A historic Baptist church in Washington D.C. has announced on Monday that it has hired a married lesbian couple to lead the congregation.
Sally Sarratt and Maria Swearingen will be serving as the new senior ministers of Calvary Baptist Church beginning on Feb. 26, according to Baptist News Global.
The couple was ordained to the ministry by First Baptist Church in Greenville on Nov. 15, 2015.
Sarratt is currently working as an associate chaplain for behavioral health in the Greenville Health System while Swearingen is currently an associate university chaplain at Furman University.
"As we met and talked with Sally and Maria about their vision for pastoral leadership at Calvary, we were struck by their deep faith and commitment to being part of a gospel community," said Carol Blythe, chair of the ministerial selection committee.
"We were impressed by how their gifts, talents and experience matched our ministry priorities — and we are thrilled about their upcoming pastorate and the versatility the co-pastor model will provide our congregation," she added.
Calvary Baptist Church parted ways with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in 2012. The SBC automatically removes churches that affirm or tolerate homosexuality. The congregation is still affiliated with American Baptist Churches USA, the Alliance of Baptists, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the District of Columbia Baptist Convention (DCBC).
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said that the church's decision to appoint the couple as co-pastors represents "a very dramatic challenge" for the DCBC.
Mohler stated that the DCBC would "become a convention that will accept, that indeed does accept a church that has legally married lesbian co-pastors in terms of their own membership" if it does not expel Calvary Church.
Joseph Lyles, pastor of Fort Foote Baptist Church in Fort Washington, expressed his concern that a member church of the DCBC would call openly homosexual co-pastors. He stated that he finds it "difficult" to affirm homosexual marriage "with a biblical basis."
DCBC executive director Robert Cochran said that it has no plans to disassociate with Calvary. He stated that the convention has never withdrawn fellowship from any congregation because of its regard for local congregational autonomy.