A Cooperative Baptist Fellowship congregation in Tennessee voted Jan. 10 to marry same-sex couples. First Baptist Church in Memphis capped a three-month discernment process by adopting a policy extending “privileges afforded to any follower of Christ” without discrimination based on factors including sexual orientation. The policy enumerates specific but privileges of “baptism, membership, leadership, ordination and marriage.” David Breckenridge, pastor of the historic congregation since 2008, said the essence of the action was to clarify what members of First Baptist mean by their slogan, “All are welcome, no exceptions.”

“At FBC Memphis all followers of Christ will have equal access to all areas of church life and practice,” Breckenridge said. Founded in frontier Memphis in 1839, First Baptist Church never lost its pioneering spirit. It was the first Southern Baptist church in Memphis to allow an African-American family to join in the early 1970s. The congregation began ordaining women as deacons in the 1990s and in 2000 ordained its first woman minister, longtime church member Carol McCall Richardson, who went on to serve as associate pastor until her retirement in 2012. The church has long included members who are openly gay and two years ago ordained a gay deacon. FULL REPORT