The Pacific Southwest region of the American Baptist Churches USA says it will leave that denomination over the issue of homosexuality.
The Pacific Southwest region represents more than 300 congregations in a denomination of 1.5 million members. According to a report in Christianity Today, at least four more of the church’s regions are considering leaving the ABCUSA, a member denomination in the National Council of Churches.
In a letter stating the region’s intention to withdraw from the denomination’s Covenant of Relationships, Pacific Southwest’s board of directors said the conflict over the issue of homosexuality reflects deeper tensions over biblical authority and accountability. According to Brian Scrivens, president of the region’s board of directors, the decision to withdraw from the denomination is in response to “the inability of the ABCUSA to adopt meaningful implementation of the Resolution on Homosexuality.”
The denomination’s general board executive released its own letter saying it was “profoundly saddened” by the region’s decision.
The letter noted that the church’s 1992 statement on homosexuality remains in effect. That statement reads: “We affirm that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”
“However,” the letter continued, “the general board does not set policy for local congregations. We are a denominational family related by a series of voluntary covenantal relationships among autonomous congregations. . . . Nothing in our structure allows us to dictate theological interpretations. That authority rests solely with local congregations and individual American Baptists.”