Wednesday, November 30, 2005

PSW and the Politics of Delay

PSW and the Politics of Delay
An Opinion Piece by Dennis E. McFadden

Most people realize by now that the vote this past September was not for the PSW to “withdraw” from the ABCUSA, but to initiate the process of withdrawal. On Thursday, December 8, the Board of the ABCPSW will meet to decide whether or not to recommend separation from the ABCUSA and if so to schedule a vote of the churches on the matter. Right? Well, not exactly.

During the round of meetings earlier this month in Green Lake, the General Executive Council took three actions. First, they voted to express in writing a desire for PSW to remain in the Covenant of Relationships (i.e., stay in the denomination). Second, they appointed a group of people to craft and implement an intervention strategy to implore PSW to reconsider and then to report back to the GEC in April of 2006. Third, they admitted that the “confluence of events” is “symptomatic of a need for a comprehensive reevaluation of the very character of what it means to be a denomination in this day.”

What does that mean? Well, for one, it could cause PSW to decide to delay their decision. After all, who would be so churlish and mean-spirited as to reject a sister or brother’s heart-felt plea for reconciliation and for more time to consider if a way can be found leading to peace and unity? Since it would be almost impossible for the newly tasked group to organize, “craft and implement an intervention strategy” and schedule flights to PSW before next Thursday, should the board accede to this request, it will doubtless push back the timetable.

Since the PSW rules call for a 90 day notice for a meeting of the region, this would inevitably buy time for the ABCUSA to continue using their influence on congregations to induce them to pull away from the PSW plan. We have already seen much evidence that this is exactly what is happening.

Valley Forge leaders, particularly those in National Ministries have been telephoning, e-mailing, and making cross-country trips to PSW to meet with several of the ethnic caucuses. My sources tell me that both the African-American and Hispanic churches are receiving enormous pressure from National Ministries to stay with the “family,” rejecting the anticipated PSW separation. John Sundquist has been on a tour of the top giving churches in the country to sound them out on the issue of withdrawal and to shore up support for denominational unity.

Hispanic representatives report that they feel a need for more time to process the issue and to consider the “other side” and its arguments. They have put pressure on Dr. Salico to do everything in his power to delay a vote until the Hispanic congregations feel better about the timing of a decision.

Meanwhile pastors from several of the larger, predominately white churches, report rising frustration on the part of their lay leadership. Having heard of the board’s initial action in September, many do not understand “what is taking so long.” A delay at this point will look more like weakness and indecision on the part of PSW than a courteous nod to the request of fellow believers or as an opportunity to gather information necessary before a recommendation may be made.

An additional side effect is the stultifying impact it will likely have on moving forward with the implementation of the long awaited new vision for the region. Plans had been announced to roll out the “transformation” vision during the summer and fall of 2005 and to follow up with mentoring, coaching, and teaching components.

Conventional wisdom among most church consultants says that a deep organizational crisis trumps everything else you may want to initiate or accomplish. It would be foolish to begin the vision implementation in earnest until after the denominational relationship issue has been determined. Delays in the final meeting of congregations will produce a cascading effect upon other vital regional programs, further reinforcing what will then appear to be an image of indecision and ineptitude.

Ironically, a refusal on December 8 to give a clear and decisive recommendation to the churches will frustrate a number of the congregations and result in sending a signal to other regions that PSW does not have the will to follow through on its bold words of September. Rather than leading the evangelical wing of the discontented American Baptists, PSW may actually contribute to a strengthening, albeit temporarily, of Valley Forge’s hand.

Clearly the person with the most difficult position in all of this is the ever-faithful soldier, Dr. Salico. After getting “beaten up” in the last round of denominational meetings in Green Lake, he has a number of critical choices to make. He is being squeezed by proponents of separation, including some of his own staff, to "shake the dust off his sandals and get it all over with" at the same time that some of his ethnic pastors are pleading for more time for processing the decision. Based upon my experience with Dale, I predict he will acquit himself splendidly. If John Kennedy were around today, I know who I would nominate for a new chapter in his book, Profiles in Courage: Dr. Dale Salico.

[No one should misconstrue this posting as in any way connected to any entity or person in the PSW. Like Demosthenes of old, I'm just mumbling away with a handful of marbles in my mouth.]

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

No more 'holiday' trees at Capitol; Grinches lose as Chrsitmas Tree returns

Score one for the good guys. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, a Wheaton College graduate and practicing evangelical, rescued the "Capitol Christmas Tree" from "generification." In the history of the culture wars, this will not even qualify as a minor skirmish. However, one cannot help but be grateful for every victory, no matter how small and symbolic.

By Gary Emerling
November 29, 2005

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert has told federal officials that the lighted, decorated tree on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol -- known in recent years as the "Holiday Tree" -- should be renamed the "Capitol Christmas Tree," as it was called until the late 1990s.

The Capitol's senior landscape architect confirmed the name switch yesterday for The Washington Times.

"It was known as the 'Holiday Tree' for several years and just recently was changed back to the 'Capitol Christmas Tree.' This was a directive from the speaker," said Capitol architect Matthew Evans.

"The speaker believes a Christmas tree is a Christmas tree, and it is as simple as that," said Ron Bonjean, spokesman for the Illinois Republican.

The Capitol tree, traditionally overshadowed by the White House's "National Christmas Tree," was renamed a "holiday tree" several years ago, according to the Capitol Architect's offices, in an effort to acknowledge the other holidays of Kwanzaa and Hanukkah -- although no one seemed to know exactly when the name was changed or by whom.

Calling a Christmas tree a Christmas tree has become a politically charged prospect in jurisdictions across the country -- from Boston to Sacramento and in dozens of communities in between.

Yes, Virginia, there is a war on Christmas

A "war on Christmas"??? John Gibson, popular Fox News anchor, has authored a counterattack on the secular Grinches' systematic efforts to eliminate Christmas (or Christ?) from the public square. As the editors of WorldNetDaily tell it:

In The War On Christmas: How the Conspiracy to Subvert Our Most Sacred Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought, ... Gibson reveals that this is not happening because of some cultural consensus. On the contrary, he explains that a thorough and virulent anti-Christmas campaign is being waged today by liberal activists, ACLU fanatics, craven politicians, sinister agenda-driven educators, and witless media mavens. But for all their efforts, the Grinches have not won: plucky Christians are already fighting to retake their place in the public square.

If you take the time to read his book, you will discover that the "War on Christmas" reveals:

Proof: Christmas is under attack in such a sustained and strategized manner that there is without any doubt a war on Christmas.

How the Constitutional concept of non-establishment of a religion has been twisted into a hostility to Christianity that is itself quite obviously unconstitutional common sight in American public schools every December: Hanukkah and Kwanza decorations proliferating everywhere, but nary a mention of Christmas.

How the war on Christmas is not just being fought in loony-left blue state strongholds, but in the American heartland.

The ACLU, ADL, and Americans for the Separation of Church and State: how they provide the legal muscle and contorted logic to anti-Christmas warriors while looking approvingly on public expressions of Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism.

The ridiculous lengths to which the ACLU has gone in its war against Christmas and its quest to remove all vestiges of Christianity from public life -- including its argument that a rural Georgia school calendar that contained the word "Christmas" represented state endorsement of Christianity and was thus unconstitutional.

Amateur constitutionalists who occupy positions of power in America, and are making up the law as they go along (often after being intimidated by the ACLU).

The ACLU lawyer who, on his lunch break, inspected a Christmas tree that had been set up in the Pennsylvania state capitol and found, among its thousand ornaments, three that were cross-shaped -- and promptly filed suit.

How liberals stir up fears of aggressive Christians' turning public schools into religious organizations and America into a theocracy to gain support for their war on Christmas
How officials forbade a Texas schoolgirl to give other students goodie bags inscribed "Jesus is the reason for the season."

Roger Ailes: how he put identification breaks that wished viewers "Merry Christmas" on the air on Fox News stations -- to the shock and horror of the politically correct establishment
The throngs of lawyers who are now willing to take on the ACLU and defend Christmas.

How Christmas has become the new litmus test of our nation's willingness to abide by its own Constitution, to make certain that people are free to express their religion without being told that they must keep their beliefs private and tucked out of sight.

