Saturday, November 19, 2005

ABC Vote a Decision Machiavelli Would Love? Dealing with AWAB by Definition and the "Common Criteria" for Cooperating Churches

Amid the first-take analyses of the Friday vote by the General Board of the ABCUSA to affirm a change in the "We Are American Baptists" document can be found arguments from both the left and right wings of the denomination. A previous His Barking Dog blog quoted from the writings of analysts on each side in the ABC.

Another possibility emerges, however, which bears consideration. Mike Edwards, a layperson from the ABC of the Northwest, provides a fascinating explanation as to why conservatives may have begun with the seemingly symbolic change in the identity piece. Several evangelicals immediately concluded that the decision to proceed with the symbolic change alone represented a "caving in" to the left or to Valley Forge external counsel.

But, what if the decision to push for the alteration of the identity statement was part of larger strategy. What if the architects of the motion were executing a rather shrewd tactical move worthy of Machieavelli?

We will quote Mr. Edwards at length:

"The rationale for starting with the "We Are American Baptists" statement goes as follows:

1. The statement is placed prominently before the public and is referred to by many in the denomination as to what constitutes an American Baptist, as well as a "Cooperating Church" associated with the denomination.

2. The statement is referenced in the ABC-USA Standing Rules under Rule 5, "Cooperating Churches", Rule 5.1 "Qualification", 5.1.1 Common Criteria : "AFFIRM the Statement 'We Are American Baptists'..."

3. An AWAB church could not "affirm" the statement because it is in TOTAL contradiction to what they stand for, to say nothing of the fact that some have ordained glbt pastors. Therefore they would be in direct violation of the "Criteria for Cooperating Churches".

4. Any church that is in open defiance of the "Criteria..." can be dismissed from its region for cause, IF (and that's a big IF) the region chose to pursue it. I would imagine that the region itself could be held accountable to national for refusal to dismiss those churches, via its "Covenant..." with the ABC-USA.

5. This raises some important questions concerning the Evergreen Association and Rochester-Genessee. What impact would this have on their legal status?

6. Thusly, you can see that there exists the potential for enforcement, IF there was a concerted effort to pursue it by concerned parties."

Against this as a viable rationale must be noted the argument by some parliamentarians that "The Common Criteria for Cooperating Churches (the rules for ABC membership) require that churches acknowledge that the 'We are American Baptists' statement represent the general views of the ABC. But, the criteria only requires that acknowledgment of the statement as it was adopted at the time the common criteria was last updated."

Interesting. Imagine using the "We Are American Baptists" wording as a back door means to "enforce" the 1992 denominational statement that homosexuality is incompatible with biblical teaching. While it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which such a cynical tactic would "work," particularly in light of the critque of it by our parliamentary scholars, it does have a certain Machiavellian elegance to it.

[The opinions in this blog do not represent any official person or position within the PSW region]

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