Delegates to the Baptist State Convention have voted overwhelmingly to expel a Charlotte church for welcoming gays and lesbians without trying to change them.

Myers Park Baptist Church became the first to be kicked out under rules passed at last year's meeting. Those rules say any Baptist church that affirmed or endorsed homosexual behavior would be considered not to be cooperating with the convention.

The vote by the nearly 3,000 delegates came after two of the church's leaders called on them to open their hearts to homosexuals who want to worship with them and to respect local autonomy in interpreting the Bible.

But convention president Allan Blume told the meeting that the Bible calls on believers to turn away from sin. He also suggested that Myers Park Baptist was mostly interested in seeking publicity for its views, not in trying to work within the Baptist State Convention.