Not only have ACLC types been toiling away like elves at the North Pole to eliminate Christmas from the public square, many retailers are listening to the advice of HR diversity specialists who have advised them to banish the word “Christmas” from their vocabularies. Despite the fact that more than 85% of Americans profess some Christian affiliation, management has been running scared of offending any segment of their demographic. Surprisingly, some of the most vocal critics of banishing Christmas have been Jewish and Islamic leaders who recognize in this campaign an attack on the very idea of faith itself.

So far, many of the chains have opted for the intentionally generic "Happy Holidays." Some of the major retailers which have refused to mention Christmas so far this season include Target, Kroger, Office Max, Walgreens, Sears, Staples, Lowe's, J.C. Penney, Dell and Best Buy.

Bah Humbug! Where is Jay Sekulow when we need him?

"The War on Christmas," by John Gibson
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Sentinel HC (October 20, 2005)
Language: English
ISBN: 1595230165

Boston Archbishop to Homosexuals: Because we love you, we cannot accept your behavior

Roman Catholics of late seem intent on correcting abuses within their own communion. This not only involves discipline of errant clerics, but setting right misapprehensions of what Christians are called to believe. Boston Archbishop Sean O'Malley sent a pastoral letter to his flock last week reaffirming the Christian commitment to "show true love to persons with homosexual tendencies" AND to remind them of Jesus' words: "Go and sin no more."

In the context of mainline Protestant quibbling over words, O'Malley's letter clearly states what many of our denominational leaders seem unwilling to express: "Sometimes we are told: 'If you do not accept my behavior, you do not love me.' In reality we must communicate the exact opposite: 'Because we love you, we cannot accept your behavior."

By John-Henry Westen

BOSTON, November 28, 2005 - Boston Archbishop Sean O'Malley wrote a pastoral letter last week calling on Catholics to show true love to persons with homosexual tendencies. This is done he said by telling them that homosexual acts are sinful, he said. Otherwise, the bishop continued, we are dangerously "deceiving people."

After clarifying that the Catholic Church does not tolerate unjust discrimination towards persons with homosexual tendencies, the leader of the Catholic Church in Boston reminded Catholics that although Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in adultery, he did however - after saving her life - tell her "Go and sin no more."

Archbishop O'Malley thus tells some Catholics who are misled into false kindness towards those with homosexual tendencies, "If we tell people that sex outside of marriage is not a sin, we are deceiving people." The pastor of souls, who's first priority is the spiritual wellbeing of his flock, warns that that spiritual wellbeing may be threatened by such false kindness. "If they believe this untruth, a life of virtue becomes all but impossible," he warned.

Archbishop O'Malley acknowledged that it is difficult for all Christians, priests and bishops included, to preach the truth in charity on the matter of homosexuality and other aberrant sexual practices such as adultery, and pre-marital sex. "It is never easy to deliver a message that calls people to make sacrifices or to do difficult things. Sometimes people want to punish the messenger. For this reason we priests at times find it difficult to articulate the Church's teaching on sexual morality," he said.

In presenting the message of truth, the Archbishop counsels, "We must never deliver the message in a self-righteous way, but rather with compassion and humility."

Despite the hardships however, Archbishop O'Malley says Catholics must nevertheless present the truth. "It is important to express the moral teachings of the Church with clarity and fidelity. The Church must be Church," he said. "We must teach the truths of the Gospel in season and out of season. These recent times seem to us like it is "out of season", but for that very reason it is even more urgent to teach the hard words of the Gospel today."

Concluding his letter, the Archbishop answered a common objection made by those with homosexual tendencies . "Sometimes we are told: 'If you do not accept my behavior, you do not love me.' In reality we must communicate the exact opposite: 'Because we love you, we cannot accept your behavior," he said.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Light and Longing from the Middle of the ABC Muddle - The "Center" Speaks on Target

One of my favorite sources of information on the ABC crisis comes from the blog, “ABC Views from the Middle.” Authored by two avowed centrists, executive ministers Susan Gillies and Dwight Stinnett, they typically offer extremely helpful insight into the soul of the American Baptist experience as they see it. Today, Dr. Stinnett penned a report on the recent ABC meetings in Green Lake, filled with keen observation, painful soul searching, and an almost plaintive admission of denominational failure.

First, he confesses to mixed feelings about the words added to the “We are American Baptists” identity piece. But, unlike so many on the left, his reasons are not rooted in a reflexive “creedaphobia” or fear of “creeping creedalism.” Rather, he muses that matters of sexuality belong more properly to discipleship concerns and a focus on morality and behavior.

Second, Dr. Stinnett, objects to the changes in wording due to a fear that such actions will inevitably raise the stakes of the conflict by raising false hopes and expectations.

Third, he objects to the “inability/unwillingness of the General Board and the General Secretary to find Christ-centered, compassionate ways to implement policies and resolutions within the limits of their authority—and to say so clearly and publicly.” Here our voice from the middle sounds more like a PSW objector on the right.

And, fourth, our truly candid member of the General Executive Council admits that the frustration being experienced by congregations in the ABC with their Valley Forge leadership is shared by the “majority (yes, the majority) of our churches.” Heretofore, the prevailing VF mythology has required professing the ABC to be a relatively content 80% majority of loyal American Baptists with perhaps a 10% fringe group on the left and another 10% fringe group on the right.

Dr. Stinnett’s remarkable analytical overview includes some heart-rending admissions of corporate failure and telling predictions of potential disastrous consequences (terrorism or revolution) if these trends remain unchecked.

Due to the insightfulness of Dr. Stinnett’s blog, I have included it in full for your careful consideration. "His Barking Dog" provided the bolding of lines referenced in this introduction.

Board and GEC Recap
By Dr. Dwight Stinnett

Susan – I am sorry for my absence. No doubt you are frustrated by my silence because we promised one another to do this together. There are probably plenty of other things about me that you find frustrating. I want you to know that I do not take you for granted. I wish everyone had experienced your caring compassion in the same ways that I have.

Since there has been a little “distance” since the General Board and GEC meetings, I will venture to speak to those—even if it may not be appropriate.

I don’t think it is any secret that the Indiana-Kentucky Region (INKY) presented a petition to the General Board in June. It was a complex proposal that was appropriately introduced and duly received its first reading. As is the usual course of such proposals, it was worked on during the Summer and received its second reading at the November General Board meeting. As a result, the document “We Are American Baptists” was amended, adding the following line to the section “A Biblical People:”

Who submit to the teaching of Scripture that God’s design for sexual intimacy places it within the context of marriage between one man and one woman, and acknowledge that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Biblical teaching.

In one sense, there is nothing new here. Essentially the content of the ABCUSA Policy Statement on Family Life (7036:6/84) and the ABCUSA Resolution on Homosexuality (8200:10/92) were added to the document that the General Board had previously adopted as “an expression of Christian faith representative of American Baptists.”

In another sense, it is new to see something like this in our statement of faith. I confess that I have mixed feelings about it. I agree with both the “Statement on Family Life” and the “Resolution on Homosexuality.” And I have no problem with the expectation that ABCUSA (and ABCUSA is not to be confused with any Region) teaching and behavior should be consistent with both. Indeed, statements adopted by the General Board should be sufficient. My uneasiness is in the elevation of such issues to the level of faith. But that uneasiness is not because I am moved by the tiresome charge of “creedalism.” I am uneasy because both marriage and sexuality, while important, remain peripheral to my core faith beliefs. To me these are morality and behavior issues; they are discipleship concerns and flow out of my faith. While very important (and essential considerations in ordination), they are neither the objects nor expressions of my faith.

At the same time, this is consistent with our pattern of behavior. American Baptists of all varieties have sought to have their issues endorsed at the highest level. It cannot be reduced to a question of “right” or “left,” “fundamentalist” or “liberal.” All across the spectrum it is done. Key documents tend to become exhaustive catalogs of behaviors and expectations because we cannot practice discernment and discipline. (And then we merely ignore them, because they don’t mean anything). And that is what I find really troubling.

I am also concerned about the inclusion of this line in our statement of faith because raises the stakes. It has the potential for increasing the conflict, not resolving it. In particular, it may raise false hopes and expectations. And I am concerned that we have set a pattern for the future. Will every issue become a candidate for inclusion in our statement of faith?

