Friday, December 16, 2005

Conservatives Said to Lack "the Courage of [Their] Convictions" in ABC Crisis

My "open letter" to Dr. Medley in this blog generated considerable heat by friend and foe alike. Dr. Glenn Layne of the venerable "Durable Data" ( my post as "McFadden Blasts Medley Over ABC Meltdown." More critically, someone calling himself/herself "Fac ut vivas" wrote the following in response to the earlier blog:

Fac ut vivas said...
"I assume that those who are seeking power for themselves by seeking to destroy the ABC/USA over the non-Biblical and secular issue of "homosexuality" (non-Biblical because the word did not exist until the 19th century; secualr (sic) because it is of the world and not of the Christian faith) are willing---as you, surely in your great moral leadership are willing--to give up your pensions with the MMBB in order to do what you believe god wants you to do. If you do not, then the world will know that you do not have the courage of your convictions or have any faith in the god you proclaim is calling you to destroy one of the great expressions of the faith. If you are not willing to give up the "security" the ABCUSA has provided you, then you are not acting out of conviction but out of selfishness, pride, vainglory and hypocrisy."

This reply is interesting for so many reasons . . .

1. Most people I know in the midst of the ABC crisis are not seeking "power" or "influence" "for themselves." Who cares who runs the show? Progressives tend to see the world more in institutional and systemic terms than conservatives do. The reality that those on the left dominate the bureaucracies of most mainline denominations, out of proportion to their ideological numbers in the congregations, speaks to this fascinating (and often cited) phenomenon. Frankly, my job is big enough to take the lion's share of my attention without another layer of denominational work competing for time.

2. MMBB, the ABCUSA pension plan organization, operates its contractual benefits by legal mandates like any secular company. It is not a matter of feelings, conscience, or "courage of . . . convictions." BESIDES, Executive Director Sumner Grant has already made it clear to PSW pastors that if they leave the ABCUSA, they WILL lose their non-contractual benefits, including "thank you" checks, spousal grants, educational grants for the children of deceased members, emergency grants, etc. Everyone I know in that boat HAS the courage of their convictions, even if it costs them benefits that others receive.

If the disparity of benefits is too great, some enterprising soul will cobble together a competitive program utilizing other financial institutions. One person known to me has already begun working on a contingency plan for a post MMBB situation. His preliminary numbers suggest that for most purposes benefits would exceed the MMBB package at the same or lower cost. Whether that pencils out in reality or not remains to be seen. Most of us have an emotional loyalty to MMBB that runs beyond the specifics of the financial relationship. Moreover, the economic aspect has not driven either the left or the right in this controversy. Both have claimed the moral high ground of enduring principles: either biblical authority (the right) or soul competency and justice (the left).

3. It does not follow that everyone who refuses to jump through the hoops "Fac ut vivas" sets up is necessarily motivated by "selfishness, pride, vainglory and hypocrisy" and "not acting out of conviction." Assessing other people's internal reasons for any action is notoriously difficult.

"Fac ut vivas" makes numerous logical leaps, all while assuming the worst of the evangelicals in the ABCUSA. Frankly, while many of us disagree strongly with Dr. Medley, most of us have been hesitant to impute ill-will and motivational meanness to him. Instead, several of us have gone out of our way to show deference to both the man and the position. He is, after all, a brother in Christ, not our enemy. And, most of us who have dealt with him personally can vouch for his enormous affability, pastoral character, and concern for the unity of the ABCUSA.

4. Finally, I do not believe that it is accurate to speak of the evangelical right as attempting to "destroy one of the great expressions of the faith." Initially, almost all of us were agitating for reform and renewal within the ABCUSA. We did not want to "take over" or wrestle power, let alone harm the denomination. Even now, the evangelicals leading the charge to separate from the ABCUSA are not asking for anything other than to be allowed to pursue their vision of ministry in a separate organization from the ABCUSA. While Dr. Medley and the GEC express regret and grief over PSW's announced intentions, they show NO interest in changing their approach to the issues leading to the impending division.

Dennis E. McFadden

[Unofficial opinions only contained herein. These words are about as likely to be official as atheist Michael A. Newdow is to be found in worship at a mega church on Christmas Sunday]

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