Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Executive Minister Balancing Act
During the past few decades, Executive Ministers have been key to the maintenance of the machinery of American Baptist life. As de facto representatives of the General Secretary, they carry the message of Valley Forge to the regions and to the churches. As paid employees of the regions, they bring the concerns of their own congregations to the table through the Regional Executive Ministers Council (REMC) and the General Executive Council (GEC). It does not require great insight into organizational behavior to anticipate the possible role conflicts involved. Notice how one executive, Dr. Al Fletcher of Maine, balances the competing moral and political obligations in this recent letter to his pastors.
Dear Partner in Ministry,
This past week, I have had the privilege of looking at our denomination through three different lenses. Each perspective provides insight into who we are as American Baptists.
The first lens was afforded by our General Secretary, A. Roy Medley. As the General Secretary, Roy has led our denomination through an appreciative inquiry process. The result of that process was the “Seek It - ABCUSA Mission Statement.” At the heart of that statement is the call from our churches to invest our resources in leadership development, transformational ministry; evangelism, radical discipleship, impacting the world for Christ, and new church planting. Those who were invited to the gathering at Valley Forge were enthusiastic about the efforts of co-ordination between the program boards and auxiliary organizations. We are finally, as an organization, on the same page. However, the “homosexual issue” continues to dampen the brightness of a future that “Seek It” presents to American Baptists.
Mid-week, I was invited to attend the mid-west Executive Minister’s retreat. Eight Executive Minister’s met in Parchment Valley, West Virginia. After sharing what was happening in our region, we discovered similarities. These similarities were reflected also in the “ABCUSA Mission Statement, Seek It.” In all our regions, efforts and resources were being afforded to break the pattern of decline in local churches. The American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest initiated a process of withdrawal from the Covenant of Relationships. The Parchment Valley Agreement sates the desire of those present to “work out” our covenant in a relationship that will encourage healthy churches. Each regional executive expressed a strong desire to move on in mission and ministry. However, the “homosexual issue” continues to dampen the brightness of a future that the Parchment Valley Agreement presents to American Baptists.
Finally, at the end of the week I met in Chicago with the American Baptist Evangelicals. I have been a board member ever since there was an ABE Board. Over the past two years, my participation with ABE has not been attentive. Prior to the gathering of ABE in Chicago, President Scott Gibson and Director Bill Nicoson, called for ABE to end and for a new organization to emerge, an organization outside the denomination. I believe that there is a need for an evangelical voice within the ABCUSA. ABE had that voice and over the past two years compromised that voice. The three hundred and fifty pastors gathered from across the ABC spoke of the need for a revitalized ministry: leadership development, transformational ministry, evangelism, radical discipleship, impacting the world for Christ, and new church planting. ABE will soon conclude its ministry. Its future is uncertain. The rational given for closing by its leadership was that ABE could find nothing in common with ABCUSA.
It is uncanny how three different groups within the ABCUSA speak with a similar, almost unified voice in mission while at the same time agonizing over the state of the denomination. I came away from these meetings convinced that God is calling American Baptists to a future. I am excited about the plans God has for the American Baptist Churches, USA and for the American Baptist Churches of Maine.
Therefore, its is time to embrace a future and follow Christ. We need to embrace and own the vision He is setting before us. It is a call fro American Baptists to invest in leadership development, transformational ministry, radical discipleship, impacting the world for Christ, and new church planting.
As ABCOM, our policies are clear. The majority of our churches have affirmed that the practice of homosexuality is outside the Biblical understanding of God’s desire for the expression of human sexuality and intimacy (monogamous, heterosexual, life long). Therefore the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.
The ABCOM will implement its policies and be guided in its practice by them. ABCOM will call its churches to implement the “Seek It” vision. It is time to reinvigorate our churches to fulfill the Great Commission guided by the Great Commandment.
In His Service,
Rev. Dr. Alfred J. Fletcher.