A historic Baptist church in Washington appointed a lesbian couple as co-pastors - and it's not exactly sitting well with everyone.
According to the Baptist News Global, before the start of the morning church service last weekend, a small group of five to seven protesters entered Calvary Baptist Church, holding signs and chanting condemnation over the church's decision to hire lesbian pastors.
The protesters did not identify themselves as representing any particular group, according to BNG, but said Calvary members "were going to hell" because of their support for LGBTQ pastors and that the church was "the house of Satan."
The protesters made their way to the pulpit before being confronted and turned back out to the sidewalk only after police were called, where they "aggressively engaged" with members arriving for the service and passersby, said associate pastor Elijah Zehyoue.
He called the incident "disturbing and unnerving."
"It was pretty difficult to get them [protesters] to stop and leave the sanctuary," Zehyoue said. "Outside they were still pretty aggressive with members and visitors and random passersby who looked like they may have been coming to the church."
As earlier reported, Sally Sarratt and Maria Swearingen, were introduced earlier this month as the congregation's new senior ministers. The couple, married the weekend after same-sex marriage became legal in South Carolina in November 2014, were ordained to the gospel ministry by First Baptist Church in Greenville, S.C., on Nov. 15, 2015.
"We have found it so easy to fall in love with Calvary and its longstanding commitment to be a voice of justice and compassion for those who perpetually find the wholeness of their humanity disregarded and maligned," the couple said to the congregation Sunday, according to the church.
According to Religion News Service, the 155-year-old church severed ties with the Southern Baptist Convention in 2012 over issues including the denomination's opposition to homosexuality, as the SBC automatically excludes churches that affirm or tolerate same-sex relationships. However, Calvary Baptist is still affiliated with other liberal Baptist denominations, including American Baptist Churches USA, the Alliance of Baptists, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the District of Columbia Baptist Convention (DCPB).
Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, called the move "sad" and said Calvary's call of lesbian pastors represents "a very dramatic challenge" for the DCBC.
If the convention does "not expel Calvary Baptist Church from their membership," Mohler said Jan. 10 on his podcast The Briefing, "then they by very definition simply 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."
The church also made headlines in 2014, when it "reaffirmed" the ordination of pastor Allyson Robinson, dubbed the "first openly transgender Baptist minister." Currently, Robinson serves as Calvary's transitions pastor.
Meanwhile, Sunday's service went on as planned: "As disturbing as it was, the protest was a good moment where many of our church members were energized and found the presence of the Holy Spirit on the steps of our church and that was powerful moment," said Zehyoue.