Nevertheless, this move was could be predicted because of the frustration that the majority (yes, the majority) of our churches are experiencing over the inability/unwillingness of the General Board and the General Secretary to find Christ-centered, compassionate ways to implement policies and resolutions within the limits of their authority—and to say so clearly and publicly. As that frustration mounts, the chances for thoughtful action go down. If left unchecked, terrorism or revolution will result. As supposed leaders in this denomination, we must own up to our failure to lead through this frustration.

From another arena, I am not sure how public the General Executive Council (GEC) actions are, but I will venture to comment on them as well.

There were three actions of GEC reported to me (and everything I have to say is based on the accuracy of that report).

First Action: That the GEC express in writing a desire for PSW to remain in the Covenant of Relationships.

Second Action: That GEC appoints a group of people to craft and implement an intervention strategy that would engage PSW and all the other parties who have engaged in this process so far to bring to conclusion in a given time frame and report back to GEC in April of 2006.

Third Action: Building upon its action in the Spring of 2005, the GEC has observed a confluence of events that are symptomatic of a need for a comprehensive reevaluation of the very character of what it means to be a denomination in this day, and that we accordingly resolve to put in place a process to review the Covenant of Relationships to include a review of our values, structure, and decision-making processes that would form the basis of a new relationship together.

I affirm all three actions. We should not have gotten to this point without taking such action.

In particular, the Third Action is both significant and long overdue.

The debates around the Commission on Denominational Unity (CODU) report in 1997-98 exposed fundamental flaws in our organizational culture—in particular our inability to deal with deeply divisive concerns in constructive ways, especially if it means setting limits. The debates in the midst of Common Budget Covenant negotiations (which were not common public knowledge) also indicated to me a growing disregard for our covenantal life together. I concluded two years ago that our covenant life together was nominal at best.

I am not certain where this conversation will lead, but I hope that it is not too late. If the covenant partners (all 39? of us) cannot agree how we will be legally autonomous but covenantally interdependent at the same time (and also persuade/teach our churches what that means) then ABCUSA will dissipate into irrelevance.

Susan, a long time ago (too long ago) you asked me what I wanted. It is time to be obtuse—probably something you have come to expect from me. I want ABCUSA to act like a healthy family, not a madhouse full of self-centered juveniles.

You have never known me without a beard. While I have had a moustache since high school (grown in response to the rule that we couldn’t have one), beards have come and gone. The present facial hair was grown ten years ago while I was in Russia teaching Baptist pastors. The longer I was there, the more those students came to trust me and to ask more personal and pointed questions. Questions like: How much did I make? Did I tithe? Did my wife and daughter wear jewelry? Did I do baptisms in a stream or in a baptistery? Why do Americans hate Russians?

As Spring came and the time for my departure neared, I was asked about my beard. I knew from Russian history that Peter the Great had outlawed beards as part of his drive to modernize and westernize his empire. But there seemed to be more to it than that—at least among these young Baptist pastors.

I pressed to clarify the issue, and finally they were able to say: “What if your church doesn’t like it?” I was a little surprised that they did not ask about my wife or daughter, but were concerned about my pastoral relationship with my church—the household of God I was privileged to lead. When I understood what their question was, I could answer without hesitation, “Then I will shave it off.”

The Relentless Logic of the Civil Union Arguments - Reductio Ad Absurdum Anyone?

The relentless logic of the civil union argument leads us into some very strange moral cul de sacs. Take a look at the work of a guest contributor to the Times of London.

I want to get hitched to my chick
By Carol Sarler,,1072-1894073,00.html

I'm pro civil partnerships for gays — but why can't I sign up to one with my daughter?

OH, HAPPY DAY. From eight o’clock next Monday morning gay couples are free to shrug off their shroud of discrimination and register their intent to join together in civil partnership; from December 21 the confetti may fly over the ceremonies themselves and by 2010 it is expected that up to 22,000 people will be thus spliced. I would deny them none of it and would not dream of raining upon their parade — if only, that is, I were allowed to march in it too. But by a bizarre twist of legislative incoherence, I am left behind nursing indignation that it now falls to me to protest for equal rights with my lesbian neighbours.

This is not the well-chewed argument that claims heterosexual couples should also be allowed civil partnership; maybe they should, but at least they may marry if they yearn for a legal cementing of their relationship. No. I am concerned for the heterosexual who wishes to cement a same-sex relationship, for exactly the same reasons as many gay couples, but who has become discriminated against because of his or her sexuality.

If I were gay, I could pop into a lesbian dive, pick up a cute little chickie, install her in my home and then, giddy with optimism and desire, trot her off to the register office a month later and make her my civil partner. Romance aside, by doing so I would be protecting the person I love most from the potential for financial disarray that, quite sensibly, is a frequently given reason for wanting to do it at all.

We would enjoy the mutual pension rights and the tax breaks of a married couple, including the chance to use each others’ capital gains tax allowances. Were I to be run over by a bus, if we lived in a council flat the lucky girl would be allowed, as are wives, to stay in it. If we lived in my privately owned home, she’d also be sitting pretty: totally freed from inheritance tax, she could own every brick of my estate.

As it happens, I do live with a cute little chickie and have done for 32 years. She is the person I love most, there is no possibility of that ever changing, yet I cannot protect her at all. Come the killer bus, the rise in house values means that there is no way that she could possibly afford to pay the taxes on my estate; she would be flung out of the only home she has ever known, paying the price for being not my squeeze but my daughter.

Ah, you say, but even if it were allowed, it would be incautious to enter into a civil partnership with her; she is young and may yet prefer to move on. Suppose she does and suppose I then invite my sister, who is divorced as I am, to share my home so that we may see out our sunset years together. And suppose, again, that I die before her. Uh-huh. She’s out on the street, too.

There’s no scope, either, to extend civil partnership and its attendant benefits to a pair of unrelated spinsters who have lived together for dozens of companionable years . . . although that does invite the grotesque spectre of two old dears trying to pretend they have sex, just as other pairs of old dears, since time immemorial, have feared that they had to pretend they didn’t.

Having or not having sex is, in fact, germane to the proposition of civil partnership as an equivalent of marriage. As the new law stands, it appears to support the view that gay couples, just by dint of their choosing to be together, become exactly the same as heterosexual couples who choose to marry. In a marriage, however, consummation by sexual intercourse is its legal completion; in a civil partnership, it would be impossible for a dissolution to be sought on the basis that he or she wouldn ’t . . . well . . . wouldn’t what, exactly?

The list of those “prohibited” from entering a civil partnership scrupulously apes those prohibited from traditional marriage, including parents, siblings, nieces and nephews. Why? The customarily disallowed marital pairings have evolved, in our society as in most, out of a need to guard against incestuous conception; gay couples in civil partnerships aren’t going to be conceiving — at least not with each other they’re not — which makes whether or not they have sex pretty much immaterial.

And if it’s immaterial whether they have sex and impossible that they may breed, it is difficult to understand why any two people of the same sex who are prepared to make as serious a commitment to a civil partnership, serious enough that it can be ended only by annulment, formal dissolution or death, should not also be able to do so.

The practical benefits of such unions could be huge. National statistics show the traditional family unit heading for meltdown, with almost eight million people living alone. How these people are to be looked after in old age is unresolved — but perhaps it need not be.

A commitment to a civil partnership is a commitment to a person. The “sickness and in health” of conventional marriage is not so much a sexual as a moral tie; where there is a chosen one above all others, a mutually caring unit is established and stability is promoted above caprice. Loneliness is held at bay, isolation is thwarted and devotion is rewarded, some sad day, by the simple security of a roof over a deserving head, be it gay, straight or otherwise.

Such perfect sense does it make, that a cynic is left with no other conclusion than that someone, somewhere, has done the math: he’s calculated the value of giving in to pressure from the “pink pound” while not giving another penny from the coffers of, say, inheritance tax to any among the rest of us, and decided that it balances beautifully. It’s probably all very clever. That doesn’t make it equitable, logical or right.

A Left-handed Report on the ABCUSA General Board Meeting

It is not often that one has the opportunity to look at an event through the eyes of those who see it in a radically different way from oneself. Today a General Board report came to me from one of our east coast GB representatives who also happens to be a clergyperson. Listen to his view and compare it to the blog of Dr. Salico's remarks from "His Barking Dog," Monday, November 21, 2005. I have drawn attention to the remarks regarding the ABCPSW.

