Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Regional Ministry Board of the Great Rivers Region Makes Strong Affirmations of Traditional Biblical Morality in Unanimous February Vote

In the midst of confusing signals from a variety of regions regarding homosexuality, the Great Rivers Region has acted in an interesting way. The Regional Ministry Board appointed a task force to propose a response to the ABC dealing with the present "conflict" in the denomination. The task force charge calls for a final report on April 28, 2006. They also issued a strikingly strong statement of their convictions and shared beliefs. Note that the resolution was adopted unanimously at a regular meeting of the Regional Ministry Board of the Great Rivers Region. It will be interesting to see what construction Valley Forge puts on the action.

Dwight Stinnett
ABC Great Rivers Region

GRR Regional Ministry Board Response to Churches
RMB 0602 Agenda Item #5.g.

Since the last meeting of the Regional Ministry Board (RMB) of the Great Rivers Region (GRR) we have received several legitimate resolutions from GRR churches in good standing that urge or demand various actions by the RMB concerning the present conflict within ABCUSA. In order to respond to those resolutions in a thoughtful, consistent way the GRR Board has appointed a special task force to propose actions to the Board and compose a single, comprehensive response to those churches and the General Board of ABCUSA. That task force is charged to bring its work to the regional board at the next scheduled meeting (28 April 2006). The full GRR Board will consider and act on the proposal at that time. However, in order to be faithful and prompt, this “interim” response was adopted by the GRR Regional Ministry Board. Speaking as that Board:

We affirm the 1984 ABCUSA General Board American Baptist Policy Statement on Family Life (7036:6/84) that says, in part, “We affirm that God intends marriage to be a monogamous, life-long, one flesh union of a woman and a man, who in response to God’s call leave father and mother and cleave to one another. We affirm God’s blessing and active presence in marriage relationships so entered in response to God’s call.”

We affirm the 1992 resolution adopted by the General Board of ABCUSA (8200:10/92), which says: “We affirm that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”

We affirm the Confession of Faith adopted by the General Board of ABCUSA in 1998 and endorsed by the Regional Ministry Board of the Great Rivers Region as part of our “common criteria” specifying the qualifications for church membership in GRR. That Confession says, in part: “American Baptists proclaim the Good News of the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, knowing that salvation (forgiveness of sins, release from guilt and condemnation, reconciliation with God) and eternal life are granted in grace to all who trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. This Gospel is the central message of the Bible.”

We further affirm the 2005 amendment to that Confession including the line: “[We are a biblical people] 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.”We further affirm that God’s redemptive love in Jesus Christ is available to all persons, and it is the high calling of each and every church to preach, teach and minister in such a way that God’s love for all persons is reflected.

We affirm the Covenant and Code of Ethics for Ministerial Leaders adopted by the Ministers Council, which includes the promise: “I will maintain a disciplined ministry in such ways as keeping hours of prayer and devotion, endeavoring to maintain wholesome family relationships, sexual integrity, financial responsibility, regularly engaging in educational and recreational activities for professional and personal development.”

We affirm the 1976 Ministers Council Senate resolution, which says in part: “We believe that the practice and advocacy of homosexual activity to be incompatible with Christian principles and grounds for denial of ordination; we also affirm that past homosexual practices, when disavowed, should not be a barrier to ordination.” We also note that the Great Rivers Region Ministers Council endorsed that same resolution.

We affirm that immoral behaviors, including sexual intimacy outside the bonds of marriage, are grounds for clergy discipline and for withdrawing recognition.

We affirm our long-standing covenantal expectation that churches seeking membership in the Great Rivers Region “will not ordain or call as pastor a practicing homosexual.” Churches which choose to do so risk their fellowship with other churches in this Region.

We affirm that all the staff and programs of the Great Rivers Region will be consistent with the expectations of these above positions.

We affirm that our Executive Minister has diligently informed this Board and our churches of these issues. We further affirm that he has accurately and faithfully represented the positions of this Board. We further affirm that we expect him to accurately represent our positions with the covenant partners of ABCUSA., including the Office of the General Secretary, the President of ABCUSA, the presidents of the program Boards of ABCUSA, and other interested parties.

We affirm that we are a covenant people and are deeply troubled that ABCUSA has been fractured. We call on all parties to prayerfully seek healing and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in dealing with these fractured relationships.

Adopted unanimously by the Regional Ministry Board of the Great Rivers Region at the regular meeting on 3 February 2006.

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