American Baptist Churches, USA

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It should be noted regarding the following excerpts that "Board of General Ministries policy documents are binding on national staff only and not on regions or local churches." (Policy Statements and Resolutions)[1]

Beginning of Life


Official Statement: from ABC General Board, "American Baptist Resolution Concerning Abortion and Ministry in the Local Church" (1987)

"As American Baptists we oppose abortion, as a means of avoiding responsibility for conception, as a primary means of birth control, without regard for the far-reaching consequences of the act. We denounce irresponsible sexual behavior and acts of violence that contribute to the large number of abortions each year. We grieve with all who struggle with the difficult circumstances that lead them to consider abortion. Recognizing that each person is ultimately responsible to God, we encourage men and women in these circumstances to seek spiritual counsel as they prayerfully and conscientiously consider their decision. We condemn violence and harassment directed against abortion clinics, their staff and clients, as well as sanctions and discrimination against medical professionals whose consciences prevent them from being involved in abortions." ("American Baptist Resolution Concerning Abortion and Ministry in the Local Church")[2]


Official Statement: from ABC General Board, "American Baptist Resolution Concerning Abortion and Ministry in the Local Church" (1987)

"Beyond our own household of faith, we call upon: Government, industries and foundations to support the research and development of safe, reliable, affordable and culturally appropriate methods of contraception for both men and women worldwide." ("American Baptist Resolution Concerning Abortion and Ministry in the Local Church")[3]

Healthcare & Medicine

Official Statement: from ABC General Board, "American Baptist Policy Statement on Health, Healing, and Wholeness" (1990)

"Our faith should lead us to a different understanding of health, healing and wholeness, namely, that to be healthy or achieve wholeness does not mean a final or perfect state of being. Wholeness involves the realization and continuous acceptance of the limitations of being a finite creature in a divinely created but fallen order. Being whole means integrating pain, sickness and death into life's meaning. Becoming healthy and whole is a difficult passage where good and evil, suffering and joy, sickness and being well are all intertwined. No matter what degree of health we might display, all of us are wounded. There is no such thing as a person who is completely free from illness, incompleteness and injury to his/her body or psyche. Health and disease are not separate states or opposing qualities. Rather, health and illness are part of a process—a continuum. The sick can be healthy; there is a healthy way to live with a disease. The way we define these terms will determine how we care for health and how we treat illness. ("American Baptist Policy Statement on Health, Healing, and Wholeness")[4]

Access to Healthcare

Official Statement: from ABC General Board, "American Baptist Resolution on Health Care for All" (1991)

"In accordance with our 1975 Policy Statement on Health Care, we believe that health care should be viewed as a right, not a privilege, and that the basic goal for health care reform should be universal access to comprehensive benefits. Therefore, as American Baptists, we urge the President and Congress to work together expeditiously to enact a major program of health care reform which will extend health care coverage to every person in the United States. We seek a national health care system that:
  • serves everyone in the United States
  • provides comprehensive access, care, and services
  • is sensitive to the needs and rights of health workers, patients, and their cultures
  • promotes health awareness, disease prevention, nutrition, fitness, and safety
  • slows the upward spiral of costs
  • draws financial support from the broad base of the entire nation
  • reduces unnecessary administrative costs
  • reduces inappropriate medical procedures." ("American Baptist Resolution on Health Care for All")[5]

Conscience Issues

Official Statement: from ABC General Board, "American Baptist Policy Statement on Human Rights" (1976)

"As American Baptists we declare the following rights to be basic human rights, and we will support programs and measures to assure these rights:
1. The right of every person to choose a religion freely, to maintain religious belief or unbelief without coercion; the right for communities of faith to meet together to engage in public worship, to witness publicly to others, to speak prophetically from religious conviction to government and society, to live out religious beliefs, and to be free from governmental intrusion, coercion, and control in the free exercise of conscience and religion. . . .
6. The right to follow the dictates of conscience, to express dissent individually or in groups to prevailing ideas, governments and institutions." ("American Baptist Policy Statement on Human Rights")[6]

