2:50 PM PDT, September 14, 2005
Gay Issue Divides American Baptist Leaders
By Larry B. Stammer, Times Staff Writer
American Baptist leaders of 300 local churches in Southern California and other Western states said today they intend to break with their national denomination because of its failure to declare that homosexual practice is incompatible with Christian Scripture.
A resolution to withdraw from the 1.5-million member American Baptist Churches USA was made by the Pacific Southwest region's board of directors at its Covina headquarters.
The resolution cited "deep differences" over homosexuality that were "irreconcilable."The resolution, approved Sept. 8, comes at a time when other American Baptist regions in the U.S. were also poised to consider breaking with their denomination. Several steps must be taken before the Pacific Southwest resolution can take effect. The region's executive committee must report to the region's board of directors by Dec. 8 on property ownership and other issues related to the break. If the board approves, a recommendation that the region leave the 5,000 church national denomination would be sent to the region's 300 local congregations for a vote.If the local congregations concurred, the break would constitute the single largest withdrawal from a national denomination by its member churches. The protracted and wrenching debate over homosexuality has previously engulfed the worldwide Anglican Communion and it's U.S. member, the Episcopal Church. The issue has also threatened the unity of the United Methodist Church and Presbyterian Church, U.S.A..
While American Baptists have debated homosexuality for years, the issue was brought to a head in July when conservatives said that the national denomination failed to take a decisive stand against homosexual practice.
American Baptists are a smaller denomination than the better known Southern Baptists.