Baptists may split over gay issuesby
Eric Johnston PlanetOut Network
Baptists may split over gay issues
Divisions over homosexuality that have embroiled several mainline Protestant denominations in the United States are now threatening to tear apart the American Baptist Churches USA, with leaders of hundreds of local churches announcing plans to secede from their national organization.
The denomination's Pacific Southwest Region released a statement Tuesday saying its board of directors had voted in favor of the split on Sept. 8 because the national organization had refused to declare homosexuality "incompatible with Christian Scripture."
Brian Scrivens, president of the Pacific Southwest board of directors, wrote a letter to the congregations throughout the region, saying the differences with the national church were "irreconcilable."
The 1.5 million-member American Baptist Churches USA is more liberal on gay issues than the better-known 16 million-member Southern Baptist Convention.
The denomination has more than 5,000 churches nationwide. The Pacific Southwest Region encompasses approximately 300 local congregations in Southern California, Nevada and Arizona.
The schism, if it happens, would constitute the single largest withdrawal from a U.S. denomination by its member churches, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The rift over homosexuality has also threatened the unity of other denominations, noted Susan Russell, the president of Integrity USA, an organization that supports full inclusion of LGBT people in the U.S Episcopal Church.
"I think it's sad and predictable that the same forces at work within the Episcopal, the Methodist and the Presbyterian churches to force polarization by scapegoating gays and lesbians are now going on within the American Baptist Church," she said.
Russell told the PlanetOut Network that a driving force behind this movement is an organization called The Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD).
The IRD makes no secret about its efforts to influence the United Methodist, Presbyterian and Episcopal Churches and its belief that sexual relations are only appropriate between married heterosexuals. According to the group's Web site, "We help church members battle for renewal within their denominations." The group also pledges to work "to see that our churches fulfill their proper role in defending marriage" and warns against following the "secular agenda of the Left instead of the timeless message of Jesus Christ."
As for the split within the American Baptist denomination, several steps must be taken to complete the schism, including approval by local congregations as well as negotiation of property ownership and other issues.
For now, the directors of the Pacific Southwest Region have approved a resolution to take steps to start splitting from the national denomination and stop contributing financially to national headquarters by the end of the year.
Posted September 15, 2005
It is interesting that the IRD keeps taking hits as the Dr. Evil in the story. The left are the only people who keep saying this. Next we'll hear that Zionists and Neo-Cons are to blame.