Sunday, November 13, 2005

What's Worse Than Merely "Being There"? Being There and Saying Nothing

More than twenty-five years ago Peter Sellers finished his career with what critics called his finest performance. "Being There" recounted the tale of mistaken identity wherein "Chance," a simple gardener, never left the Washington D.C. estate of his elderly employer until the old man died. Throughout the film his simple TV-informed utterances are mistaken for profundity. For a quarter of a century "Being There" has been iconic of vapid presence, of empty officiousness.

Last week Dr. A. Roy Medley and his management team came to California to shore up support among the congregations intending to remain American Baptist following the impending PSW withdrawal from the Covenant of Relationships. Previous blogs in His Barking Dog reported on the event ("Redlands Meeting with PSW Leaders - Encourages Loyalists; Disappoints Dissenters") and offered analysis of the three gatherings ("Medley Mission to PSW to Proclaim Vision and Show Churches How to Remain ABC - Dubbed 'Fiddling While Rome Burns' by Dissidents'").

What went unreported were additional visits to meet with pastors in the ABC of LA and lay people at the historic First Baptist Church of Los Angeles. Accounts received by this blogger suggest that the pastoral gathering added nothing to the information already provided in previous blogs. However, the evening meeting at FBC was most interesting for what it did not contain. Studiously avoiding "the" subject, eye witnesses recount a meeting virtually bereft of mention of the conflict in the region surrounding it! Dr. Medley soldiered on presenting his "mission and vision" for the ABCUSA. Under other circumstances this might have been an appropriate message. However, in the midst of the crisis facing VF planners, leaving the topic untouched only reinforces the image of a disconnected leadership able to practice "Being There" without saying anything.

At least one leader in the room came away feeling disappointed and insulted by the presentation. It was as if the pastors received one level of disclosure and the lay people a more superficial treatment. Based upon reports from the three PSW meetings, my guess is that there was no reason for such a conclusion. In all of the appearances--pastors and lay persons--the otherworldly quality of "Being There" predominated.

The question might be asked: Does anybody in Valley Forge care that the PSW is planning to withdraw from the ABCUSA? Coming to the region to communicate "presence" (i.e., "being there") represents only the barest of first steps. If Dr. Medley hopes to win back the PSW congregations, let alone forestall the spread of the defections to other regions, another strategy should be adopted immediately!

[Comments in this blog represent the opinions of the blogger alone. They do not come from, represent, or speak for the official position or persons in the PSW]

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