My report from the November 2005 General Board Meeting

First let me apologize for two inaccuracies in my preboard report. One is that the Pacific Southwest Region has not pulled out of the ABCUSA yet. Its board has recommended it, but they will not meet to vote on it until sometime this spring.

The other inaccuracy was that the Ind-Ky resolution had been changed to contain only one proposal and that was to amend a descriptive document titled “We Are American Baptists” by adding to the document a phrase reading “who submit to the teaching of Scripture that God’s design for sexual intimacy places it within the context of marriage between one man and one woman, and acknowledge that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Biblical teaching.”

A simple majority could pass it. The vote for it was 59 – 45, with five abstentions.

The other resolution presented by the Mid-American region was defeated, 66 – 30.

Will this be enough to keep the Pacific Southwest from breaking with the ABCUSA? I do not know. It appears that they want much more than this but it might be enough of a morsel to tease them to reconsider. I must admit that I had the feeling while listening to their executive minister speak that I was back in my childhood and someone was telling me that if I didn’t agree to play by their rules that they were going to take their ball and go home.

Even with all of the above happening, I felt that it was a good meeting. In reflecting on my feelings, I believe they came about because of listening to all the good things that American Baptists are doing. American Baptist gave over 5 million dollars to the tsunami and hurricane Katrina relief efforts. That is a staggering amount. To see how these funds were distributed also gives one the feeling that we are being good stewards of the money donated.

One of my assignments being on the General Board is to be on the International Ministries Board and hear the stories from and concerning our missionaries is awesome. We now have 21 Missionary Partnership Teams operating. That is amazing considering that we just started this program two years ago and the concept is being refined as it is being developed. We have a total of 116 missionaries operating in 27 countries. We also have 47 partner conventions with missionary personnel. A not so good piece of news is that our World Mission Offering giving is behind last years effort. This is where a major part of the support for our international missions program comes from. I encourage all of you to add to what you have already given and encourage the people of your church to do the same . . .

American Baptist to wonderful things around the world with this [OGHS] offering. You will be hearing more as I settle in to what the committee is doing.

Our general secretary Roy Medley was not at the meetings because of a problem with kidney stones. Pray that this problem gets taken care of. Roy was reelected to another term by a 76-33 vote. Our vice president was also absent because of a bad case of the flu. Peg Johnson did a remarkable job of keeping us on track even without the presence of the above two.

What will be the future of our denomination? You ask. I don’t know the answer but I trust that God will continue to lead us through the rough times to greater victories ahead. I have a sense of hope as I consider who the people are that will be listening for God’s direction and leading us forward. They need our prayers and they welcome them.

With all of the celebrating our great work in missions, one should note that 116 missionaries representing 1.4 million members works out to almost one missionary for every 12,000 American Baptists. When one considers other missions' organizations with thousands of missionaries in the field and those denominations smaller than our own with hundreds of missionaries, it causes one to stop and think.

[His Barking Dog does not speak in an official capacity for any entity within the PSW]

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Southern Baptists Vote Solidarity for PSW Baptists

Today Dr. Glenn Layne published a report in Durable Data regarding a motion of support passed at the recent California Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting held in San Jose. Readers can find addtional information on the CSBC web site:

This morning a member of my church (FBC Temple City, CA) handed me a resolution that was passed at the recent (Nov. 15-16, 2005) state convention meeting of Southern Baptists in California held at San Jose. "Resolution Number One" was presented by Gary Coombs of Shadow Mountain Community Church of El Cajon. Here's the text:


Whereas,The Pacific Southwest region of the American Baptist Churches USA is in the process of withdrawing from the American Baptist Convention USA (ABCUSA) over the issue of biblical authority and moral integrity, in particular their continued tolerance for homosexual behavior and

Whereas, The Pacific Southwest region's board of directors, representing 300 churches, voted September 8th to begin the withdrawal from the national convention, and

Be It Resolved,The California Southern Baptist Convention commends and stands with the American Baptist churches of the Pacific Southwest region, for demonstration of unswerving commitmemnet to the Word of God and moral integrity. We stand with you as fellow members of the body of Christ;

Futhermore, We prayerfully encourage the American Baptist convention to reconsider its doctrinal positions on biblical authority and homosexuality.

The sheet I recieved noted that it passed, and I assume by a wide margin.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Dr. Salico Answers 4 of Your Questions About Withdrawal and Beyond

C. Process Toward Withdrawal and Beyond

C1. If the PSW withdraws from the ABCUSA will it enforce more rigid standards?

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

C2. Will we receive instructions on how to make changes to our by laws, constitutions and incorporation documents?

The Regional board is consulting with professional leaders within our area as well as from ABCUSA. We are preparing the information our churches will need to make informed decisions. This information will most likely be provided when the board determines the date for the Regional vote to withdraw, which currently is no sooner than March 8, 2006. We do suggest that churches look at their organizational documents to be aware of areas they may have questions. Please consult with your Church Resource Minister for specific items you may be considering. We also want to know if you are considering dropping your affiliation with ABCUSA.

C3. When the churches vote on the recommendation for ABCPSW to withdraw from the Covenant of relationships, will each of our churches automatically be withdrawn from ABCUSA?

Depending on what occurs between now and December 8, 2005 the Region board will ask the churches to approve its recommendation. That decision affects only the Regional relationship and not the individual church’s affiliation and standing with ABCUSA. We will provide materials so that each church can determine its future as it relates to both ABCPSW and ABCUSA.

In a letter dated September 30, 2005 to each ABCPSW churches, the denominational leadership states that our Region withdrawal “will not affect your membership as a congregation in the American Baptist Churches USA … we assure you that we will continue to serve those pastors and congregations who value their relationships with and the benefits of affiliation with the American Baptist Churches USA. Even if the PSW board follows through with its intent to withdraw from its Covenant with the other ABC partners, and your congregation decides to relate to the new entity formed by the current PSW Region, your congregational membership will remain with the American Baptist Churches unless your congregation votes to alter it.” (letter signed by Roy Medley, General Secretary; Sumner Grant, Ex. Dir. of MMBB; Charles Jones, Acting Ex. Dir of International Ministries and Aidsand F. Wright-Riggins III, Ex. Dir of National Ministries)

C4. I received a letter inviting me to a meeting being held by Roy Medley and other ABCUSA leaders. Should I attend?

These are brothers and sisters in Christ even though they understand the authority of scripture and apply it very differently than we do. By all means feel free to attend and welcome them with PSW warmth and hospitality. They will provide another perspective for you and your church as you decide how to respond to this situation.

Dr. Salico Answers 10 of Your Questions ABout Local Church Relationships

B. ABCPSW Local Church Relationships

B1. Will churches have an opportunity to vote on whether to remain in the ABCUSA?

Yes. When the PSW Board receives the report of its Executive Committee on December 8 regarding issues related to withdrawal from the Covenant of Relationships, the Board will determine whether to recommend action to the churches. If the Board decides to proceed toward withdrawal, it will call a special Business Meeting of the ABCPSW, providing not less than 90 days notice of the meeting as well as a full report on the action proposed. At that meeting the churches of the Region will make the final decision on whether the Region will stay in Covenant with the ABCUSA.

Secondly, even if the churches vote to withdraw the Region’s membership in the Covenant of Relationships, individual congregations remain members of the ABCUSA unless or until they vote themselves out of membership in accordance with their own bylaws.

B2. Will churches be able to be members of both the ABCUSA and the ABCPSW if the Region withdraws from the Covenant of Relationships?

Yes. This is called dual alignment and it is very common in the ABC. The details of how this may be done need to be finalized in conversations between the ABCPSW, the ABCUSA and other ABC Regions.

B3. Our church agrees with the stand of the PSW Board and is considering leaving the ABCUSA immediately. Are there any reasons we should delay such action?

Yes, we urge that all churches continue their current affiliation with ABCPSW and ABCUSA.

