist Association to disfellowship us. Our relationship has been long-standing and important to us. We remain hopeful, therefore, that at some point in the future the association will return to the Baptist fundamentals of soul liberty and local church autonomy, and we will be able to work together once again. In the meantime, First Baptist Church reiterates that everyone is welcome to be fully included in our faith community, and we call on other churches to join us in extending that kind of invitation,” the statement reads.
Gittings said she is seeking membership with another association, the Rochester Genesee Region of American Baptist Churches, which she said takes in churches which have been dis-fellowed from associations for similar reasons.
The West Virginia Baptist Convention, which lists churches in fellowships around the state, offered no comment on the matter, and its website does not include the First Baptist Church under its “Fairmont” list.
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