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SoCal Baptists Quit Over Gays

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SoCal Baptists Quit Over Gays

by The Associated Press

Posted: September 15, 2005 11:00 am ET

(Los Angeles California) A dispute over homosexuality has spurred Baptist leaders in Southern California and other areas of the West to initiate a split from their national organization.

The Pacific Southwest Region of American Baptist Churches USA said in a statement that it intends to secede because the national organization has refused to declare homosexuality incompatible with Christian Scripture.

The region includes about 300 of the denomination's 5,800 churches.

"This is not a happy day," said the Rev. Glenn E. Layne, pastor of First Baptist Church in Temple City, who favors a split. "But I have to believe that God is preparing us for something better."

Layne said the move "is not a gay-bashing issue. This is an authority-of-Scripture issue."

A conservative Baptist leader in West Virginia said Wednesday that he and his allies also were preparing to split from the national organization.

Officials from the church's headquarters in Valley Forge, Pa., did not return telephone calls seeking comment on the secession threats.

Withdrawal of the denomination's two largest regions would be a setback, according to the national executive director of the Madison, Wis.-based Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists, which supports gay and lesbian rights in the church.

"It's hitting us very hard and heavily," said the Rev. Kenneth Pennings. "We're saddened by this move, but we're going to be stronger than ever on the other side of this move."

With 1.5 million members, American Baptist Churches USA is smaller and more liberal on gay issues than the 16 million-member Southern Baptist Convention.

Directors of the Pacific Southwest Region approved a resolution on Friday to start splitting from the national denomination and stop contributing to national headquarters as of Dec. 31.

In a letter posted on the region's Web site, board President Brian Scrivens cited the denomination's refusal in November, April and July to implement a resolution stating that "The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching."

Before a split can occur, the region's executive committee must brief the board on breakup-related issues including ownership of church property. If the board approves the executive committee's recommendations, the region's congregations would be asked to vote on splitting.

©365Gay.com 2005

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