According to the bylaws of the ABCPSW, a church that withdraws from the ABCUSA while remaining a member of the ABCPSW is not eligible to vote in a business session of the Region on any measure involving or affecting the relationship of the Region to the American Baptist Churches in the USA. Furthermore, members of the PSW Board of Directors are required to be members in a church belonging both to the ABCPSW and the ABCUSA. These provisions were established several years ago when the category of “affiliated membership” was created for churches that wished to remain in the ABCPSW while withdrawing from the ABCUSA.

While the ABCPSW board has initiated the process to withdraw from the Covenant of Relationships of the ABCUSA, the Region remains a full covenant partner in the ABCUSA until a vote of church delegates at a specially called meeting of the Region votes to end that relationship. The earliest possible date for such a meeting is March, 2006. Churches that withdraw from the ABCUSA prior to that time will not be eligible to vote in that meeting. We encourage churches to be patient and wait until after the Region votes. We should have much clearer understanding of our Regional relationships by then.

B4. Will churches still be able to support American Baptist missionaries, institutions and projects if the ABCPSW withdraws from the Covenant of Relationships? How?

Churches will still be able to support American Baptist missionaries, institutions and projects. The ABCPSW is in discussion with the ABCUSA regarding how this will be done in the future.

B5. How should churches direct their mission giving to American Baptist related mission now?

As far as mission giving is concerned, nothing has changed. All mission giving should be reported on the mission remittance form supplied by the ABCPSW Church Resource Center and sent to the Church Resource Center for distribution. This will remain the same at least through the end of 2005.

B6. Is it true that if the ABCPSW withdraws from the Covenant of Relationships that all PSW ordinations will be valid only in local churches?

No. All PSW ordinations will remain valid throughout the ABCPSW. In addition, the Region is in discussions with other ABC Regions regarding understandings for cooperation in mission and ministry, including mutual recognition of ordination.

B7. Aren’t congregational autonomy and soul liberty core values for Baptists?

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.

What’s the problem with that?

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.

How can this be solved?

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.

B8. Can a group hold leaders and congregations accountable without getting legalistic?

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.

B9. Are there services to my church that ABCUSA cannot provide but only the PSW can?

Absolutely! In accordance with the new vision, the PSW is developing and launching powerful resources to help build leaders. These include mentoring groups, leadership coaching of pastors, and training opportunities – all designed to help build a strong leadership team in your church. There are also continuing resources like Good Sense and other stewardship programs, short term mission opportunities, leadership search and placement services, congregational assessments, etc.

B10. Our Church will likely withdraw from the ABCUSA if the ABCPSW withdraws from the Covenant of Relationships. What are the possible legal implications of leaving the ABCUSA?

Churches should review the documents that may define their relationship with the ABCUSA and/or the ABCPSW. These include:

Articles of Incorporation.Church Bylaws or Constitutions.Other documents that deal with the operation and governance of the church.

There are numerous situations in which a church’s relationship with the ABCUSA and/or the ABCPSW is pivotal to a property or financial transaction. Often legal documents state that a loan or actual ownership of a property is conditioned on the church continuing in affiliation with the ABCUSA. For this reason, we recommend that churches review documents for reference to the ABCUSA including:
a) Loan Agreements and Promissory notes, including loans from ABCPSW, the ABCUSA, another ABC congregation or the American Baptist Extension Corporation.
b) Trust Deeds
c) Deeds and related title documents
d) Property Trust Agreements
e) Leases
f) Property use agreements
g) Church or pastor support agreements
h) Employment agreements
i) Property purchase agreements or option to purchase agreements
j) Personal property trust agreements (for example, gifts of cash or property in a special fund or trust for the support of a church program)
k) Guarantees

In addition, churches may have entered into gift annuities, charitable remainder or charitable lead trusts, or similar arrangements with church members providing for payments. These should be reviewed to ascertain whether there are terms or conditions requiring affiliation with the ABCUSA.

This is not an exhaustive list, but one intended to encourage you to review potentially important documents before taking actions. All documents that refer to the relationship between a church and the ABCUSA and/or the ABCPSW should be reviewed for their effect on both parties, and to determine steps that should be taken to avoid problems.

If your review brings to light a situation that may be impacted by your church’s decision, we urge you to consult with legal counsel for guidance on steps you should take to resolve the situation.

In addition to a church’s own records and archives, copies or originals of many church legal documents are on file at the ABCPSW Church Resource Center.

Dr. Salico Answers 29 of Your Questions ABout Regional Relationships

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ)about our ABCPSW relationship with ABCUSA(revised 10/28/05)

Topical headings include: A. ABCPSW Regional Relationships B. ABCPSW Local Church Relationships C. Process Toward Withdrawal and Beyond

A. ABCPSW Regional Relationships

A1. What was the resolution passed by the ABCPSW on September 8, 2005?

The resolution states:
Because the 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) are understood by the Board of Directors of the ABCPSW as irreconcilable, the Board of Directors of the ABCPSW takes the following action effective September 9, 2005:

1. Initiate the process to withdraw from the Covenant of Relationships of the ABCUSA. The Executive Committee of the ABCPSW will report to the ABCPSW Board of Directors regarding issues related to this action by December 8, 2005. Upon approval by the Board of Directors of the ABCPSW recommendations will be sent to the churches for a vote at a specially called meeting of the Region.

2. Authorize the Executive Committee of the ABCPSW to consult with necessary professionals regarding issues related to this action.

3. Withdraw from the Budget Covenant of the ABCUSA effective 12/31/05.

Note: For expanded information, letters and press releases from Region Board, go to

A2. What is the Covenant of Relationships?

The Covenant of Relationships defines and directs interaction among the Regions and the National Boards of the ABCUSA, including the General Board, the Board of International Ministries, the Board of National Ministries and the Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board. The Budget Covenant is part of the Covenant of Relationships.

A3. What is the status of the ABCPSW in regard to the ABCUSA at this time?

At this time the ASBCPSW is still a full member of the Covenant of Relationships in the ABCUSA. We are also in full compliance with the Budget Covenant of the ABCUSA, which regulates the raising and distribution of mission giving within the denomination. This means that at least through the end of 2005, the ABCPSW will remain in full membership within the ABCUSA.

A4. Does the Region seek total withdrawal from ABCUSA? If not, what will we still support?

We have begun a process of withdrawal only from the ABCUSA Covenant of Relationships and Budget Covenant. It is not our intention to withdraw from all the relationship and support we receive and we provide with many American Baptist missionaries and organizations. The ABCPSW would seek to negotiate agreements with the ABCUSA and its related organizations to cooperate in areas of mission important to our congregations.

As we continue in this process we continue to advocate for change. In August, 2005 the Region Board approved two resolutions:

That the ABCPSW endorse a coalition with like-minded Regions and American Baptist institutions to work in concert to bring Biblical renewal to the ABCUSA;
That the ABCPSW join other Regions in endorsing the Indiana/Kentucky proposal for implementing the Resolution on Homosexuality for approval by the General Board at the November 2005 meeting.

We will also continue to pray for God’s blessing on the ABCUSA, its leadership, agencies and congregations.

A5. Why did the PSW Board select December 31 as the withdrawal date from the Budget Covenant?

This date was selected because it is the close of the Budget year. At the December 8 meeting the Region Board will review whether this date is the best time to withdraw from the Budget Covenant or whether it would be preferable to coincide this action with the withdrawal of the Region from the Covenant of Relationships.

A6. It sounds like the recommendation made by the Board is not yet in cement. Is that true?

Yes. The Board voted to “Initiate the process to withdraw from the Covenant of Relationships of the ABCUSA.” There is much work, study and discussion to be done. As the Executive Committee works through the multiple layers of relationships among all the partners in the Covenant, it will provide more details.

A7. Why did the ABCPSW Board initiate the process to withdraw from the Covenant of Relationships with the ABCUSA? Is homosexuality the issue?

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.

Note: For a more complete understanding of what led to this please read the article from Dr. Salico entitled “Position Paper on Denominational Boundaries.” Found here:

A8. What is the ABCPSW doing to reach understandings with the ABCUSA for continued cooperation in mission and ministry in areas of agreement?

Beginning in our first correspondence and conversations with General Secretary Roy Medley following the PSW Board’s decision to initiate the process to withdraw from the Covenant of Relationships, we have made it clear that the churches of this Region have strong mission relationships with many ABC partners. Several missionaries appointed by International Ministries and National Ministries are members of PSW churches. Native American churches in the PSW have strong ties both with the Region and National Ministries. Valley Christian Center in Phoenix is an important ministry supported by National Ministries and the churches of this Region.

