I haven’t been around that many Baptists of late, but one of the first things that struck me in The Detroit Free Press story about Bishop Allyson Nelson Abrams and her departure from the pastorate of Zion Progress Baptist Church was that “bishop” title.
The leaders of free-church congregations, Baptists included, are free to call their clergy whatever they wish. But how common is that “bishop” title? Maybe a bit of explanation? A sentence at least?
Then, of course, there is the reason for Abrams’ resignation:
Facing a backlash from conservatives in her congregation, a noted Christian leader in Detroit resigned Friday from her church after announcing earlier this month she had married a woman.
Bishop Allyson D. Nelson Abrams stepped down from Zion Progress Baptist Church, where she had served for five years as its first female pastor. Her announcement from the pulpit earlier this month that she had married a woman stunned many local Baptists.
Abrams’ resignation comes just days after the U.S. District Court in Michigan took up a challenge to the Michigan Marriage Act that bans same sex marriage.
Abrams, 43, used to be married to a man, but she told congregants Oct. 6 she was in love with Diana Williams, a bishop emeritus with the Imani Temple African-American Catholic Congregation in Washington, D.C., a church that broke off from the Catholic Church. The two married in March in Iowa, where same-sex marriage is legal.
Given the conservative views of many Baptists on the issue of homosexuality and female pastors, Abrams’ announcement caused an intense debate among local Christians. She said many supported her decision to come out while others opposed her gay marriage. Some urged her to stay with the church, but Abrams said she resigned because she didn’t want to further create division. Some in the congregation had found out about her same-sex marriage before she made her Oct. 6 announcement and were making it an issue that was dividing the church.
You don’t say?