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This is coverage of the 1999 convention of the American Baptist Churches.

A Sunday story
outlining the conflicts over homosexuality that would dominate the convention was missing
from the database I used to compile these stories.
Copyright 1999 Des Moines Register
June 22, 1999 Tuesday
SECTION: MAIN NEWS; Pg. 1A
HEADLINE: Baptists vote to oust 4 churches
By STEPHEN BUTTRY
Register Staff Writer
A sharply divided General Board of the American Baptist Churches USA voted to
expel four California churches from the denomination because of their "welcoming
and affirming" stand toward homosexuals. An Ohio church narrowly escaped being
thrown out of the denomination.
The votes were taken in a weekend meeting that concluded Monday at the
Marriott Hotel in downtown Des Moines. The denomination's nationwide biennial
meeting starts today at Veterans Memorial Auditorium and the Polk County
Convention Complex.
Denomination leaders were planning for a harmonious Des Moines convention,
and did not place any matters dealing with homosexuality on the agenda or in the
program. Members and supporters of the disfellowshipped churches vowed to keep
the matter alive during the week.
"For American Baptists to meet in Des Moines and have a warm, fuzzy family
gathering when some of the family has been kicked in the teeth is not
acceptable," said the Rev. Rick Mixon, moderator of Lakeshore Avenue Baptist
Church in Oakland, Calif., one of the expelled churches.
Mixon said the Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists may try to bring
the matter before delegates in a business session. They plan to march through
downtown Wednesday night and to sing nightly at the auditorium entrance.
A choir will remind the 3,500 Baptists at the convention "that we are still
part of the family," said Daniel Pryfogle, a member of Lakeshore Avenue Baptist
Church.
Lakeshore Avenue was one of four California congregations ousted from the
denomination in separate votes Sunday night and Monday morning. Also expelled
were First Baptist Church of Berkeley, New Community of Faith in San Jose and
San Leandro Community Church in San Leandro.
First Baptist Church in Granville, Ohio, maintained a tenuous tie to the
denomination.

What's Next ?
Various Baptists involved with the issue disagreed over what might happen
next. "This could be the beginning of a major split in the denomination,"
Pryfogle said.
The Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists has about 30 member
churches, and association leaders expect efforts to expel other congregations.
The Mid-America Baptist Churches, which covers Iowa and Minnesota, has three
member congregations, all in the Twin Cities.
The Rev. John Eby of Library, Pa., national coordinator of American Baptist
Evangelicals, doubted that other congregations face expulsion.
Mixon, a 26-year member of the Oakland church, said that was "absolutely
untrue."
"These are historic American Baptist churches through and through, dedicated
to the work and mission of the church," Mixon said. Gay rights issues are "not
the primary focus of the church," he added.
American Baptist congregations are autonomous. The denomination is a
voluntary association with no authority except to withhold its affiliation.
Churches join by affiliating with a region. The five churches were dismissed
from their regions, but appealed to the General Board.
Evenly Split
The close votes at this week's meeting show how evenly the American Baptists
are split over the most divisive issue facing traditional Protestant churches.
In the first vote, taken late Sunday, the Ohio church escaped ouster in a
79-73 vote. On the second vote, First Baptist Church of Berkeley was expelled by
a sole vote, 77-76. In subsequent ballots, the votes to dismiss rose as high as
83. A motion to reconsider the vote on the Ohio church was tabled, so the
Granville church remains in the denomination, at least until the General Board's
November meeting.
Eby described the tone of the General Board's debate as emotional but civil.
"I just felt that God's spirit was working in the board's actions," he said.
Copyright 1999 Des Moines Register
June 23, 1999 Wednesday
SECTION: METRO IOWA; Pg. 1M
HEADLINE: Racial diversity celebration opens Baptist convention

