George and JoAnn Carson started attending Calvary Baptist Church as a direct result of the Southern Baptist Convention's adoption of a statement on the family in June in Salt Lake City.
They have since joined the Woodstock, Ill., church, grateful to Southern Baptists for standing up "for what God wants them to do," George Carson said.
Carson, 62, was raised Catholic, and even considered becoming a priest, but never felt comfortable with Catholicism's emphasis on the Virgin Mary.
"It didn't seem right to me," he said. "Somehow, it was the wrong thing."
After a ten-day period of soul-searching at a monastery in Guam when Carson was in the military, he left the Catholic religion altogether.
JoAnn was raised as a Lutheran and when the couple married they attended mainly Lutheran churches, although they were both lost.
About ten years ago, a co-worker of George's led him to Christ. George, in turn, witnessed to JoAnn, who also trusted Christ as Lord and Savior.
Over the next few years, George and his friend read through the New Testament during their lunch hour at work. That time of study led George and JoAnn to serious convictions about the Bible and the principles it taught.
Meanwhile, the Carsons were becoming less and less comfortable in the different churches they attended. They were "more like social groups than churches," George said. In fact, the Carsons pretty much stopped attending church anywhere.
Happily married for thirty-eight years, George said they have very definite convictions about the roles of men and women in a marriage, which made them take note of the SBC's addition of the family statement in its Baptist Faith and Message confessional statement. The addition says in part, "A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. ... A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ."
"I noticed in the paper that the Southern Baptists made a statement about the man being the head of the house," George said. "That just struck a chord. We knew this was right."
George said he studied the amendment and came to the conclusion that the article came straight from the Bible. "If you're truly following what God wants, then He wants for the man to be the leader of the family," he said.
JoAnn agreed: "I believe the man is to be the head of the house." The SBC family statement in no way degrades women, she added. "I believe a woman has a place in the home," she said. "I think she should be able to discuss things with her husband, but understand that he may be making the final decision."
So, the Carsons decided to look in the phone book for Southern Baptist churches in Woodstock. Calvary Baptist Church was the only one listed, so they started attending. They soon fell in love with the church, have become members, and plan to be baptized soon.
"We wanted (a church) that really believed what the Bible said about men and women," George said. "It took forty years, but we didn't know where to look. I really wanted to find the church that we would be comfortable with, and the only one would be the one that follows the Bible."
Said JoAnn: "The nation has taken some wrong steps. The church needs to stand up more. I think it's good for the nation."
Larry Phillips, Calvary Baptist's pastor, said he's encouraged by the stand the Southern Baptist Convention took. "Praise God for our convention's faithfulness to God's Word, even in the face of criticism within and without the convention," Phillips said in a letter to The Illinois Baptist newsjournal.
He also said the Carsons' journey to Calvary "reaffirms to me the power of God's Word."
As for George and JoAnn Carson, they're thrilled to be identified with Southern Baptists. "I feel honored to be with them," George said. "It's been a long journey home."
Tim Ellsworth is associate editor of The Illinois Baptist.