Saturday, November 12, 2005

Blogger Dr. Glenn Layne Floats Trial Balloon for Ending ABCUSA Crisis

Dr. Glenn Layne has proposed a trial balloon for ending the ABCUSA crisis. Although it is not without problems of its own, His Barking Dog wanted to be sure it received the widest possible audience and consideration.

By Dr. Glenn Layne (

Increasing numbers of American Baptists, both conservatives and progressives, have come to the conclusion that we are already two denominations and that the separation of the PSW region is the first in an inevitable meltdown. Both sides are entrenched in their position and unwilling to compromise on what they see as matters of principle. Conservatives will not compromise on what they see as an authority of Scripture issue and progressives will not compromise on what they see as a soul liberty and justice issue.

Therefore, the idea of the so-called Amicable Divorce option keeps coming up from both the theological right and left. How would that work? Could it really happen?

Here's my suggestion--one of the few possible paths to avoid a messy divorce. Let's designate the ABC as it now is as American Baptists Alpha, and the new movement as American Baptists Beta. ABA and ABB would put forth their pitch to regions and churches over the next two years. All regions and churches would be requested to vote on whether they wish to be part of Alpha or Beta or be dually aligned with both. No vote would be interpreted as remaining with Alpha.

The program boards (NM, BIM and MMBB) would fully service both Alpha and Beta during the two year window. At the end of that period, the program boards would revert to an independent status, that is, they would generate their own boards (as MMBB does now) as opposed to the GB system--a system that was always deeply flawed, in my opinion--and I did serve on the General Board in the 80s, so I had a taste of it.

MMBB would serve both Alpha and Beta for the indefinite future--both contractual and non-contractual benefits. BIM and NM would function as free-standing domestic and international missions agencies. Alpha and Beta could do mission through them as their see fit.

This approach would recognize, for legal purposes, both Alpha and Beta as successor corporations of ABCUSA.

The Office of the General Secretary would of course remain a part of Alpha. Beta would shape their leadership structure as they see fit.

Frankly, I doubt Valley Forge would ever assent to anything so cordial and rational. But this is one way to take the Amicable Divorce option.

Glenn's proposal is not unlike that discussed in some circles for at least a decade. During Dr. John Jackson's tenure as PSW executive minister (more than a decade ago), he and Dr. Craig Collemer (then head of the Ministerial Leadership Commission) toyed with ideas similar to Glenn's proposal. Representing opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, they both sensed that no via media existed for resolving the issue within the context of ABC polity.

Glenn's proposal would represent a "cordial and rational" way to bring some form of resolution. Unfortunately, he accurately predicts the chances of his idea finding support among Valley Forge personnel.

There is, afterall, a reason why few marital unions end in truly "amicable" divorces. That same explanation helps account for why few on either side are able to extricate themselves from the emotion and battle postures of this kind of fight.

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