By STEPHEN BUTTRY
Register Staff Writer
American Baptists celebrated the cultural diversity of their denomination on
Tuesday, the opening day of their Biennial Meeting in Des Moines.
Blacks, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and Haitians gathered in separate caucuses
and worship services at Veterans Memorial Auditorium and the Polk County
Convention Complex. At the evening service that formally opened the convention,
delegates sang hymns in English and Spanish and gave standing ovations to a
choir from Puerto Rico and a preacher from India.
"We have a sizable presence, people of color," said Pastor Mary Robinson of
Valley View Baptist Church in Cedar Falls. She is second vice president of the
Black American Baptist Caucus, and her church is 95 percent white.
Before Tuesday evening's service, Des Moines Mayor Preston Daniels reminded
American Baptists of their last gathering in Des Moines, in 1959. The convention
then voted in favor of "complete integration" of all Baptist churches and
organizations.
"That took courage. That took faith," Daniels said. "Taking a stand for what
is morally right is what the church does best."
As delegates gathered before the service, a choir from the Association of
Welcoming and Affirming Baptists sang such favorite hymns as "Amazing Grace" and
"It Is Well With My Soul." Many in the choir wore black arm bands to protest the
denomination's current stand against full integration of homosexuals and
bisexuals.
The General Board of American Baptist Churches USA voted Sunday and Monday to
expel four California churches that belong to the association, which welcomes
homosexuals.
Though delegates talked among themselves about the General Board's action, no
one mentioned it specifically at the evening service, the first gathering of all
3,200 Baptists attending this week's meeting. The convention continues through
Friday.
Tuesday's activities focused on the denomination's ethnic unity, rather than
the division over sexuality.
Leaders forecast that in five or 10 years, the American Baptists will have no
racial majority. The denomination is 53 percent white and 43 percent black, with
growing Hispanic and Asian minorities.

The opening program reflected that diversity, with speakers and performers of
various racial and ethnic backgrounds and a procession of flags representing the
denomination's various ministries and mission fields. The throng of Baptists
sang "He Lives," followed by the Spanish version, "El Vive."
Banners in English and Spanish proclaimed the "New Life 2010" and "Nueva Vida
2010," a plan to start 1,010 new congregations and reach 1,000,010 new believers
by 2010.
The assembly celebrated its current and historic ties with Nagaland, a region
of northeast India. Pongsing Konyak, general secretary of the Nagaland Baptist
Church Council, preached following a performance by eight Naga singers and
dancers.
American Baptist (then known as Northern Baptist) missionaries brought
Christianity to Nagaland 127 years ago, Konyak explained. Now, he said, 95
percent of the state's 1.5 million residents are Christians, with about 1
million Baptists.
The "former headhunters" of Nagaland "turned to soul hunters," Konyak said.
He called on the American Baptists to "rekindle their zeal for missions." God's
power, he said, can heal a "broken church, a broken convention."
At a press conference earlier Tuesday, the American Baptists' top staff
executive discussed the votes by the General Board to expel four churches that
had been "disfellowshipped" by their region. An Ohio church that also belongs to
the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists narrowly escaped being
dismissed from the denomination.
The Rev. Daniel Weiss, general secretary of American Baptist Churches USA,
said the denomination generally expels only congregations that have stopped
participating with the regional and national bodies; 22 such churches were
dismissed this weekend.
"I'm not aware in the last 20 or 30 years of any church being expelled who
cared," Weiss said at an afternoon news conference.
Weiss does not have a vote on the General Board. He said he would have voted
against expelling the congregations. He would have voted not on the issue of
sexuality, he said, but "on the basis of Baptist autonomy."
Baptist tradition, Weiss said, "doesn't allow one body to tell a local church
what to do."
Copyright 1999 Des Moines Register
June 24, 1999 Thursday