On September 27, Dr. Salico met with Dr. Medley, ABCUSA General Secretary, and with Rev. Charles Jones, the Executive Director of International Ministries to work on understandings for continued cooperation. The ABCPSW is committed to continue its partnership with International Ministries. PSW President Brian Scrivens and Dr. Salico have indicated our desire to meet with the appropriate leaders in the ABCUSA to work on other areas for potential partnership.

A9. How will this decision affect our Regional vision?

No matter what happens to our relationship with ABCUSA, the ABCPSW Vision Community (made up of pastors, lay leaders, and Regional staff) has been working hard for over a year to develop a strong, empowering vision for our churches. The ABCPSW is committed to our new vision of: Strengthening churches to change their worlds for Christ, and our core values: Biblical Authority, Local Church Integrity, Leader Development, and Kingdom Multiplication. We are now implementing a plan of developing world-class leaders in our churches through Teaching, Coaching and Mentoring.

A10. Will the ABCPSW become a new denomination or part of another denomination?

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.

A11. 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?

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.

A12. If we vote to withdraw, what will be different?

If the churches of the Region approve the recommendation of the ABCPSW Board of Directors:
The Region would no longer be a member of the ABCUSA and would have no representation on the General Board or Program Boards of the denomination.

The Region Executive Minister would no longer be a part of the Regional Executive Ministers Council (REMC), participate in the General Executive Council (GEC), or the General Board.
Churches desiring to remain members of the ABCUSA would be able to do so while continuing affiliation with the ABCPSW.

The ABCPSW would seek to negotiate agreements with the ABCUSA and its related organizations to cooperate in areas of mission important to our congregations.

In addition, Jeff Woods, Associate General Secretary Regional Ministries, ABCUSA states that our Region would no longer function as a denominational entity. Thus, we would no longer link to other organizations as a Regional board. We may also not have denominational recognition of ordinations, or have access to the same kinds of profile screenings for congregational placement, or receive disaster relief funds when disasters affect our congregations. Other organizations that may be affected include men’s, women’s and youth organizations. (source: memo from Jeff Woods sent to ABCUSA Regional staff.)

A13. What is the significance of the Parchment Valley Agreement?

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.
The agreement states:

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 & 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.

Note: Since the initial meeting, three other Executive Ministers have also signed this agreement.

A14. What about our relationship with the American Baptist Theological Center (ABTC) and its role within ABCPSW and ABCLA?

ABTC has published this memo: “Given the current uncertainties about the Covenant of Relationships between the American Baptist Churches USA and the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest, there have been questions about impact on the American Baptist Theological Center located on the campus of Fuller Theological Seminary.

At their meeting on September 20, 2005, the Board of Directors of the American Baptist Theological Center (ABTC) affirmed the following statement: “At this point, what impact all of this will have on ABTC is not known. The plan for the future is two-fold: 1) Concentrate on ministry to the students this academic year 2005-2006, which is just starting, and 2) Once the vote of the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest on their Board’s recommendation is known, probably in March 2006, then ABTC’s Board of Directors will have to explore the implications for the American Baptist Theological Center.”

A15. Why is it taking so long for the ABCPSW to separate from the ABCUSA?

The American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest has been in existence for 110 years, and has been part of what is now the American Baptist Churches in the USA since the founding of the Northern Baptist Convention in 1907. Over the years the ABCPSW has worked with the American Baptist Home Mission Society (now ABC National Ministries), the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society (ABC International Ministries) and other American Baptist related agencies. Countless projects to plant churches, establish mission centers, send missionaries around the world, evangelize communities and people groups, settle immigrants, provide for the needs of the poor, and establish institutions of learning, homes for the aging and hospitals have been undertaken together with American Baptist partners. The commitments and legal relationships from these ministries must be carefully studied and decisions made about how to best continue gospel ministry as we create some distance between the ABCPSW and the ABCUSA.

All of us who are involved in this study are at the same time responsible for on-going mission and ministries that also demand attention. We are committed to be thorough in our study and wise in our decisions in order to be good stewards of the Church.

A16. Did the ABCPSW Board change the date on which the Region will drop out of the Budget Covenant with the ABCUSA? Why?

Yes. Originally the Board had set December 31, 2005 as the date the region would drop out of the Budget Covenant. However, the ABCUSA was interpreting December 31 as the date the Region would withdraw from the Covenant of Relationships, because, in the view of the General Secretary, "to withdraw from any portion of the Covenant of Relationships is to withdraw from the entire Covenant." The ABCPSW Board believes there should be as an expression of the will of Delegates of the churches on this issue to provide the Board with the input it needs to make a responsible and informed decision, Therefore for Board has passed a new resolution stating, "The ABCPSW will remain in the Budget Covenant of the ABCUSA until such time as the churches vote the Region out of the Covenant of Relationships." Such a vote, according to the provisions of the bylaws of the ABCPSW cannot take place earlier than March, 2006.

A17. Will the ABCPSW join the new movement that is being initiated by American Baptist Evangelicals?

A new movement discussed at a meeting in Lombard, Illinois by over 300 American Baptist pastors and leaders is still in the process of formation. It is not yet clear what this movement will be. There seem to me many people who believe the ABCPSW is working in conjunction with ABE in determining, but this is not true.

There is a great deal of ferment going on in the American Baptist Churches involving Regions, coalitions, caucuses, boards and agencies. Most of this ferment is related to issues involving human sexuality, Biblical authority, accountability, local church autonomy and soul liberty. At times certain American Baptist agencies will be walking similar paths, and it would be easy to assume they are working together. In reality, each entity is working through its own issues and decision-making process independently of the others. Only the Lord knows how it will all turn out.

A18. Isn't it true that some PSW Board members have hidden motives behind their recommendation to withdraw from the Covenant of Relationships?

The hard thing about motives is that they are invisible. No one can see a motive. That makes it hard to know the motives of another person. The Bible says it is even hard for us to know our own motives! (Jeremiah 17:9) Because motives are invisible, it is easy to charge someone with "hidden motives" and it is difficult to prove that one has no such "hidden motives."

This is where trust built on relationships comes in. The members of the ABCPSW Board have had long and difficult conversations about the Region's relationship with ABCUSA in which board members have shared very deeply. They have prayed together and wept together. They have asked each other hard questions and answered the hard questions. They have shared their thoughts, feelings and motives with each other in an amazingly open way. All of this has helped them develop trust in each other.

When someone who was not in those meetings charges board members with "hidden motives," I find myself asking, "On what evidence is this person basing his or her conclusion? And what is this person's motive for questioning the motives of those who were in the meeting?"

The members of the ABCPSW Board are known in our Region. I encourage you to write or speak directly with them about their thoughts, feelings and motives. Rather than standing at a distance and questioning motives, let's build relationships that will produce trust today and a foundation for effective mission in our Region tomorrow.

A19. What will be the status of the Black Caucus, the Hispanic Baptist Convention, AB Women's Ministries and AB Men of the ABCPSW withdraws from the ABCUSA?

All of these groups serve a very valuable purpose for our Region. They provide a way people from a common group to gather together and study, share concerns, and formulate ministries, as well as make important recommendations for the entire ABCPSW family. Many times input from our caucuses has blessed us greatly! We will work with leaders of these organizations to continue their ministries in the future. Since each of the above named groups includes people and churches in both the ABCPSW and the ABC of Los Angeles, we will work with leaders in the ABCLA to continue the bonds of fellowship and service together in Christ's kingdom we have shared and enjoyed in the past.

A20. Who are the members of the ABCPSW Board and how can I contact them?

