University Baptist Church, Hattiesburg
October 27, 2015
In recent months, University Baptist Church has come under scrutiny by sister Baptist churches for our membership policy which welcomes all people into the congregation who confess Jesus as Lord. On Tuesday evening, October 20, members of the Pine Belt Baptist Association (formerly the Lebanon Baptist Association) voted to dismiss University Baptist Church from its membership. Last month, University Baptist Church learned that we were no longer considered a cooperating church with the Mississippi Baptist Convention.
Our current membership policy was established in the early 1970s following the church’s racial integration. At that time, our open policy was an anomaly among most Baptist churches in the local association and Mississippi State Baptist Convention. While our decision in the 1970s made us unique among our sister churches, we were allowed to continue fellowship and served as a prophetic voice of the Gospel within our local and state Baptist communities.
Some forty years later, churches continue to argue about who should and should not be allowed into the community of faith and are often known for exclusion rather than the radical inclusion of God witnessed to by the life and ministry of Jesus. While times and groups singled out for exclusion have changed, University Baptist Church’s membership policy and prophetic voice have remained constant. That voice is no longer welcomed among some of our sister Baptist congregations.
While excluded from fellowship, we continue to offer prayers for our sister churches and trust that God will work through them as they strive to share the love of Jesus in the Pine Belt and throughout the state. We also give thanks for our continued partnership with the 1,800 churches of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the 177,000 churches of the Baptist World Alliance.
Further, we extend an invitation to our neighbors to join us on our pilgrimage to know and follow Jesus. If you are looking for an inclusive and inquisitive community of faith that serves Jesus by actively loving our neighbors, then you will find a home at University Baptist Church. We will gladly welcome you with the love and grace of Jesus.
We recognize that each of us, so says the Apostle Paul, sees the mystery of God through a “glass dimly”—meaning none of us fully comprehends the depth of God. Thus, we wish not to enter into public debates with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Along with this statement, you are invited to listen to our pastor’s sermon from October 18, “What’s with God Breaking God’s Rules.” You can find the sermon on our website: ubchm.org.