SECTION: METRO IOWA; Pg. 1M


HEADLINE: Baptist rift brings rebuke
Leader lectures denomination after clash over homosexuality
By STEPHEN BUTTRY
Register Staff Writer
The American Baptists' chief executive delivered a stern scolding to his
fractured denomination Wednesday evening.
"To be a divided and divisive people is an affront to God," General Secretary
Daniel Weiss said.
Weiss spoke to about 3,000 people attending the biennial meeting in Des
Moines of the American Baptist Churches USA. "There is no place for thought
police among us," he told them.
He did not refer directly to the differences over homosexuality that led the
denomination's General Board earlier in the week to expel four California
churches that "welcome and affirm" homosexuals. But Weiss bluntly discussed the
split within the denomination.
He reminded the assembly that Baptists believe deeply in freedom of
individual Christians and local congregations to interpret the Bible. Under
Baptist structure, the local church is autonomous.
"We have all agreed," Weiss said, quoting a previous American Baptist
declaration, "that no governing body has authority to give directions or orders
to any individual American Baptist, to any local congregation. . . ." The end of
his sentence was drowned out by applause.
The California churches were "disfellowshipped" by the American Baptist
Churches of the West because they belong to the Association of Welcoming &
Affirming Baptists, which welcomes homosexuals. An Ohio church also has been
expelled by its regional organization, and other Welcoming & Affirming
congregations have faced challenges at the regional level.
In a move that stunned many in the denomination, the General Board voted
narrowly Sunday and Monday to sever ties with the California churches. The Ohio
church narrowly escaped expulsion.
Weiss' address capped a day in which the American Baptists conducted two
nearly parallel conventions.
Both groups worshipped, conducted business and attended workshops on biblical
themes. Most of those attending the national meeting gathered in large crowds at
downtown convention facilities. Delegates from the banished churches and their

supporters came together in smaller numbers at a nearby Lutheran church, a


physical separation symbolizing the four churches' exile.
The general secretary, who heads the denomination staff in Valley Forge, Pa.,
did not specifically call for reconsideration of the board action, but he issued
an impassioned plea for unity. "We are sisters and brothers in Christ," Weiss
said. "Can we agree to disagree, and can we give each other the right to be
wrong?"
He had strong words for those who have accused the Welcoming & Affirming
churches of abandoning the Baptists' traditional recognition of the Bible as the
ultimate authority.
"We have always invested that authority in the Bible, not its interpreters
and commentators," Weiss said. He rebuked those who have been "judgmental and
accusatory" in regarding their own interpretations of Scripture as inerrant.
The convention has no authority to overturn the General Board's decision. But
critics of the vote were seeking support for two statements to be considered at
Friday's concluding business session.
One statement cites the convention's Jubilee theme, saying the denomination
cannot celebrate the biblical Jubilee until the rift is repaired. The Jubilee is
an Old Testament doctrine of forgiving debts every 50 years. Many churches are
approaching the millennium by expanding the concept to a general celebration and
forgiveness.
The other statement takes no stand on sexuality issues, but it says the
decision violates the "freedom of the local church to choose its leadership and
define its ministry."
As people gathered Wednesday afternoon at St. John's Lutheran Church for a
workshop of the Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists, the emphasis was
as much on Baptist tradition as on questions of sexuality.
"I'm mad as hell," said Helen Wadsworth of Plymouth, Mass. "I never thought
an American Baptist church would exclude anyone."
The workshop Wadsworth attended illustrated both that acceptance of
homosexuality is a minority view in the denomination and that the expulsion of
the four California churches has generated more support for their position.
While the denominational meeting has drawn about 3,200 Baptists to Des
Moines, the workshop attracted about 25. An afternoon meeting of the association
drew about 60. About 250 attended an evening worship service.

