Monday, October 03, 2005
ABCUSA to Meet PSW Church Leaders
A letter released under the signatures of Dr. A. Roy Medley, Dr. Aidsand Wright-Riggins III, Rev. Charles Jones, and Dr. Sumner Grant was mailed to every PSW congregation, informing them of conferences in PSW being arranged by VF to inform church leaders of the grave error of withdrawing from the ABCUSA. The letter has been posted on the ABC home page.
September 30, 2005
Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ:
We grieve and are profoundly saddened by the decision of the Executive Committee of the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest to “initiate the process to withdraw from the Covenant of Relationships of the ABCUSA.”
While much of our recent attention has been focused on responding to the greatest natural disaster in U.S. history, Hurricane Katrina, by mobilizing work teams, transporting disaster relief supplies, and engaging in triage relocation efforts, (the NEC, in fact, just returned from Baton Rouge) we feel the need to clarify a few factors related to your membership in the American Baptist Churches USA in light of the recent communication sent to you from your region board.
While a region board has the autonomy to make a decision to withdraw from the responsibilities of the Covenant of Relationships, we feel obligated to write to you today to inform you of the rights that your congregation will retain regardless of whether or not your current region follows through with its intent. First of all, should the decision to separate be finalized by your region board it will not affect your membership as a congregation in the American Baptist Churches USA. Secondly, we assure you that we will continue to serve those pastors and congregations who value their relationships with and the benefits of affiliation with the American Baptist Churches USA. Even if the PSW board follows through with its intent to withdraw from its Covenant with the other ABC partners, and your congregation decides to relate to the new entity formed by the current PSW region, your congregational membership will remain with the American Baptist Churches unless your congregation votes to alter it.
Our sincere desire is for you to remain connected as a congregation to the global partnership of mission and ministry distinctively known as “American Baptist.” “American Baptists are a Christ-centered, biblically grounded, ethnically diverse people called to radical personal relationship in Christ Jesus.”* We encourage your participation in the vision God has given American Baptists characterized by radical discipleship and radical love.
Contrary to published reports, ABCUSA does have policy statements and resolutions related to the issue of homosexuality. Our policy on Family Life (1984) states, “We affirm that God intends marriage to be a monogamous, life-long, one flesh union of a woman and a man.... We affirm God's blessing and active presence in marriage relationships..." In 1992 the General Board adopted the following statement, “We affirm that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” In 1993 the General Board called for continuing dialogue on issues of human sexuality. All of these policies are currently in effect.
We have always recognized, and reaffirmed many times, our commitment to the Bible as our authority on matters of faith and Christian living. As affirmed in the document, We are American Baptists: “The Bible is the final authority and trustworthy for faith and practice. It is to be interpreted responsibly under the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit.”
Within the local church, believers work together to discern faithfully the biblical witness on these issues. We recognize the biblical and historical right of individuals and congregations to dissent, a distinctive paid for with the lives of our Baptist forebears. The prologue of our Bylaws states, “The Northern Baptist Convention declares its belief in the independence of the local church, and in the purely advisory nature of all denominational organizations composed of representatives of churches.”
We are currently working to set up sessions (on November 7-10) in your area to discuss how you may continue to participate as a full member congregation in the wider mission and vision of American Baptists regardless of what other networks or affiliations to which you choose to relate. We will let you know as soon as the plans for these informational meetings are finalized.
Our desire is to continue to partner with you in a comprehensive ministry, whether it involves responding to the current natural disaster or the next, evangelism in your neighborhoods or across the seas, discipleship among your youngest and your most mature. American Baptist Churches are focused upon finding and practicing new ways to reach out to those who need a life-changing relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. “Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we work together in mutual trust, humility, love, and giving that the gospel might be preached and lived in all the world.”*
We continue to pray for God’s work among us and our unity together as American Baptists.
A. Roy Medley, General Secretary; Sumner Grant, Executive Director MMBB; Charles Jones, Acting Executive Dir. International Min.; Aidsand F. Wright-Riggins III, Executive Director National Ministries
* Excerpted from ABCUSA Mission Statement adopted by the General Board of ABCUSA in June of 2005