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Perhaps one of the least discussed members of the Seven Sisters of Mainline Protestantism is the American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA). Odd, since this Oldline denomination still maintains traditional sexual ethics, making it one of only two Mainline Protestant denominations (besides the United Methodist Church) that have not surrendered their official disapproval of practicing homosexual behavior.
Among the ABCUSA’s Policy Statements and Resolutions is a response pertaining to homosexuality which states, “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” Surprisingly, the denomination’s latest response to homosexuality was made in 2005 when the ABCUSA General Board (now the Board of General Ministries) voted to amend their statement of beliefs titled “We are American Baptists” by adding the following language:
People - Teaching - Scripture - God - Design
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.
Before we praise the ABCUSA for its staunch defense of traditional marriage, it is important to recall the independent and autonomous structure of the Baptist tradition. The resolution goes on to encourage continued “dialogue on human sexuality” and recognizes varying views on the issue among its affiliates. In fact, the ABCUSA’s resolutions web page plainly declares:
Structure - Work - Board - General - Ministries
In the current structure, it is understood that while the work of the Board of General Ministries continues to be guided by established and future Policy Statements, Resolutions and other declarations, they “in no way obligate American Baptist congregations or regions to any position or course of action.” Under the present structure only the Office of the General Secretary is specifically guided by those documents.
This statement lends to acceptable — and considerable — divisions among local congregations on the subject of homosexuality. The historic Calvary Baptist Church in...
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