The minority took heart, though, in its growing ranks. The association has 37
member churches, 10 more than two years ago. The denomination has about 5,800
congregations and 1.5 million members.
The Wednesday afternoon workshop showed that more churches are interested in
joining the association, despite the grim consequences demonstrated this week.
The session started with six people attending. Several times, chairs and
tables were rearranged to accommodate latecomers. Most, like Wadsworth, were
from churches that had not yet adopted "welcoming and affirming" statements.
The service at St. John's was heavy with symbolism. Worshippers carried rough
wooden crosses with the names of the exiled churches. They were invited to place
stones upon each other, in the ancient sign that God was present.
"The spirit of God is in our midst, and that can never be taken from us,"
proclaimed Co-pastor Marcia Bailey of Central Baptist Church in Wayne, Pa.
Copyright 1999 Des Moines Register
June 25, 1999 Friday
SECTION: METRO IOWA; Pg. 3M
HEADLINE: Baptists: Nonviolence is key to ending cycle
Those convening in Des Moines refocus their efforts to work for peace.
By STEPHEN BUTTRY
Register Staff Writer
In anonymous prayer cards, in formal resolutions and in a march through
downtown Des Moines Thursday evening, American Baptists renewed their commitment
to nonviolence.
Hector Cortez, an organizer of the downtown march, called on the crowd of
more than 200 to "help our children walk out of the shadow of death and
violence."
Citing statistics of youthful violence, Cortez told the marchers, "The
equivalent of a Sunday school class dies every day. A Columbine every day."
The marchers specifically remembered the April massacre at Columbine High
School in Littleton, Colo. They walked from the Marriott Hotel through downtown
streets to a memorial fence in front of Veterans Memorial Auditorium.
The fence was modeled after makeshift memorials that sprang up on fences at
Columbine and in Oklahoma City following the 1995 bombing of the federal
building there.
Throughout this week's biennial meeting of the American Baptist Churches USA

in Des Moines, delegates have been invited to attach prayer cards and other
items to the fence in memory of victims of violence.
Jump ropes, teddy bears, a stuffed lamb, candles and a rainbow-colored kite
adorned the fence, along with dozens of prayer cards.
"Break the cycle," proclaimed a sign on the fence. "Teach children violence
is not a game." Attached to the sign was a broken squirt gun.
"May God grant me peace within and enable me to spread that peace to those
around me in ways the spirit leads," proclaimed a prayer card.
Some of the cards addressed the issue that has divided the denomination this
week. "For all who suffer in myriad ways from the sin and evil of homophobia and
heterosexism," one said.
One writer prayed "for peace in our congregations so that we may be not only
peacemakers but proclaimers of the Prince of Peace."
Several cards and a pile of stones paid tribute to four churches that were
"disfellowshipped" from the denomination this week for their welcoming attitude
toward homosexuals. Marchers carried four crosses with names of the banished
churches.
While sexual orientation has divided this week's American Baptist assembly,
nonviolence has united it. The denomination, whose ministers once included
Martin Luther King Jr., has a long tradition of opposing violence and working
for peace.
Repeatedly in sermons, songs, speeches and workshops, the Baptists stressed
their commitment to nonviolence:
* The Rev. Eugene Rivers, a former gang member, told at a Wednesday night
dinner about the work of his Ten-Point Coalition, which works with troubled
youths in Boston and has helped cut the city's violent-crime rate to a 30-year
low.
* Delegates Thursday voted on a "statement of concern" about children in
crisis. The measure calls on American Baptists to write to the producers and
distributors of violent television shows, music, movies and games and to pursue
legislation against deadly weapons.
Delegates spent considerable time Thursday discussing Wednesday night's
address by the Rev. Daniel Weiss, the denomination's general secretary. He spoke
sternly to the Baptists, telling them division was "an affront to God."

At a Thursday afternoon question-and-answer session, Weiss said he wished the


church would focus on issues other than homosexuality. He would rather spend
time and energy trying to address such problems as poverty and abuse.
"When I stand before God, how do I want to account for my stewardship of
time?" Weiss asked.
Copyright 1999 Des Moines Register
June 25, 1999 Friday
SECTION: METRO IOWA; Pg. 3M
HEADLINE: Top Baptist calls for reconciliation
By STEPHEN BUTTRY
Register Staff Writer
The American Baptists' newly elected president called Thursday for "full
racial, gender and theological reconciliation" in her divided denomination.
"We have been called to be ministers of reconciliation," said the Rev.
Trinette McCray, who was elected Thursday in Des Moines at the biennial meeting
of the American Baptist Churches USA.
Her selection followed a historic series of votes Sunday and Monday to expel
four California churches that support full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the
ministry of the church.
In addressing the assembly following her election, McCray did not directly
address the sexuality issue that caused the rift.
But her call to deeper faithfulness included some references to the
"brokenness" of the denomination.
Deeper faithfulness, she said, "demands the inclusivity of all the gifts of
God's people in all the ministries of God's church."
Messages of Love
She quoted messages of love and renewal from Scripture and from a 1956
address to the American Baptists by Martin Luther King Jr.
"Let us love one another as Christ has loved us," McCray said.
To Replace Johnson
McCray, campus minister at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, will
become president next year, replacing the Rev. James Johnson of Alderson, W.Va.

