*(RNS) – In Stover, Mo., the Rev. Travis Smith paced First Baptist Church’s sanctuary, decorated for the holidays with poinsettias and a Christmas tree, says ReligionNews.com. He addressed his congregation about forgiveness.
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,” he read from the Gospel of Matthew.
Since Smith’s arrest in October on sexual abuse and statutory rape charges, which follow similar allegations from 2010, forgiveness from his congregation has become critical to his survival as its pastor. It is this group of about 100 souls — not a bishop, nor a disciplinary committee nor national church leaders — who will decide Smith’s future in the Southern Baptist Convention.
Unlike members of many denominations — such as Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopalian and Presbyterians — Southern Baptists don’t conform to a centralized, hierarchical structure.
Read more at ReligionNews.com.