The Southern Baptist Convention has expelled four of its churches from its denomination this week.
The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is the largest Protestant denomination in America but is made up of churches with very different views with regards to social justice, race and sexuality.
The Church had a two-day convention for its executive committee this week in Tenessee where many of the causes of division were addressed.
SBC President J.D. Greear
Four churches were also 'disfellowshipped', meaning they will have to be independent or join other denominations. The decision was voted on by the executive committee.
Towne View Baptist Church in Kennesaw in Georgia and St. Matthews Baptist Church in Louisville in Kentucky affirm same-sex relationships, which is against the organisation's statement of faith.
The pastor of Towne View, Jim Conrad, which has accepted two gay couples as members, said: "I've been SBC all my life and have seen the convention for the last 30 years move further and further to the right. This is just closing a chapter."
Two other churches were expelled because they employed pastors known to have committed sexual offences.
Antioch Baptist Church in Sevierville Tennessee is led by a pastor who pleaded guilty to having two sexual encounters with a 16-year-old congregant at a previous church.
West Side Baptist Church in Sharpsville in Pennsylvania, employed a pastor who is on Florida’s sex offender registry for a 1993 conviction of aggravated sexual assault of a child. The church's website does say that the pastor had a sinful past but "has gone from disgrace to amazing grace and now has served the Lord Jesus Christ at West Side for 18 years".
SBC President J.D. Greear also challenged attendees to think about their church's attitude on race, saying: "We should mourn when closet racists and neo-Confederates feel more at home in our churches than many of our people of colour."
He also said: "The problem is that many of our divisions are based on 90 per cent misunderstandings, distortions and often outright lies. And it has grieved me more than you can imagine."
On Thursday, he tweeted that it was possible the churches may be able to return to the fold, saying: "We pray for repentance and healing and a return to that faithfulness, and stand ready to receive them again with open arms"