The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina voted Tuesday to bar from membership any congregations that affirm or approve of homosexuality.
The move enacts one of the most rigid anti-gay policies among the nation’s Christian churches.
The organization is affiliated with the Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant group.
The vote changes the convention’s long-standing laws, which previously only had one simple requirement for membership: support the convention with both cooperation and financial contributions.
Now any churches that "knowingly act to affirm, approve, endorse, promote, support or bless homosexual behavior" can’t belong to the group.
A convention spokesman says 17 churches that belong to a group that welcomes gays as equal members will come under immediate scrutiny.
The vote came during the second day of the three-day convention in Greensboro. Voting was done by voice and not counted, but convention officials declared that the measure had passed by the necessary two-thirds majority.
With more than 4,000 churches and 1.2 million members, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina is the second-largest association of Baptist churches in the nation.