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American Baptist Church in Michigan Ousted for Openly Affirming Gays

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    American Baptist church ousted for openly affirming gays By Hannah Elliott Associated Baptist Press Published September 1, 2006 FLINT, Mich. (ABP) -- On Aug.
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 2, 2006
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      American Baptist church ousted for openly affirming gays
      By Hannah Elliott
      Associated Baptist Press
      Published September 1, 2006

      FLINT, Mich. (ABP) -- On Aug. 29, Woodside Church became the first
      American Baptist congregation in Michigan to be disaffiliated by its
      local "sister churches" because of its stance on homosexuality.

      The North Area Baptist Association, a 10-county group of Baptist
      congregations belonging to the American Baptist Churches-USA, voted
      18-3 to break ties with the church because of its acceptance of gays.

      According to church leaders, Woodside will remain a Baptist
      congregation, although the 275-member church might have to join with a
      Baptist association in a different state.

      "We believe Jesus, as we know him and understand him through the
      gospels, teaches us to love everyone just as they are without
      judgment," Woodside pastor Deborah Kohler said in the story. "There is
      nothing they can do to keep us from being Baptists. We can find other
      churches to connect with."

      The showdown over homosexuality has been brewing for several months.
      In May, Woodside Church decided to join the Association of Welcoming
      and Affirming Baptists, a pro-gay organization. That act made some of
      the convention's more conservative churches begin the process of
      disassociation.

      The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists has 55 member
      congregations nationwide. Member congregations publicly endorse all
      church members "without regard to sexual orientation or gender
      identity, and who have joined together to advocate for the full
      inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons within
      Baptist communities of faith," according to the group's website.

      Ken Pennings, the executive director of the group, said that by
      approving the vote to disassociate, the North Area Baptist Association
      has "severed itself from one of its most vital, healthy, energetic,
      Christ-centered congregations."

      "This [decision] tells me volumes about the North Area Association,r"
      he told Associated Baptist Press via email. "One only need visit
      Woodside Church on a Sunday morning to experience Woodside's
      extravagant welcome of all people, openness to the movement of the
      Holy Spirit, commitment to religious liberty, peace and justice, depth
      of spirituality, emphasis on intergenerational communication and
      development, and involvement in community affairs."

      The vote came as no surprise to Woodside Church members, according to
      The Flint Journal. The church has a well-known standard of affirmation
      with no regard to sexual orientation.

      An August executive committee letter to the regional board reminded
      members that, in accordance with American Baptist bylaws, Woodside
      Church has the right to affiliate with another American Baptist group
      in a different area or region.

      Michael Williams, the executive minister of American Baptist churches
      in Michigan, told ABP the executive board is trying to find middle
      ground in the dispute.

      "What all of this is highlighting for us is the tension that Baptists
      often have; it's the tension between local church autonomy and
      interdependence," he said. "For us in Michigan, that's the profound
      issue."

      In a statement on the church's web site, Pastor Kohler said Woodside
      has always been a unique congregation on the "cutting edge of
      social-justice issues," and that same focus continues to play a major
      role in its identity.

      The church is the city's oldest Baptist church, according to the
      Journal. It also affiliates with the United Church of Christ.

      American Baptist Churches-USA have roughly 1.5 million members in the
      United States.

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