Sunday, September 10, 2006

Michigan Baptists Stand Firm: Woodside Expects Another Region to Take Them In

Stand on gays leaves Woodside alone
Sunday, September 10, 2006
By Ron Fonger • 810.766.6317

FLINT - The city's oldest Baptist church remains disaffiliated with area Baptists because of its stand on homosexuality.

The American Baptist Churches of Michigan Region Board, which represents about 160 ABC churches in the state, voted Saturday to support churches in a 10-county area that earlier had elected to sever ties with Woodside Church in Flint.

"Homosexuality is not acceptable ... with the majority of our churches," said the Rev. Ray A. Strawser II, who cast one of 22 votes against Woodside. Three members of the region board voted against the disaffiliation and one abstained during the meeting in East Lansing, Strawser said.

Strawser is pastor or First Baptist Church of Owosso and treasurer of an executive committee that recommended the removal of Woodside.

He said the congregation's decision in May to join the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists was "the final straw."

AWAB advocates for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons within Baptist churches.

American Baptist Churches USA has 1.5 million members with 5,800 churches in America. Woodside, located at 1508 E. Court St., has 275 members.

"With this vote today, we will explore fellowship with other areas within Michigan and or with other regions (of ABC) within the United States," said Jim Richardson, Woodside's chairman of Outreach and Social Action Committee.

"We want to stay part of the American Baptist Churches because it is part of our tradition to be there," he said. "Some of us feel in time attitudes may change."

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