Mr. Brian Scrivens, President -
Rev. Daniel Huerta, Vice President -
Rev. Douglas Copeland, Treasurer -
Rev. Jerri Hubbard, Secretary -

Rev. Terry Barnett, Golden Empire Association -
Mr. Art Blodgett, San Diego Rep -
Mrs. Cleda Givens-Bullock, Nationally Nominated Rep -
Rev. Floyd D. Bullock, Black Caucus Rep -
Mrs. Loretta Cargill, Area 3 Rep -
Rev. Hengky Chiok, Asian Church Rep -
Ms. Beverly-Jene Coffman, ABWM Rep -
Mrs. Sharon Dumas, Central Coast, Ventura & Hawaii Rep -
Rev. Larry Fultz, Arizona Rep, Regionally Nominated Rep -
Dr. Vic Gordon, Regionally Nominated Rep -
Rev. Ronald Johnson, At Large Member -
Mr. Manuel Luquin, ABM Rep & Regionally Nominated Rep -
Mr. Larry O'Nan, Inland Empire Association Rep -
Mrs. Joyce Winterberg, Regionally Nominated Rep -

A21. Does National Ministries have a direct role of supporting some or all of the Native American churches located in our Region?

The ABCPSW Region is blessed to have nine churches serving Native American people in Arizona (and one church in New Mexico). We also partner with the Mennonite Churches in support of the Hopi Mission School (Christian elementary school) in Kykotsmovi, Arizona and with a family outreach ministry among Navajo people near White Cone, Arizona. Many of these ministries were started over a hundred years ago through the American Baptist Home Mission Society that sent missionaries and started ministries that became the churches we have today.

Due to the economic realities on the reservations, most of these ministries continue to receive resources directly from National Ministries. This support provides for pastor salaries, educational and project grants, leadership development, facility maintenance, and liability insurance.

A22. Have our Native American Churches been told they will lose their salary support if the Region withdraws from ABCUSA?

Although there was a time of uncertainty with what our churches understood about their future we are now able to report the following:

1.) National Ministries will continue to provide salary support in the coming year similar to what they are doing now. This is true whether or not ABCPSW withdraws from the covenant of relationships.

2.) While National Ministries does hold the deed to some of Native American properties there is no plan or threat to remove any property from any Indian church.

3.) Of course the relationship of any Indian Church with National Ministries may change if a church decides to leave the ABCUSA, affiliate only with ABCPSW or become independent of either group.

A23. Is it true that some of our Native American churches may be forced out of their facilities that are owned by National Ministries because of what the Region does?

Some of our Native American congregations in the ABCPSW reside on land leased from the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, a few churches are located on land that National Ministries holds the deed, and at least one church received their deed from National Ministries provided they remain in the ABCUSA. While there were some fears raised and implications made regarding the Region's process of withdrawal, there is no threat being made to our churches to vacate their facilities if the Region leaves the Covenant of Relationships with ABCUSA.

All recent communication from Roy Medley and National Ministries has made it clear that all churches (including our Native American churches) in our Region remain affiliated with ABCUSA unless or until a specific church votes to leave the ABCUSA.

A24. Is it true that someone lost his job in the Region who served American Baptist Indian Ministries?

Bruce Schipul is our Church Resource Minister working with the Arizona churches and organizations for the past six years. Since June of 2002 ABCPSW and National Ministries contracted together to fund 20% of Bruce Schipul's salary and time to provide consultant work for Indian ministries. He fostered communication, resource sharing and relationship between churches, National Ministries and the Region. When the region announced it began a process of withdrawal from ABCUSA, Bruce was contacted by a National Ministries representative and told the contract was ended, effective the date the Region board took its action (September 8, 2005). Bruce's salary and benefits are paid to him by the Region and therefore have not been affected by this action.

A25. Is there something we can do as individuals and churches to show support to our Native American churches?

Please contact our Regional office for information on the best ways to:
offer salary support,
start a sister-church relationship,
sponsor a mission and work tour, and
invite a group of Native Americans to your church.
We can also help you designate support to special projects, fund camperships, and facility repairs for our Native American brothers and sisters.

A26. Am I to understand that the ABCUSA is accepting homosexuality and allowing homosexuals into leadership both in local churches, as well as regional and national roles?

The answer is that the ABCUSA places a high value on the autonomy (self-governing) of the local church and soul liberty (which they define as the right of every individual to interpret the Scriptures under the guidance of the Holy Spirit as they believe correct). Therefore, while the majority of American Baptists believe homosexual relationships are sinful, according to Scripture, the ABCUSA upholds the right of the minority to disagree and still fully participate in the life and leadership of the denomination. That is why there are some individuals who are open about their homosexual practice while serving as pastors in American Baptist churches. Some of these individuals serve in leadership roles in Regions and on boards, committees and commissions of the ABCUSA.

The ABCUSA Resolution on Homosexuality states, “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” For twenty years, many American Baptists leaders, including myself, have called for implementation of the resolution in order to prohibit persons involved in or condoning sexual behavior identified in the Bible as sinful from serving in positions of national leadership, such as the Ministers Council Senate, the General Board, national committees and commissions, and platform leadership at ABCUSA events. The ABCUSA, however, has rejected such restrictions, viewing them as denials of local church autonomy and soul liberty.

Without meaningful implementation, the ABCUSA Resolution on Homosexuality appears to be nothing more than words on a piece of paper. We believe that while churches should be autonomous there must be accountability for a commitment to Biblical authority and practice if we are to work together in mission.

The ABCPSW has a thorough policy on human sexuality that has been implemented. To read this policy on our website, go to:

A27. Why is the leadership of ABCUSA not required to listen to, and respond in a positive manner toward the issues that over half of the churches consider critical?

When I was on the Commission on Denominational Unity during the 90's we conducted a study showing that well over 50% of the churches agreed with the ABCUSA Resolution on Homosexuality. However, agreeing with a statement and agreeing on how to implement policy in the denomination are two different issues. What some would view as appropriate implementation, others view as "too much," and still others see as "too little!"

Furthermore, there are well known leaders, such as Dr. Medley, who strongly and eloquently contend that any implementation of the Resolution on Homosexuality is "unbaptistic," because it would limit the autonomy of the local church or "soul liberty."

A third factor is that many, who agree intellectually with the policy statement on homosexuality, live by the credo, "Don't rock the boat!" They are adverse to doing anything that upsets or angers others. Therefore, they remain quiet about their convictions.

The ABCPSW Board of Directors had the courage to "rock the boat" over the inconsistency between denominational words and deeds regarding homosexuality. The great majority of the churches in our Region are standing with the Board. Because of our united voice, we are being heard. We do not yet know for certain what the future will be, but we know the future will be different because we are standing together

A28. Why are the Executive Directors of International Ministries, National Ministries and MMBB, along with the ABCUSA General Secretary, Dr. Roy Medley, holding meetings in the ABCPSW with pastors and church leaders November 7-8?

Dr. Medley states that these meetings are for churches that want to remain in the ABCUSA even if the ABCPSW withdraws from the Covenant of Relationships. He has also indicated that this may be done either by a church withdrawing from the ABCPSW and joining another Region, OR by a church being dually aligned with the ABCUSA and the ABCPSW. In the meeting, Dr. Medley will share more about this. The Executive Directors of the Program Boards will discuss how their mission agencies will relate to churches.

Dr. Medley has made it clear that the purpose of these meetings is neither to debate the merits of the actions of the ABCPSW Board of Directors nor to debate the issue of homosexuality.

A29. Has Dr. Salico tried to work within ABCUSA to bring about change?

The issue of homosexuality has been the subject of sharp debate in the ABC for about 20 years. Long before he came to the ABCPSW, he was working to strengthen commitment to Biblical Authority in the ABC and maintain denominational unity through...
· National Ministries Grow By Caring Task force member and writer.
· ABCUSA Commission on Denominational Unity.
· Common Ground Conference Leader.
· Many calls to pastors urging them to stay in the ABC.
· ABCUSA General Board & and Board of International Ministries.
· Called to PSW as Executive Minister to cast vision, uphold Biblical convictions and maintain unity with the ABCUSA.
· Writing committee for new ABCUSA Budget Covenant
· Consistently advocated for implementation of Resolution on Homosexuality while maintaining unity.
· Written letters and position papers regarding these issues.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

You Gotta Be Kidding!

Quotes of note . . .

Week of November 13 - 19

"I, the undersigned Pavel M, currently jailed at Timisoara Penitentiary serving a 20 years sentence for murder, request legal action against God, resident in Heaven, and represented here by the Romanian Orthodox Church, for committing the following crimes: cheating, concealment, abuse against people’s interest, taking bribe and traffic of influence."
- "Pavel M," an inmate in a Bucharest, Romania prison.

