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North Carolina church threatens to expel lesbian member if she doesn't divorce her wife

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Read the letter this North Carolina Baptist Church sent to a lifelong member, a week after North Carolina passed an anti-LGBT bill, telling her she needs to divorce her wife if she wants to stay in the church.

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The First Baptist Church in Bostic, N.C., has sent a letter to an LGBT member telling her that if she does not divorce her wife and renounce homosexuality, she will be kicked out of the church. While "Kelly" married her wife 14 months ago, it was just yesterday, a week after the signing of a statewide bill legalizing discrimination against LGBT people, that the church sent the letter, which Outsports has obtained through former North Carolina high school football player Harrison Wilkerson (you can read the letter below).

Kelly has been a member of the church since she was born, and members of the church have known for a while that she is gay. The divisive letter is being called into question by various members of the church and other Christians, who have posted on the church's Facebook page.

Outsports called the church for comment this morning, leaving a voicemail. The call was not returned.

Kelly shared with Outsports her struggle of growing up lesbian in rural North Carolina, and the pain this letter has brought her:

I have attended the church since I was born!! I was always in church Sunday morning night and every Wednesday... I was involved in every activity the church offered through my childhood! As I got older I was involved in being the acteens leader and being a bible school teacher and always attending regularly! I never once dated anyone or put myself out there as far as my sexual preference! I knew it was wrong according to the Bible and by how my parents were raising me!! I struggled being raised in a small town and within myself not wanting to admit to myself who I was! I felt so alone and had nobody to turn to. I was also getting older and realizing how people like me were hated!!

I started feeling uncomfortable going to church after reaching my early 20s..I also had met a woman who was my first relationship! She was not open and I was too scared to tell anyone!! We were together almost 13 years and during that time I started working weekends...I just stopped going to church but remained friends and saw a lot of the members regularly!! My parents both still attended the church!

After years of hiding who I was with the exception of me finally opening up to a couple of close friends my parents found out!! It went over better with my mom than dad!!! We hid it from the church and rest of the family!! I was miserable lying to myself and everyone I loved...it was the most lonely I've ever felt!!!

After my first relationship of 13 years ended I just hung out trying to meet more people like myself! I never seriously dated anyone until I met my wife!! At this point I had come out to some of the people that attended the church and got nothing but love and support... My parents had gotten a divorce and my mom no longer attended the church but my dad still did! My then-fiance and I have never stepped foot into that church ! I've never asked anyone of them to compromise their beliefs! I've only asked to love me for me and the loving person I am!! We decided to ask a friend of ours that was ordained to marry us! We got married outside and nowhere near a church!!

She was able to be honest with her family about us and I was able to be honest with my whole family!! We had a small ceremony, which included our close friends and family with the exception of my dad! I got a lot of mixed reactions from people from the church!! We were married on January 17, 2015...not once have we tried to go to church there...

Not once did I receive a letter saying I've been missed or to get back involved in church over the past 15 years!!! I've only received the shocking letter I received in the mail yesterday! I'm hurt and shocked ..also my dad still attends and supports that church.... I have written them a letter to gladly remove my membership!! I intended on posting it on my page as well as their fb page! I want to make sure my letter is read correctly to the congregation when it is mailed to them!!!! I'm sorry I didn't mean to write a book....just wanted to give as much background info as I could!!

The full transcription of the letter demonstrates a focus on sin, rather than love, by the church:

This letter is being forwarded to you on behalf of the membership of First Baptist Church, Bostic. The purpose is to address to you our concern regarding out understanding of your entering into a homosexual marital relationship and to communicate to you the position of the Church and the Scriptures on this subject.

As redeemed members of the Body of Christ, we can in no way endorse, support, condone, encourage, or approve of any form of sin or immorality, as such behavior is contradictory to Scripture. While we understand that no follower of Jesus is perfect and without sin, a born-again believer will develop and possess a deep desire to altogether avoid any practice and behavior that the Bible identifies as sin and that is contrary to the nature and character of Christ. During their life the true believer progresses in spiritual growth and sanctification and allows the Holy Spirit to reveal any area of their lives where there is opposition to the World of God. To sincerely follow Jesus and identify ourselves as a believer means that we strive to abstain from sin and instead pursue holiness, purity, and Christ-likeness.

To be in fellowship and good standing with this Church means to have a personal testimony of true profession of faith in Christ that is accompanied by the demonstration of evidence of genuine repentance of sin and a desire to live a life in accordance to the teachings and principles of Scripture.

Above the matter of your fellowship with this church is the concern that Scripture plainly warns that those who practice ongoing sin and continue in open rebellion against the commandments of God deceive themselves by believing that they are in righteous standing before the Lord. The Bible repeatedly warns that those who willingly choose to live in unrepentant sin will have no part in the eternal kingdom of God and pleads with those who continue in sin to flee from it to embrace the grace and mercy of Christ.

Enclosed is a copy of the Marriage and Sexuality Policy that has been adopted by our Church. The Policy does not dictate or determine our beliefs, as our beliefs are found in the Scripture; but the policy does describe the process of implementation of those beliefs in the practical daily administration and function of the Church. We are prayerfully asking you to consider the many clear teachings of Scripture that are referenced in the Policy that plainly describe homosexual behavior as a sin and as conduct that is not in any way permissible for those who would call themselves believers.

If there is no willingness on your part to receive this appeal and display repentance and abandonment of this area of open immorality, then the Church will have no choice but to take appropriate and prayerful action to address the standing of your fellowship with this Body at such a time that will be determined by the leadership and members of this congregation.

This intent and purpose of this letter is not to condemn or cast down, but it is humbly given by sincere believers aware of their own imperfections but who join in agreement concerning the teachings and commandments of Scripture. If it is received and seen in any way other than in the outreach of Christian love and genuine spiritual concern, then the true nature of this letter has been misinterpreted.

We would welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter personally with you if you are willing and so choose.

In Christ,
Pastor and Deacons
First Baptist Church, Bostic

The most disappointing piece of the entire letter may be the dismissal at the end of Kelly's feelings about it. They tell her that if she feels anything but love from the letter, she is wrong.

No, Pastor and Deacons of this discriminatory church, you are wrong. You do not cast out from the church people who play football or eat shrimp or lie or steal. You target a lifelong member who happens to be in a committed relationship with another woman. There is no harm brought to your church except by your own hatred. Jesus Christ himself would be ashamed of you.