Supporters of the Rev. Charles Trentham, who was voted out last Sunday as pastor of First Baptist Church, will force the congregation to vote again in two weeks on the pastor's tenure.
Trentham was ousted during a special congregational meeting last Sunday by a vote of 166 to 140, following a bitter and emotional debate that centered around his personal life.
Subsequently, a group of church members, charging that Trentham did not get a fair hearing and that there was "apparent confusion" in last Sunday's voting process, have petitioned for a new vote on Nov. 18.
According to the church's constitution, an emergency meeting of the congregation must be called when requested by 25 members. Last Sunday's meeting was called this way, except that those who petitioned for it were opponents of Trentham.
The petition being circulated, which already has more than 25 signers, complains that Trentham's opponents had a "disproportionate amount of time" to speak at last Sunday's meeting.
Although the church's moderator, Frank McAnear, alternated pro and con speakers at the meeting, there was no time limit on speakers.There appeared to be a number of persons who still wanted to speak when the congregation voted to end the debate and vote on renewing Trentham's contract, which expires in February.
The focus of the debate is the 60-year-old pastor's dating of a 28-year-old divorcee, who is the daughter of one of the church's -- and President Carter's -- Sunday School teachers. But the opposition also reflected an undercurrent of disapproval of his own two divorces.
Both Trentham and his supporters complained this week he was not given a fair hearing at the three-hour debate. "The most effective speakers lined up on my side were not heard from," said Trentham, who had withdrawn from the meeting after making an impassioned plea for understanding at the beginning of the meeting.
He said the young woman in question was "waiting in the wings to make her own statements, but they cut off the discussion before she had a chance."
None of the accusations against him Sunday, many of which were extraordinarily detailed, suggested any sexual misconduct, even by Baptist standards, on the part of Trentham. But he was criticized for developing an emotional relationship with the woman instead of trying, as a pastor, to help her reach a reconsiliation with her husband. Trentham contended in his statement, however, that they had started dating before she joined the church.