June 30, 1999
ABC expels four gay-affirming churches
___DES MOINES, Iowa (ABP)--The American Baptist Churches USA General Board has voted to expel four churches from the denomination over their "welcoming and affirming" stance toward homosexuals.
___Meeting on the eve of the convention's June 22-25 biennial meeting, American Baptist leaders narrowly voted to deny separate appeals by four California churches earlier dismissed from a regional body.
___The churches--First Baptist Church in Berkeley, Lakeshore Baptist Church in Oakland, New Community of Faith in San Jose and San Leandro Community Church in San Francisco--all belong to the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists. The association, organized in 1993, has about 30 member churches that open their membership to gay, lesbian and bisexual people.
___The General Board, however, granted the appeal of a fifth Welcoming and Affirming congregation that was kicked out of its region, First Baptist Church in Granville, Ohio. The group voted 79-73, with one abstention, to keep the Ohio congregation in good standing nationally while it seeks membership in a new region.
___Traditionally, American Baptist churches cannot affiliate with the national body unless they also are members of a region. Standing rules, however, allow a church dismissed by its region to appeal to the national body.
___An executive committee that had administered the appeals process cited a concern "not to establish polity precedents which are inconsistent with the way we have chosen to live together as a denomination" in considering the appeals.
___The General Board's ruling recognized the rights of regions to determine membership in accordance with common criteria and said no ruling of the General Board should be construed as overruling a region's decision regarding its own membership.
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