Monday, December 19, 2005

Christian Century Reports on Latest Shift in ABC: ABCW Renames Itself: "Growing Healthy Churches"

"The Christian Century" has reported on another move among American Baptists. This time the focus falls on the renaming of the current American Baptist Churches of the West as "Growing Healthy Churches." CC handles the material in a fair and evenhanded journalistic manner. What may interest the readers of "His Barking Dog," however, is the quote by Chicago's Interim Executive Minister, Rev. Larry Greenfield, who has been cited as being both "amused" and "deeply troubled" by the change in name.

One wonders whether Rev. Greenfield finds the implication that he and his more progressive colleagues are not committed to biblical standards amusing or that ABCW has "so radically reduced the Bible's message to something small and worldly" amusing. Greenfield owes his current position to the forced ouster of the previous executive minister after that man voted in favor of the pastoral letter cobbled together by the Regional Executive Minister's Council last fall. A stand of conscience precipitating the firing of a leader for not being "liberal" enough? That is something that "His Barking Dog" definitely finds deeply troubling and not at all amusing.

American Baptist region renamed 'Growing Healthy Churches'

In recent decades, a congregation seeking unchurched members has often called itself a "center" or "fellowship" instead of a "church." It may also drop the name of the locality for a bucolic name like "Mountain View," and may erase the denominational identity from its name.

Now, as of January 1, the American Baptist Churches of the West, based in the northern California city of San Ramon, wants to be known as Growing Healthy Churches, or GHC for short.

The decision stems partly from the ongoing struggle over homosexuality and local church autonomy in the denomination. Some ABC of the West congregations "find it difficult to be identified with a denomination that will not affirm biblical standards," the region's executive minister, Paul D. Borden, wrote to pastors November 30.

The denomination's General Board in mid-November voted 59-45 with five abstentions to add to a document "We Are American Baptists" a phrase affirming that sexual intimacy belongs in a heterosexual marriage and that homosexual practice is incompatible with biblical teaching. However, Borden and other conservative evangelicals are unhappy with denominational leaders who—on the grounds of traditional Baptist respect for local autonomy—have declined to adopt more punitive steps against clergy, congregations and associations deemed to be more permissive.

The adoption of the name Growing Healthy Churches "is a move to reflect more accurately who we are as well as losing any negative baggage that may be detrimental to the accomplishment of a mission," Borden wrote.

In an "amused and deeply troubled" response, Larry Greenfield, interim executive director of the American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago, wrote that he was amused by the implication that "the rest of us" are not committed to biblical standards when the GHC has "so radically reduced the Bible's message to something small and worldly."

[merely the unamused musings of the blogger only; not to be confused with the offical policies of PSW or its leadership]

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