End of Life

Extraordinary Measures

Official Statements: from ABC General Board, "American Baptist Resolution on Death and Dying" (1990)

"We affirm and support a person’s choice for, and the family’s involvement in end of life care. We encourage advance planning commonly known as living wills and the development of communication plans for palliative care, curative care, hospice, pain management and spiritual and emotional support. We also support the person’s choice as to the place for end of life care: home, hospital or health care facility. These choices and decisions have been made more complex with the advances made in recent years in expensive, sophisticated medical technology. Such technology has prolonged lives under circumstances which in earlier times would have resulted in death. In too many cases extraordinary measures have been taken to sustain a life with no apparent regard for the quality of that life nor for the wishes and desires of the dying person, and the family. In the worst scenario the extra years of the life saved may be spent in a chronically debilitated, demented or even unconscious condition.
Over the years care for the chronically ill or dying has shifted more and more from the family to the medical community where the concern has increasingly been for the preservation of life at all costs. There needs to be a balance between the caring and curing goals of medicine, where the concern for minimizing suffering and preserving dignity that caring entails is given equal status to curing, especially in those situations where curing is not possible." ("American Baptist Resolution on Death and Dying")[7]

Issues of Human Dignity & Discrimination

Disability Ethics

Official Statement: from ABC General Board, "American Baptist Resolution on the Church and Ministry with Persons with Disabilities" (1978)

"Therefore, the General Board of the American Baptist Churches calls upon American Baptists to recognize persons with disabilities as integral members of the Christian fellowship and to take immediate affirmative action to enable their full inclusion in society and in local congregations and in church organizations, in such ways as the following: Exploring ways to increase sensitivity and awareness of the importance of being in ministry with persons with disabilities; Seeing that church and public facilities provide adequate and accessible accommodations which invite and assist persons with disabilities in being involved with church life; Exploring ways in which churches individually and ecumenically can enlarge opportunities for employment, training, education and service; Enabling concerned and disabled persons to link connect with local, state and national support networks." ("American Baptist Resolution on the Church and Ministry with Persons with Disabilities")[8]

Official Statement: from ABC General Board, "American Baptist Resolution on Mental Illness" (1991)

"We, the people of the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., solemnly resolve:
  • to examine our hearts, our theology, and our actions to see that there is no judgment of or avoidance of persons who suffer from the effects of mental illness;
  • to address those factors contributing to mental illness in our society that could be corrected;
  • to educate American Baptists that mental health is related to faith and should be included in church school curriculum for adults, youth and children, in seminary curriculum, special themes and emphases, and worship/preaching series;
  • to provide a living witness as individuals, families, congregations, associations, regions and national boards and agencies, by exemplifying a mature Christianity which affirms life and encourages mental health;
  • to offer a ministry of hospitality and caring which is based in our congregations, but which influences community attitudes and includes acceptance and support of persons with mental illness and their families, befriending them, and integrating them into the church and the larger community;
  • to encourage interprofessional cooperation among psychiatrists, social workers and clergy;
  • to seek ways for persons with mental illness to recognize their own gifts and strengths, and use them in service and ministry to and with others in congregations and communities, including employment.
  • to assess needs in the community and recognize the relationships between deinstitutionalization and homelessness and mental illness;
  • to respond as appropriate with programs of respite care, aftercare, support groups, supportive housing, food pantries, volunteerism in mental health care facilities, socialization and recreation and special emphases; and to support already existing public and private health services that serve persons with mental illness;
  • to advocate for non-discriminatory and humane practices throughout society, and in particular to press for revision of legal commitment procedures to balance protection of one's civil rights with the genuine need for treatment, using "optimum therapeutic setting" rather than "least restrictive setting" as the criterion. ("American Baptist Resolution on Mental Illness")[9]


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