Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Parsing Dr. Medley's "Clarifying" Remarks

Several writers have taken up pen to comment on the pastoral letter from Dr. Roy Medley, dated October 3, 2005. In it he reviews several policy statements which he feels accountable for as our denomination's chief spokesperson.

1. The Family Life Policy Statement (1984) - "marriage intended to be monogamous, life-long, one-flesh union of a man and a woman."

2. General Board Resolution of 1992: "we affirm that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching."

3. General Board Resolution of 1993 calling for "continuing dialogue on human sexuality."

4. Affirmation of the long-held insistence on local church autonomy and the priesthood of believers.

5. The affirmation of the principle of voluntary association in mission that declares "that we need each other if we are to accomplish God's purposes for us."

Each of these statements, resolutions, and declarations are rooted in history, action by the General Board, official By-Laws, and the like. But what do they mean? Why recite these specific points out of all the possible ones that could be adduced to afford guidance to Dr. Medley as he "clarifies" the direction of the ABCUSA at this critical juncture?

Notice how finely (if not perfectly) the points cancel each other out:

* We believe marriage is heterosexual and that homosexual practice is incompatible with Christian teaching BUT we call for on-going dialogue rather than premature judgment on the issue.

* We believe that we will only be able to accomplish God's purposes for us when we work together since we "need each other" BUT our principle is that each church practices total local church autonomy and a individualistic view of the priesthood of believers.

Some might call these the inevitable tensions of life in a congregational system of polity. However, all that Dr. Medley has "clarified" is that, as our corporate spokesperson, he has no authority to say anything meaningful on this topic whatsoever. Every strong statement of belief and the need for association are couterbalanced by equally valid and binding principles (in his mind anyway) leading in the opposite direction. Some observers might be tempted to see this paralysis of analysis as an instance of what the Regional Executive Ministers Council dubs the "unique unenforceables" of ABC life. Others might just as validly (in good ABC fashion) reach the conclusion that this proves why we MUST separate into two different missional bodies if we ever intend to accomplish anything in the service of our Lord.

Dennis E. McFadden

[This blog expresses my own personal views and opinions. It should not be associated with any official, position, or entity within the ABCPSW]

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