The inmate has initiated a lawsuit against God for breach of contract, claiming that God has failed in his promise ". . . that I would be rid of problems and have a better life."

Week of November 6 - 12

"Speech for the children of Abraham - that is Jews, Christians and Muslims - speech is the medium of divine self-disclosure. And it is in response to God’s word variously spoken - that is the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Koran - that different patterns of worship and ways of behaving and being in the world develop and evolve.”

- The Most Rev. Frank Griswold, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, USA, speaking at the Cathedral Church of St. John in Taipei, Taiwan, October 30, 2005

Week of October 2 - 8

"It's almost like a great awakening, I would say,"

- The Rev. Jay Johnson, programming and development director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA, comparing the decision of the United Church of Christ to support same-sex marriage to the "Great Awakening" spiritual revivals of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries.

Open Letter from Church Renewal Leaders - "This approach is utter nonsense!"

An Open Letter from Association for Church Renewal Leaders

And you, who once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he [Christ] has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him, provided that you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which has been preached to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. (Colossians 1:21-23, RSV)

Sisters and Brothers in the Lord:

We, renewal leaders in various North American Protestant denominations, write you with thanksgiving for Christ's great work of reconciliation and sanctification. It is our only hope in life and death.

We encourage you to remain steadfast in your faith in Christ's work, looking to him as the sole source of unity and purity within his church. There are constantly shifting alternatives that offer a false, cheap peace. But we urge you not to let go of the true and costly peace won by Jesus Christ.

As many of us gathered October 17-18 in Arlington, Virginia, we noted a shifting situation in several denominations. This letter is our attempt to alert you to these new developments.

The debate within our churches over biblical standards for human sexuality may be entering a new phase. For decades, revisionists have argued that the Scriptures, properly understood, do not prohibit homosexuality as it is practiced today. Indeed, they have insisted that biblical values of "justice" require the acceptance of homosexual relationships.

Increasingly, however, the arguments have shifted. We now see, in several denominations, a new strategy to win the church's affirmation of homosexual acts. This new strategy is less direct. It is offered as a "compromise," a "third way." Yet the effect would be the same: to undermine and ultimately to set aside the historic Christian teaching that affirms God's good gift of sexual intimacy solely within the marriage of man and woman.

We stand opposed to this false "third way," with the same firmness with which we opposed the earlier attempts to re-interpret the Bible. We warn you to beware such "compromises" that give away too much.

The essence of the new strategy is this: to leave in church law books the orthodox standards calling Christians to fidelity in marriage and sexual abstinence in singleness, while inventing procedural devices permitting church bodies and officials to disregard the standards at will. This strategy has been proposed-and, in some cases, functionally adopted-in the Episcopal Church, the American Baptist Churches, the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Insofar as it succeeds in some of those denominations, the strategy will likely be replicated elsewhere.

This strategy marks, in some ways, a retreat by the pro-homosexuality advocates. Tacitly, they are conceding that the weight of biblical and traditional Christian teaching is against them. They have not been able adequately to answer the powerful exegesis buttressing that teaching, represented especially by Robert Gagnon's masterwork The Bible and Homosexual Practice. The pro-homosexuality advocates have not persuaded most church members to abandon the historic teaching. For this indirect vindication of the truth, we must all be grateful to God.

Yet we cannot be content with standards that remain on paper while being emptied of all force. This false "compromise" would be, in some respects, more damaging than a straightforward blessing of homosexual relations. Not only would it convey tolerance of sin in the important area of sexuality, but it would also set the church adrift more generally.

This "third way" would sever the church's practice from its doctrine. It would set a terrible precedent of a church openly acknowledging a biblical command and then treating obedience to that command as optional. If denominations start granting exemptions from church discipline in one area, it will be very difficult to maintain any kind of covenant of mutual accountability within the church. No promise of ecclesiastical peace and unity can justify these distortions of the church's theology and polity.

Advocates for this "third way" make arguments that strain credibility to the breaking point. They claim that they are "proposing no changes" to the church's standards. But in fact they are seeking a radical change-to demote the standards to "non-essential" status. They claim that their "compromise" would split the difference between traditionalist and revisionist views on sexuality. But in fact it would yield exactly the result desired by the revisionists-moral approbation of non-marital sex-on a slightly longer timeline.

"Third way" proponents also claim that their solution would strike a balance between different interpretations of the Scriptures. When two interpretations are mutually contradictory, these proponents want to accept both the one and the other as equally valid. They urge the church to "get beyond yes/no polarities" that force it to make painful choices. Their "third way" would avoid such choices by affirming all individuals interpreting the Bible as sincere and faithful Christians.

This approach is utter nonsense. The Bible is filled with unavoidable yes/no choices: "I set before you life and death, blessing and curse" (Deuteronomy 30:19); "Choose this day whom you will serve" (Joshua 24:15); "He will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left" (Matthew 25:33); "Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you" (Revelation 3:20).

A church that systematically refuses to choose between truth and error has no place left to stand. To the extent that any church declines to distinguish the better from the worse biblical interpretations, it undercuts its own ability to teach clear doctrine from the Scriptures.

The existence of different interpretations does not imply that all those interpretations are equally valid. Nor does it imply that all interpreters are equally faithful. On the contrary, it is more likely that every interpreter falls short of complete faithfulness-to a greater or lesser degree. The church cannot give unconditional affirmation to all its members' personal views of Scripture. It always has the responsibility to seek the most faithful interpretation and to act upon it.

We are convinced-by the consistent testimony of the Scriptures and the Church Universal, through the ages and around the world-that the fidelity in marriage and abstinence in singleness standard remains the most faithful interpretation of God's will for human sexuality. This is an essential component of our calling in the Lord Jesus and our sanctification through the Holy Spirit, who purposes to "present [us] holy and blameless and irreproachable before him." We ask you to stand steadfast with us in rejecting any compromise that would shift Christ's church away from that godly endeavor.

Sara L. Anderson, Executive Vice President, Bristol House, Ltd. (United Methodist)
The Rev. James D. Berkley, Interim Director, Presbyterian Action for Faith & Freedom
Verna M. and Dr. Robert H. Blackburn, National Alliance of Covenanting Congregations (United Church of Canada)
The Rev. Karen Booth, Executive Director, Transforming Congregations (United Methodist)
Pastor Mark C. Chavez, Director, WordAlone Network (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America)
The Rev. Susan Cyre, Executive Director, Presbyterians for Faith, Family, and Ministry
The Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan, Episcopal Bishop of Pittsburgh, Moderator of the Anglican Communion Network
The Rev. Thomas J. Edwards, Executive Director, New Wineskins Initiative (Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.))
The Rev. Dr. Ira Gallaway, Confessing Movement (United Methodist)
Dr. Scott M. Gibson, President, American Baptist Evangelicals
The Rev. Dr. Donna Hailson, pastor, author, former professor (American Baptist)
The Rev. James V. Heidinger, President, Good News (United Methodist)
The Rev. Arthur Hiley, Vice President, National Alliance of Covenanting Congregations (United Church of Canada)
The Rev. Harold S. Martin, Editor, Brethren Revival Fellowship (Church of the Brethren)
Craig Alan Myers, Chairman, Brethren Revival Fellowship (Church of the Brethren)
The Rev. Bill Nicoson, Executive Director, American Baptist Evangelicals
Dr. Thomas C. Oden, board member, Confessing Movement (United Methodist)
The Rev. David Runnion-Bareford, Executive Director, Biblical Witness Fellowship (United Church of Christ)
Terry Schlossberg, Executive Director, Presbyterian Coalition
Faye Short, President, RENEW Network (United Methodist)
David and Jean Leu Stanley, Chairman and Steering Committee member, UMAction (United Methodist)
The Rev. Vernon Stoop, Executive Director, Focus Renewal Ministries in the United Church of Christ
The Rev. Michael Walker, Executive Director, Presbyterians for Renewal
The Rev. Roland J. Wells, Jr., Vice President, Great Commission Network (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America)
The Rev. Todd H. Wetzel, Executive Director, Anglicans United
The Rev. Parker T. Williamson, Editor and Chief Executive Officer, Presbyterian Lay Committee
Alan Wisdom, Interim President, Institute on Religion and Democracy, elder in Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)