GracePointe Church, a self-described “progressive” church that rejected the “evangelical” label, is selling its property in Franklin, Tenn. and moving to nearby Nashville. The church has been hemorrhaging members and funds since pastor Stan Mitchell announced an “affirming” stance on homosexuality and same-sex marriage in January 2015.
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1).
“Full privileges are extended now to you [openly homosexual members] with the same expectations of faithfulness, sobriety, holiness, wholeness, fidelity, godliness, skill, and willingness,” Mitchell declared. “Full membership means being able to serve in leadership and give all of your gifts and to receive all the sacraments; not only communion and baptism, but child dedication and marriage.”
With this statement, GracePointe became one of the few “evangelical megachurches” to embrace homosexuality, TIME Magazine’s Elizabeth Dias reported in a lengthy profile at the time. Even then, the telltale signs of collapse had emerged.
“January giving usually is about $100,000 — so far this month the church has brought in an estimated $52,000,” Dias reported. The decision to embrace homosexuality came after a three-year “listening” process that began in 2012, when GracePointe member and country music star Carrie Underwood endorsed same-sex marriage. “When GracePointe began the listening process in 2012, Sunday attendance averaged 800-1000. The Sunday he preached the inclusion sermon, attendance was 673, and two weeks later, it was down to 482,” Dias noted.
“It’s a gut punch,” Mitchell told TIME. “I know a year from now, I’m going to feel a whole lot better, but right now it is just hard.”
More than two years later, that gut punch has turned into a roundhouse kick.
In June, the Franklin Patch reported that the church’s 22.5 acre property was listed for sale, and that the church would be leaving Franklin and moving across the county line to Nashville. In the two years since the inclusion decision, GracePointe’s membership has been cut in half, even though new members have been coming in from Davidson County.