She will be the first ordained woman to head the denomination.


She called on the churches to recognize the call many women feel to become
senior pastors.
Women clergy are used mostly just in education, social service and associate
pastor roles.
McCray called on the American Baptists to "embrace all the gifts that women
have to bring."
Copyright 1999 Des Moines Register
June 26, 1999 Saturday
SECTION: METRO IOWA; Pg. 3M
HEADLINE: Baptists end meeting still deeply divided
Some call for peace within the church as the national convention closes.
By STEPHEN BUTTRY
Register Staff Writer
American Baptists closed their national convention in Des Moines Friday by
fighting fiercely, then sharing the Lord's Supper.
After an afternoon of sometimes heated debate, the Baptists came together for
their closing service Friday evening.
Even in worship, the strife in the denomination was evident. Following the
program's opening procession of local, regional and denominational leaders, a
protest procession entered the arena at Veterans Memorial Auditorium.
As a 200-voice choir and the assembly sang, marchers held high four crosses,
representing the four California churches severed from the denomination this
week for "welcoming and affirming" gays and lesbians.
Carrying banners and ribbons and holding aloft stones, about 200 members and
supported of the exiled congregations walked to the front of the arena, then
filled the center aisle.
After the song ended, the marchers quietly left or returned to their seats,
to delayed and scattered applause.
Denominational leaders offered words of hope in a service that followed but
made no pretense that healing had begun.
Pastor Duane Gibson of First Baptist Church in Des Moines led Communion with
a call to find in Jesus "a power that renews and deepens our fellowship one with
another."

Aidsand Wright-Riggins III, executive director of National Ministries,


dismissed the assembly: "We come liberal and conservative, fellowshipped and
disfellowshipped, yet in Christ we find ourselves one, one in the family with
Christ."
In afternoon debate, the family was fighting openly.
"We have a new form of cleansing, church cleansing," said the Rev. Walt
Pulliam of Seattle, a former president of the American Baptist Churches USA.
Supporters of the decision to banish the churches said the denomination had
to uphold its view on authority of the Bible and homosexual practice as sinful.
"Our denomination was a church of the Bible and held it strong and held it
true. Now it's being falsified," said Pastor Gerald Feulmer of First Baptist
Church of Knoxville. "Sin is sin."
Others called for peace.
"I would like to believe that we could all humbly seek Jesus' face together,"
said the Rev. David Frey of Iowa City.
The delegates were debating on "signature statements" calling on the General
Board to reconsider its votes Sunday and Monday to uphold a regional decision
dismissing the churches. The assembly does not vote on such statements, but
records the debate and forwards it to the General Board.
The rift over expelling the churches overshadowed a pre-convention
controversy over Friday's luncheon speaker, theologian Walter Wink, who was
criticized for interpreting the Bible as tolerant of homosexuality.
As planned, Wink focused mostly on his call for Christians to nonviolently
resist evil. "No one can ever say that nonviolence doesn't work," he said. "It's
the only thing that does work."
Wink's only reference to the American Baptists' division came after he noted
the vigilante nature of violent cartoon heroes. He also warned of "theological
vigilantes, self-appointed watchdogs, overseers of whole denominations."
Copyright 1999 Des Moines Register
June 26, 1999 Saturday
SECTION: METRO IOWA; Pg. 3M
HEADLINE: Homosexuality is divisive issue
By Stephen Buttry
Register Staff Writer

