Saturday, October 01, 2005

Dr. Salico Answers Your Questoins

October 1, 2005
Dr. Dale V. Salico answers MORE of your...

Question #1. Why did the ABCPSW Board initiate the process to withdraw from the Covenant of Relationships with the ABCUSA? Is homosexuality the issue?

Answer: The Board cited deep differences of theological convictions and values between the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest (ABCPSW) and the American Baptist Churches in the USA (ABCUSA) that are understood to be irreconcilable. Differences of opinion regarding the moral acceptability of homosexual behavior among American Baptists are part of the issue. But they are far from being the only issue. Picture in your mind an iceberg. The portion of the iceberg above the water is much smaller than the portion beneath the surface. The deep differences between the PSW and the ABCUSA may be understood by writing the word “homosexual behavior” on the portion of the iceberg above the surface, and writing “Biblical Authority and Accountability” on the portion below the surface. The ABCUSA has a resolution on homosexuality with which the ABCPSW agrees: “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”

The problem with this resolution is that no implementation statements are attached to it. Therefore, while the statement describes the convictions of the majority of American Baptists, it has little or no effect on the actions of the denomination. Persons who are open about their homosexual practice are at times appointed to committees and commissions, and have served on governing boards of the denomination. This happens because the ABCUSA does not require or enforce any specific understanding of doctrine or Biblical understanding on ABC Regions or local congregations. This protects the autonomy of local congregations and the liberty of individual Baptists to interpret the Scriptures as they believe they are led by the Holy Spirit. But it also results in diversity regarding theological and moral convictions so great that American Baptists are often in conflict.

Question 2. Aren’t congregational autonomy and soul liberty core values for Baptists?

Answer: Congregational autonomy and soul liberty have always been important convictions for Baptists, but in the twentieth century these two values were lifted to a higher priority among American Baptists than in previous generations or among most other Baptist groups. The Philadelphia Baptist Association (PBA), which is considered the ancestor of Baptist bodies in the United States, including American Baptists, had a lengthy confession of faith when it was founded. In order to insure the doctrinal integrity of its pastors and churches, the PBA required ordination candidates and congregations to comply with its confession. Most Baptist organizations and congregations before the twentieth century had such guidelines, and many still do today. American Baptists actually represent a minority voice among Baptists by insisting on absolutely no enforcement of doctrinal boundaries.

Question 3. What’s the problem with that?

Answer: The problem is that the breadth of diversity regarding theological and moral convictions among American Baptists is hindering the ABC from being as effective a mission organization as it might be. In the past 12 years, three consultants have told the ABCUSA General Board that the denomination cannot conduct a national fundraising drive for new church planting and other initiatives because it is too divided. People are reluctant to give generously to a mission organization when they do not know whether their donations will be used to support viewpoints or causes they find morally and Biblically objectionable.

Question 4. How can this be solved?

Answer: This is where Biblical authority and accountability come in to the picture. The ABCUSA believes in Biblical authority, and has an outstanding statement about it in a paper called “We Are American Baptists.” The problem is that there are no guidelines for accountability. Therefore, American Baptists enforce their Bylaws, Standing Rules and Covenants, but not the clear teaching of the Bible.

Question 5. Can a group hold leaders and congregations accountable without getting legalistic?

Answer: We believe that in the ABCPSW we have a healthy balance of accountability and freedom. The Region affirms a “Confession of Our Common Faith” and a “Resolution on Human Sexuality and the Church.” At the time of ordination or pastoral placement candidates are asked to affirm their agreement with these documents. According to the bylaws of the ABCPSW, member congregations are required “to share in the vision for ministry of the Region and be able to share in the Biblical focus on mission of our associated churches.”

The “Guiding Principles of the ABCPSW" state:

With regard to the teaching, leadership, and membership of the Region, the Executive Minister shall not fail to uphold high standards of biblical teaching and morality, as described in, but not limited to, “ABCPSW Resolution on Human Sexuality and the Church,” [and] “A Confession of Our Common Faith.”

These policies to maintain unity of purpose in our Region are a source of strength and health for our congregations. There is no need to patrol our churches and pastors or insist on rigid or narrow doctrinal uniformity. Agreement with Regional guidelines has been voluntary and enthusiastic.

Question 6. If the PSW withdraws from the ABCUSA will it enforce more rigid standards?

Answer: No. There is no plan or discussion about further standards. Present standards are sufficient.

Question 7. Is it true that the ABCPSW Board has acted in conjunction with the American Baptist Evangelicals in its recommendation to withdraw from the ABCUSA Covenant?

Answer: No. Conspiracy theories are popular in today’s world, but are most often wrong, including the assertion that the ABE was a factor in the Board’s decision. Board members made their decisions for a variety of reasons, but the opinions and plans of the ABE was never part of the discussion.

Question 8. Will the ABCPSW become a new denomination or part of another denomination?

Answer: Frankly, we do not see that far into the future. For the time being we are working to establish understandings and protocols with the ABCUSA and its related agencies to guide our future relationship.

Question 9. What is the significance of the Parchment Valley Agreement?

Answer: Eight ABC-USA Executive Ministers from across the nation gathered at the West Virginia Baptist Conference Center at Parchment Valley. They forged an agreement that affirms historic covenantal relationships between Regions. This points to a future of renewed cooperation in mission, based on mutually held core values. The American Baptist Churches of: Michigan, Ohio, Indiana/Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania/Delaware, New Jersey, Maine and the Pacific Southwest were represented at this meeting. Together these Regions represent more than 2300 churches or 40% of ABC-USA congregations.

Parchment Valley Agreement ~ September 22, 2005
We are an association of Executive Ministers committed to authentic covenantal relationships with one another in order that our Regions can cooperate in mission.
We commit ourselves to the following core values:
* Biblical Authority

* Associational Integrity and Accountability among Regions
* Leadership Development
* Equipping our churches to impact the world for Christ.

The eight executive ministers believe that others will join their fellowship and anticipate a bright future of ministry and mission together.

Do you have questions about changes in relationship between the ABCPSW adn the ABCUSA? Send them to the e-mail below. We will answer it in a future News Release.
Dr. Dale V. Salico, Executive Minister

Failure to deal with the underlying dissatisfaction with doing business as usual (a complaint shared by both left and right) has brought us to a moment where PSW's action introduces an entropic catalyst into the system. Other than make a couple of very difficult moves, VF has almost no real options. Unless I have lost my ability at analysis and extrapolation (always a possibility when you breathe too much California air!), this would seem to be a signal moment of historical significance for American Baptists. Watching this enfold reminds me of the differences between the canonical accounts of Israel's history in Kings vs. Chronicles. The Chronicles tell the story from the standpoint of the unseen finger of a sovereign God. Kings gives us the "poli sci" perspective of historical causality. Both are true.

[This press release was published as a service to the readers of His Barking Dog without permission or consultation with any official from the PSW and represents my sole decision to distribute it more widely for the edification of our readers. The comments and opinions in italics at the end of the were merely my own, not representing any official or entity in the PSW]

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