Evergreen Association of American Baptist Churches @2017

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Evergreen Association of American Baptist Churches @2017

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Evergreen History


A New Region Transition Team was assigned by the ABC/NW Board in February 2001 as the board responded favorably to the recommendation of Future Search. The Transition Team got started before they were officially appointed and realized immediately that their task was compounded by the fact that the churches/people in SBU really did not know each other. This was created by the decision some eight years previous to hold SBU meetings during North Puget Sound Area Annual meetings. Although all churches in SBU were in North Puget Sound, not all North Puget Sound Area churches were in SBU. The African-American churches in particular and the Asian churches to some extent in SBU did not regularly attend North Puget Sound Area Meetings. This was true when at least every other year (sometimes more often) the meetings were held outside the SBU geography. Added to this was the extraordinary change in leadership among all ethnic groups. At the time of the decision to form a new region, half the Asian churches were between pastors. Just prior to the decision major African-American congregations had pastors of 20, 35, 38, and 40 years retire, move or pass away. There was also major leadership changes in the Euro churches.

The Transition Team therefore, made the decision to begin their work on developing relationships. They concentrated on having events for pastors and others so that people might meet each other and begin to have dialogue about the venture put before them. With the help of SBU the pastors and spouses were invited to attend a Mariner’s baseball game and were invited to a dinner cruise on Elliott Bay. There were other more informal meetings and attempts to have events that did not happen.

The Transition Team would have like to work at this level for a longer period of time but two things required that they move the process forward. First, the ABC General Board adopted “Provisional Procedures for the Orientation and Accepting of New Regions”. Secondly, there was pressure by some people in ABC/NW that the new region be organized enough that the churches in that Region would not feel it necessary to attend the 2002 ABC/NW Biennial Convention. The Team, with the concurrence of the ABC/NW Board, decided that they needed to get the New Region to Provisional Status before the May 2002 Biennial.

One of the minor (yet to some major) difficulties of the Transition Team was what to name the new region. In one attempt, they tried the “Seattle Baptist Union Region” but since there was a growing concern over the adoption of the churches in that organization into this new region that was quickly abandoned. So for a long time the Team simply referred to it, and encouraged others to refer to it as “The New Region.”

To comply the with the “Provisional Procedures”, the Transition Team called for a meeting of the churches at the end of October of 2001 to review the documents of ABC/USA, the covenant of relationships, the mission statement and the common criteria. Since all churches were already American Baptist, the documents per se were acceptable. However, it was at that meeting that a few churches wanted the agreed process of separation from ABC/NW to be different than the ABC/NW board had affirmed. They began to be vocal about the requirement by ABC/NW to “opt out” of the New Region if they did not want to be a part of it.

Meanwhile, in many different conversations without ever formally doing so, the Transition Team noted two things:

There was a need to find the ground for “common ministry” among the churches of this “New Region.” The reason the “New Region” was asked to form, was not a reason to establish a “New Region”. In other words, “homosexuality” or “welcoming and affirming” could not be the identifying characteristic, issue or definition of the New Region. It simply did not have anything close to universal support among the churches and coming together under any “issue” was deemed to be unhealthy by the Team. Therefore, common ministries needed to be identified and seriously considered and lifted up to bring unity and purpose to this New Region.

The Transition Team although selected primarily by ABC/NW was not sufficient in its ethnic diversity (1 African-American, 2 Asian, rest Euro-American ethnic ancestry). It was not diverse enough and either others had to be brought on board or something else had to be done to be assured that decisions were being proposed by a more representative body.

In addition, the Transition Team discovered several reasons that brought hope for a New Region outside the issue that began the forming.

The geography of SBU was metropolitan. The immense geography of ABC/NW always prevented concerns of urban or metropolitan issues to be taken seriously by the entire Region. There was opportunity in this new Region to concentrate on issues that truly affected these churches that were close geographically.

The breakdown of the churches presented an opportunity that at first was recognized as important, but exactly how it would be used was unclear. Of the churches in SBU there were about an equal number of churches of primarily African ancestry and Western European ancestry, with a few Asian ancestry churches thrown in. It meant that in terms of numbers of churches, no ethnic church “had the majority.” The Team speculated on the meaning of this during 2001. They knew it meant that the Team was not diverse enough and discovered that it held clues for their common ministries.

The closeness of geography was deemed an asset in another way. Meetings could be held without extreme expense of monies and time. This was an enormous advantage to the Team compared to what ABC/NW had to do to hold Region meetings. The Team met regularly as did subsequent bodies that helped to form what would be Evergreen Baptist Association. It was an advantage that ABC/NW never enjoyed.

The structure of ABC/NW and its corporations was awkward at best and misunderstood by most. All churches in SBU by being American Baptist Churches were members of ABC/USA and 3 other corporate bodies as well as North Puget Sound Area. They were members of ABC/NW, Washington Baptist Convention and Seattle Baptist Union. Because they were members of ABC/NW they were automatically in North Puget Sound Area which extended slightly south of SBU boundaries and for 3+ counties north of SBU boundaries. It was particularly difficult for the African-American churches to relate to all these bodies since they are all dually aligned. The Transition Team’s initial thinking was that perhaps if the New Region and SBU were one and the same that at least one corporation could be folded into the Region. Although that was not to be, to loose at least one of the bodies (Area) to relate to, seemed like something that would help.

Toward the end of 2001, the Transition Team saw two events fast approaching: a meeting of the General Executive Council (GEC) and the biennial convention of ABC/NW. Everything needed to be ready for the New Region to apply for “Provisional Status” to the GEC meeting in March. Provisional Status was necessary to ask the member churches of the New Region to voluntarily absent themselves from the ABC/NW Biennial Convention in May 2002.

The Team felt the only sensible way to meet the legal requirements set forth to attain Provisional Status, was to ask SBU to act as a sponsoring organization (like a local church parents a new church start). Therefore, the “New Region” could use the bank account, incorporation, etc. of SBU until such time as they were able to put these things in place for themselves. Part of the reason for this request was the issue of a “name” for the new Region. Nothing suggested seemed right, either the geography was too limiting, too broad or otherwise not well received. On top of that the Transition Team did not feel they were the ones to make that important decision.

The SBU board agreed to have their documents used in the transition period. However, a number of churches (who later opted out of the New Region) felt that SBU should not do this. SBU on their own agreed that at the annual meeting the churches ought to be able to affirm their decision. The vote taken to do so passed by a slim margin. As it turned out “The New Region” used SBU’s accounts, numbers, etc. for less than a year.

One of the difficulties the Transition Team always faced was the reality that people tended to define the New Region by the reason that had brought about its existence. The Team did everything they could to try to bring perspective to the process. Those who stood against the move toward the “New Region” within ABC/NW inclusive, did so on the grounds of the issue that brought it into being rather than on anything that was trying to be built. Even though those that were most vocal against the proposal were to use their “opt out”, their voice came close to shutting down the New Region altogether.