Saturday, September 02, 2006

ABC of Michigan Weighs in on the Disfellowship of Flint Congregation Over Homosexuality

Glenn Layne's Durable Data has been reporting this week on the disfellowship vote taken recently by the association in Michigan to distance itself from Woodside Church of Flint. Now the ABC-MI has stepped in with a letter from their executive committee. Under the signatures of Larry Ward and Ed Pedley, they have grounded their response in the technicalities of their own regional Bylaws. Both His Barking Dog and Durable Data anticipated action in this direction and were unsurprised by it.

The text of the relevant portion of the Region Bylaws affecting the Committee's decision is in this online document: The entire Bylaws are in this online document: And, the actual "Executive Committee Letter" can be found at

In brief, the executive committee of ABC-MI is putting forth the following points for action at their September 9 meeting:

1. "Recognize the North Area majority vote to remove the Woodside Church from the North Area;

2. Observe the ABC-MI Region Bylaws which permit the Woodside Church to affiliate with another ABC-MI Area;

3. Recognize, in accordance with ABCUSA General Board policies, the right of the Woodside Church, if unable (or not interested) to affiliate with another ABC-MI Area, to seek or not seek affiliation with another ABCUSA Region. The Woodside Church has eighteen months, from the time the ABCUSA General Board acts on the 'Churches in Changed Relationship' report to petition another ABCUSA Region for membership if they so choose or otherwise will no longer have affiliation with the ABCUSA."

By handling the matter in such a narrowly construed manner, the leadership of ABC-MI has attempted to "be faithful to our ABC-MI Bylaws and to the ABCUSA Covenant of Relationships to which the ABC-MI is a covenanting partner." But, admitting that these are strange times indeed, they also allow that "our life together (koinonia) as American Baptists both regionally and nationally is not easy and is being sorely tested" and openly solicited "continued prayers as we near the September 9 Region Board meeting."

At this point the Woodside congregation has a number of options if it wishes to remain "baptist." The church might elect to affiliate with the Alliance of Baptists which already has a progressive statement on human sexuality in accordance with the existing Woodside position. They might seek to find a more theologically harmonious association within the state of Michigan with which to affiliate. Or, they may elect to request a non-geographically contiguous region to accept them into fellowship. Berkeley (CA) finds a home in the ABC of Wisconsin; Granville and Oberlin (OH), University Baptist and Judson Baptist in Minneapolis (MN), and San Leandro's Community Church (CA) all enjoy their fellowship with the American Baptist Churches of the Rochester/Genesee Region of New York State!

It should not escape notice (as a Baptist blogger has already noted in another forum) that Michigan was the region voting last year to recommend (by a 19 to 1 vote as I recall) to dissolve the ABC into a pre-1907 structure sans General Board, General Secretary, etc. Regardless of the politics, if the Michigan board upholds the recommendation of its Executive Committee on September 9, the General Board of the ABC could be faced with a very hot political potato. With with exit of Transformation Ministries (aka ABCPSW) and the prospect of further defections, accommodating Woodside Church will only serve to exacerbate the conflict. Yet, having set the precedent with Berkeley, Granville, Oberlin, San Leandro, etc., on what principled basis could the GB demur?

[His Barking Dog is more of a loyal and harmless lapdog than a ferocious pit bull. Nevertheless, for the benefit of my readers, please do not misconstrue my yips and yaps as anything other than the behavior of an over-eager, but toothless, guard dog acting on his own initiative to sniff out and bark at strangers at the door. My column contains NOTHING official from anyone anywhere at all.]

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