While most Christian churches across the United States are strongly opposed to homosexuality and same-sex marriage, the First Baptist Church of Greenville in South Carolina has taken a totally different route: It has decided to allow not just gay unions, but also the ordination of gay and transgender ministers.
The 184-year-old church, which is the home of the first Southern Baptist Convention, reached this decision after conducting a dialogue with its members for six months.
The discussions centred on the question: "Can you worship and live with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in the church?"
In the end, a consensus was reached to allow homosexual unions and ministers, with each member present giving a public affirmation.
Senior Minister Jim Dant said the Baptist church ultimately favoured "embracing the complexities of gender identity."
"What I heard was, 'We need to do the right thing, regardless of what anybody thinks or says about us. There were a few people who said, 'Are they going to start calling us the gay church in town?" Dant said.
He added that members of his church acknowledged that "being open and welcoming to all people is part of the essential nature of our community of faith."
Dant further said that those who didn't agree with the church's decision to allow homosexual marriage and ministers still chose to remain in the congregation.
The congregation's decision, however, was met with opposition from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF), an umbrella coalition of 2,000 moderate Baptist churches.
"The foundation of a Christian sexual ethic is faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman and celibacy in singleness," the CBF said in a statement.
It added that its "organisational value does not allow for the expenditure of funds for organisations or causes that condone, advocate or affirm homosexual practice."