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 Split among American Baptists over homosexuality is final

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Following the approval of a large majority of its churches, the board of the American Baptist Churches Pacific Southwest region voted unanimously May 11 to withdraw from its covenant relationship with its parent denomination. The board's action makes final the separation of the 300-church region from the American Baptist Churches (USA) in Valley Forge, Pa.

The decision comes after eight months of discussion and a vote on the part of the region's churches in late April to recommend that the board withdraw over the refusal of the ABC (USA) to deal with the acceptance of churches with lax policies on homosexuality in the denomination.

"The overwhelming response of delegates from the churches was a mandate in the minds of the members of the Board of Directors," Dale Salico, executive minister for the region, said in a statement after the vote May 11. "We had asked the churches to enter a period of spiritual discernment on our relationship with the ABC (USA), and to come to the April 29 meeting prepared either to confirm or to correct the discernment of the Region Board. An overwhelming majority of the delegates voted in favor of withdrawal from the Covenant of Relationship."

Tony Campolo, a well-known American Baptist speaker and a professor of sociology at Eastern University, said he also was disappointed. "The decision hurts some of the finest missionary work in today's world. More important, it runs counter to the prayer of Christ that we might all be one people," Campolo said.

Judy Allbee, executive minister of the American Baptist churches in Connecticut, said "it is a sad day for the cause of Jesus Christ when one part of the body cannot tolerate being with the rest of the body." She said the decision of the Pacific Southwest region was the result of the region's belief that it was in sole possession of the truth.


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