Each camp in the battle that is dividing American Baptists clings to


cherished Baptist principles:
* American Baptists believe in the authority of Scripture, say those who are
outraged that Baptist churches are ordaining and marrying gays and lesbians.
* American Baptists believe in the autonomy of the local church and "soul
freedom" of the individual, say those who are outraged that the denomination
would expel four churches over their welcoming stand on homosexuality.
To outsiders, Baptists may be distinguished by what they supposedly don't do:
drink, dance, gamble. Those stereotypes, none universally true but all based in
fact, drew some self-depracating humor during this week's Des Moines meeting of
the American Baptist Churches USA.
As far as theology and worship, outsiders may know Baptists best for their
practice of baptizing believers by immersion as adults or mature children,
rather than sprinkling babies.
American Baptists claim similar devotion to some other principles that aren't
as widely known:
* They proclaim "soul freedom," meaning each believer answers personally to
God and is free to interpret Scripture.
* They are proud of their local autonomy, meaning each church makes its own
decisions and teaches Scripture as it sees fit.
One side sees the churches that "welcome and affirm" gays and lesbians as
denying the authority of Bible passages that condemn homosexual practice as
sinful.
John Eby, national coordinator of American Baptist Evangelicals, contrasted
one convention speaker's "call for repentance and confession of sin" with the
expelled churches' "self-serving decision to affirm sin."
The other side says American Baptists accept differing interpretations of the
Bible, but never dictate what another congregation should teach.
Though the American Baptists are polarized, many find themselves on both
sides: They criticize one wing for refusing to condemn homosexual practice as
sinful, and they criticize the other wing for casting fellow Baptists out of the
family.
Copyright 1999 Des Moines Register

June 26, 1999 Saturday


SECTION: METRO IOWA; Pg. 4M
HEADLINE: Baptists map decade of challenge
Their goals are 1,010 new churches and a million new Christian believers; The
delegates head home today, with the plan's success riding on the local
congregations.
By STEPHEN BUTTRY
Register Staff Writer
American Baptists leave Des Moines this morning facing a mighty challenge
over the next decade. By the year 2010, the denomination has vowed, its churches
will start 1,010 new churches and lead 1,000,010 new believers to Christ.
"New Life 2010" is an ambitious plan for the American Baptist Churches USA, a
denomination of 5,800 congregations and 1.5 million members.
At this week's biennial meeting of the American Baptist Churches USA, many
delegates grumbled openly that they focused too heavily on division rather than
uniting behind this goal of spreading the gospel.
Literature, buttons and water bottles proclaimed the challenge in English and
Spanish. But that's not enough, a Los Angeles pastor told General Secretary
Daniel Weiss at a workshop. "It's not going to happen simply because we put it
on these bottles and these books."
Weiss agreed, saying success of the mission rests with the denomination's
local congregations.
The convention and the denomination headquarters have no authority over local
churches, so resolutions approved this week are only advisory. The delegates
approved five "statements of concern." The delegates called on American Baptists
to:
* Enter the year 2000 in a spirit of forgiveness. "To forgive requires us to
demonstrate respect for all, even those with whom we may have radical
differences."
* Pray, study and act to help children in crisis. The statement advocates
fighting poverty, providing better health care for children and opposing violent
entertainment.
* Celebrate the "confident future into which God is moving us."
* Make the next two years "a season of denominational sabbath, in order that
we may prayerfully wait, listen and discern the mind of Christ for us as we
enter a new millennium."

* Support self-determination for Puerto Rico.


