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Division over Homosexuality Threatens American Baptist Ranks

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    Division over Homosexuality Threatens American Baptist Ranks By Robert Marus Associated Baptist Press July 7, 2005 DENVER (ABP) -- American Baptists are a step
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 9, 2005
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      Division over Homosexuality Threatens American Baptist Ranks
      By Robert Marus
      Associated Baptist Press
      July 7, 2005

      DENVER (ABP) -- American Baptists are a step closer to a
      long-anticipated showdown over homosexuality and diversity after
      completing their biennial meeting July 4.

      The denomination's General Board, meeting prior to the larger
      convocation in Denver, accepted the first reading of a petition from
      one of the denomination's regional groups that calls for amendments to
      documents designed to more clearly state American Baptists' opposition
      to homosexuality.

      At least three regional groups of ABC churches have threatened to
      withhold contributions to the national denomination or leave
      altogether if their concerns over homosexuality were not addressed by
      the end of the biennial, which took place July 1-4. Conservative
      leaders, such as the American Baptist Evangelicals, were not
      immediately available for comment after the meeting.

      Regional fellowships are the channel through which local churches
      relate to the national body, which counts 1.5 million members in 5,836
      churches. In recent years, several gay-friendly churches have been
      expelled from those regional bodies. The ABC General Board changed the
      denomination's rules in 1999 to allow churches to join regions outside
      of their geographical area if the region is willing to accept them.

      As a result, many pro-gay ABC churches have joined more progressive
      regional associations -- such as several in the Northeast.

      The Indiana-Kentucky region initiated the petition to change those
      rules back, as well as to amend a denominational identity statement to
      read that American Baptists are a people "who submit to the teaching
      of Scripture that God's design for sexual intimacy places it within
      the context of marriage between one man and one woman, and acknowledge
      that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with biblical
      teaching."

      The petition notes the ABC General Board's 1992 approval of a
      resolution that declares homosexual practice "incompatible with
      biblical teaching" but says that subsequent actions by denominational
      leaders have not sent as clear an anti-homosexuality message.

      The denomination has presented "an inconsistent and confusing message
      to the world about what American Baptists profess to believe and what
      is actually practiced," the petition reads.

      It and another petition expressing concern over the unity in the
      denomination will receive a second reading at the November meeting of
      the General Board. If passed, it effectively would create a mechanism
      for expelling many gay-friendly churches from the ABC.

      During his address to about 2,000 delegates to the biennial July 1,
      ABC General Secretary Roy Medley pleaded for unity in the ethnically,
      geographically and theologically diverse denomination.

      "We stand at a crossroads," he said, according to the American Baptist
      News Service. "In our world, the path of radical discipleship -- the
      path of radical love -- is the road less taken. We dare not choose
      another. We dare not choose the wrong road ... the road that leads to
      separation. That choice will certainly unite you with like-minded
      people, but will give you small souls, and make you comfortable
      Christians."
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