Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists
Opening Doors For Gay and Lesbian Christians
of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists was initiated at a gathering of
pastors at the 1991 American Baptists' Biennial meeting in Charleston, West
Virginia, and was formally organized at the 1993 Biennial in San Jose, California.
By 1995 the Association had grown to over 30 churches and organizations
in Regions throughout the ABC/USA.
Coordinator Brenda Moulton said
the mission of AWAB is to envision, create and support a community of churches
committed to actively affirm the inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and
transgendered persons into the full life and mission of local congregations,
regional and national offices of the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A.
James Walke Jr., an American Baptist set to begin seminary next year,
has conducted a survey of the Welcoming and Affirming congregations to see
how being part of the organization has affected their churches. The vast
majority of the churches said they have enjoyed positive results since joining
Churches responding to the survey said they joined AWAB because they
had already either been open and affirming of gays and lesbians for years,
or they were finally pushed to join by the American Baptists' decision to
adopt a statement saying "homosexuality is inconsistent with Christian
None of the churches expressed regret at their decision to join AWAB.
Comments received by Walke range from "Some of the finest spiritual
witnesses in our church have been gay, lesbian, or bisexual persons..."
to "learned about what it means to ask and answer the question, 'What
do we believe Jesus would do?'"
All the churches report they have experienced growth since becoming a
member of AWAB. Some said membership is up "only slightly." Others
say they've seen a 30% jump in membership.
The influx of new gay and lesbian members has invigorated the churches.
One pastor told Walke, "the excitement they bring and new insights
into the faith and desire to reach out in outreach ministries has been an
inspiration to all of us."
The transitions have not come without some pain, however. Several churches
lost long time members over the issue. Other churches complained their pastoral
staff is not allowed to teach at seminary, and their pastoral candidates
will probably have a hard time finding church homes.
That has not stopped the resolve of these courageous churches. One pastor
commented, "being a welcoming and affirming church is no big deal to
(us). Our beliefs and commitments are upsetting to many in our community
and to other American Baptist churches, but that does not change who we
are. We are comfortable with our attitudes and decisions."
Another pastor sums it up. "Diversity in a ministry like this is
not easy to pull off, but it's much more exciting than any other kind of
church we could imagine."