Members of a Northwest Baptist denomination adopted a statement declaring homosexuality to be inconsistent with Christian teachings.
But the more than 300 pastors and congregation members from Washington, Idaho, Montana and Utah who gathered for the regional organization's convention last weekend took no action to dismiss two Seattle churches that welcome gays and lesbians.The votes on proposed bylaws indicated the American Baptist Churches of the Northwest is "clearly divided" over the place of homosexuals in the church, said Rev. Paul D. Aita, the regional organization's Seattle-based executive minister.
The measure adopted is an "instructional directive" stating that the regional organization supports the national denomination's position that "the practice of homosexuality is inconsistent with Christian teaching," Aita said.
A separate measure targeting the Seattle First Baptist Church and University Baptist Church was not voted on because it was declared out of order for procedural reasons, Aita said.
Those two congregations have aligned with American Baptist churches nationally that welcome homosexuals.
The Rev. Tim McDonald of First Baptist Church in Okanogan withdrew a similar measure that sought to create a process to dismiss the two Seattle congregations from the regional denomination.
McDonald also withdrew a proposed "affirmation of faith" stating that God's plan for a sexual union is one man and one woman in a heterosexual, monogamous and lifelong marriage.
Delegates also rejected a measure that would have allowed for the dismissal of churches that compromise "the basic unity and identity" of the regional organization through "clear abandonment of one or more of the basic Christian beliefs and practices or Baptistic distinctives."
American Baptist Churches of the Northwest is the regional body of the American Baptist Churches USA, one of about two dozen Baptist denominations nationwide. It has about 1.5 million members, compared to the nearly 16 million members in the Southern Baptist, the nation's largest Protestant denomination.
The American Baptists stress autonomy of local churches and individual interpretations of the Bible.
The American Baptist Churches USA in 1992 passed a resolution stating that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teachings.
But a year later, that same group adopted a resolution calling for members to acknowledge that a variety of understandings exist on human sexuality, and calling for respect for others as the biblical and theological issues of sexuality are explored.
Regional denominations have rejected six churches over the issue of homosexuality, although none has been dismissed by the national organization.