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Baptists Face Schism Over Gays

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Baptists Face Schism Over Gays

by The Associated Press

April 30, 2006 - 11:00 am ET

(Los Angeles, California) Delegates representing congregations of the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest voted overwhelmingly Saturday to recommend severing ties with the national denomination in a dispute over homosexuality.

The matter now goes to the board of directors, which has already recommended withdrawal from American Baptist Churches, USA, citing ''deep differences of theological convictions and values.''

The board is scheduled to meet May 11.

On Saturday, delegates from the region's 300 churches voted 1,125 to 209 to withdraw from American Baptist Churches, USA. The delegates met in seven locations across the West, including First Baptist Church in Pomona.

The board of directors had the authority to withdraw from the national denomination, but decided to seek input from the delegates, according to a statement on the group's Web site.

There has been a growing split within the 1.4 million-member American Baptist Churches, USA over homosexuality.

In November, the governing board added language to the denomination's self-definition, saying American Baptists are believers ''who submit to the teaching of Scripture that God's design for sexual intimacy places it within the context of marriage between one man and one woman, and acknowledge that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with biblical teaching.''

The denomination has taken previous stands against gay sex. But it has not disciplined congregations with liberal gay policies, drawing the ire of the Pacific Southwest region and others.

Last year, the West Virginia association, the largest regional group with 465 congregations, narrowly rejected a proposal to break with the national denomination.

The debate over interpreting the Bible on homosexuality is tearing at many Protestant denominations. Among the most dramatic examples is the worldwide Anglican Communion, which is struggling to stay together following the decision of its U.S. province, the Episcopal Church, to consecrate its first openly gay bishop a few years ago.

©365Gay.com 2006


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