The denomination's General Board, in action before the convention started,
supported a call for industrialized nations and the World Bank to forgive debts
of impoverished countries.
The board also adopted a resolution calling for action to fight sexual
exploitation of children, particularly pornography and prostitution.
Officials announced the denomination has raised $175,000 for relief
ministries in Kosovo.
Copyright 1999 Des Moines Register
June 26, 1999 Saturday
SECTION: METRO IOWA; Buttry Stephen; Pg. 4M
HEADLINE: Hymns help unite Baptists' voices, hearts
By STEPHEN BUTTRY
Register Columnist
American Baptists agree wholeheartedly in their interpretation of at least
one Scripture passage: "Make a joyful noise to the Lord."
My meager writing gifts will not do justice to the musical gifts of
performers at the biennial meeting of the American Baptist Churches USA, which
concluded Friday in Des Moines.
But I'll try: The singing by choirs, soloists and crowds was so powerful it
made you forget for a while the strife within the body.
Musical highlights included moving performances by groups from Caguas, Puerto
Rico; Nagaland, India; Rainy Mountain Indian Baptist Church in Cache, Okla.;
Benedict College in Columbia, S.C.; and First Baptist churches in Des Moines and
Marshalltown.
The music reflected the American Baptists' cultural diversity in the
selection of songs, in the many races and nationalities represented on the stage
and in the multiple languages lifted in song.
My deadline will come before Friday's closing performance by a mass choir of
200 or so voices from throughout the denomination. I'm going to take a leap of
faith and say that was stirring as well.
Christendom's most beloved tune, "Amazing Grace," got repeated usage: by the
Rainbow Choir of the Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists outside the
evening assemblies, at a luncheon of American Baptist Evangelicals and in a

particularly moving end to a peace march remembering victims of violence. Mae


Callahan of the denominational staff led a soulful rendition, with marchers
joining as they approached a memorial fence.
The musical fare included other old favorites such as "Turn Your Eyes Upon
Jesus" and "Crown Him With Many Crowns" and a new song written for the gathering
by Pastor Kelly Moor from Idaho Falls, Idaho, "On Our Knees." The chorus set a
prayerful tone for the gathering: "On our knees we'll find the answers; we'll
find the wisdom we have hungered for."
After more than an hour of sometimes heated debate, newly elected President
Trinette McCray asked delegates to stand, join hands and sing, "Blessed be the
tie that binds our hearts in Christian love."
Preachers at the various events also helped in the search for wisdom. A few
highlights:
* In inspiring messages to groups at opposite poles in the denomination,
evangelical seminary president Ian Chapman from the Chicago area and gay Pastor
Timothy Phillips from Seattle preached on the same Scripture passage: Jesus
asking Peter, "Do you love me?"
* Liliana DaValle, area minister with American Baptist Churches of
Massachusetts, moved seamlessly between English and Spanish, stirring the
assembly in both tongues. She had strong words about the American Baptists'
division: "Perhaps we're being confused, mistaking our brother or sister who
confesses Jesus Christ as our enemy."
* Carolyn Knight of the Interdenominational Theological Center drew repeated
shouts of "Amen!" with her thundering, rhythmic challenge to help others come to
Jesus. "Faith and forgiveness go together," she said.
Most of the preachers carried the lofty title "doctor," signifying their
years of theological study. But one of the most memorable messages came from
Shana Cofer, a student from the University of California at Berkeley. She had
addressed the convention six years earlier as "a little black girl from
Pasadena," she said.
Her church "paved roads for me where there were none," Cofer said. "My church
saved a child from the brink of failure."
Who's that?
On a personal note, I grew a little weary during the week of
being asked if I was Dan Buttry's brother. I was glad to hear he was asked just
as frequently if he was my brother.

Dan (older brother, by the way) is a leader in Baptist peacemaking efforts


and is co-pastor of First Baptist Church in Dearborn, Mich. He was one of three
Buttry clergy at the American Baptist gathering. His wife, Sharon, runs
Friendship House, a Christian social service center in Hamtramck, Mich. My
mother, Harriet Buttry of Lee's Summit, Mo., is a retired American Baptist
minister.
If you didn't like my coverage, blame me, not them. In our brief time
together, we barely discussed the week's most contentious issue, the expulsion
of four churches over their stand on homosexuality. I suspect the Buttrys, like
Baptists as a whole, aren't in full agreement.
The Buttrys, though, remain in strong fellowship.