Magazine article The Christian Century

Southwest Region Severs ABC Ties; Loyal Churches Organize

Magazine article The Christian Century

Southwest Region Severs ABC Ties; Loyal Churches Organize

Article excerpt

After years of conflict centering mainly on the issue of homosexuality, a large, southern California--based regional body of the American Baptist Churches U.S.A. has voted to continue the process of separating itself from the denomination.

The Pacific Southwest region voted 1,125 to 209--without discussion--in a telephone-conducted referendum coordinated from First Baptist Church in Pomona, California, on April 29 to terminate its relationship with the ABCUSA. Those participating at Pomona and at six other locations from Hawaii to Arizona represented just over half of the congregations in the Pacific Southwest region.

The ABCUSA, a 1.4-million-member denomination based in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, learned that the region's board of directors voted unanimously May 11 to withdraw, effective in November 1. Dale Salico, the region's executive minister, has repeatedly characterized its differences with national leadership as irreconcilable.

Not all Pacific Southwest churches will leave the denomination, officials on both sides agree. The fledgling Association of American Baptist churches in the Pacific Southwest will be led by Samuel Chetti, executive minister of the Los Angeles Baptist City Mission Society.

"There will be no clear winners in this split," Joe DeRoulhac, pastor of First Baptist Church of Redlands, California, told the CENTURY prior to the late April vote. At least for a few years, DeRoulhac said, "I believe most churches are going to take their time before voting to leave the ABCUSA [because] pastor and congregational leaders do not want to split their own churches over this issue even if they personally want to leave" the denomination. …

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