Thursday, December 01, 2005
"It's Time to Go, Fellow Radicals" (Guest Editorial by Rev. John Eby)
The following piece was penned by John Eby, former Executive Director of the American Baptist Evangelicals, and posted on the ABE web site more than a month ago. In it he reflects upon the vote by the West Virginia Baptists where they turned down a motion for immediate departure from the ABCUSA but also (and by a larger margin) rejected a reaffirmation of support for the ABCUSA.
In light of the impending PSW board meeting next week, John resurrected his posting yesterday, suggesting that it has currency for the present. He comments: "Notice how VF is setting church against church by marginalizing the non-ethnic churches so they seem radical and unconcerned with reconciliation. The churches listening to VF and wanting to consider that the leopard will change its spots are being enchanted by the Siren song of moderation and reasonableness. It is more and more time to move on."
It's Time to Go, Fellow Radicals
By John Eby
Brothers and Sisters, in Christ,
I think it's time for everyone to face the reality of being a part of this denomination's future. Only the Moderates and Liberals will be left.
WVBBT was marginalized as a deliberate strategy because it works, and ABE has been marginalized since its inception the same way. And the truth is, ABE's successor movement will also be marginalized as a radical organization.
Moderates are suckers for the "radical" marginalization strategy, because they are Moderates and they love being seen as moderates. Moderates don't get involved because they are "Moderates." By our own admission, this denomination is predominantly composed of moderates and thus, the denomination will continue to succumb to the "radicalization" of the conservatives strategy.
The vote in WVa, in my opinion, is symbolic of every other region: there is no concerted regional will to undertake leaving the ABCUSA because the regions are, (just like WVa), moderate. There will always be a logical reason presenting not to leave ("I really don't agree with what VF is doing, but the "X" group's tactics are mean spirited or radical," and "just look at what the SBC did and how they treated all those gentle people like Molly Marshall") and this old dependable story will provide a basis for the majority of churches to stay and to maintain the status quo. It is much easier, as a moderate, to express disagreement (to maintain a semblance of orthodoxy) and then go with the flow of collegiality and "reasonableness," being seen and feeling (or being made to feel) personally superior, morally and intellectually to the "radicals."
Other than California, I think there is the chance that maybe only one other region (two at the most- Indiana and/or Pac. NW) will have the will to leave the ABCUSA. Have you wondered why nothing has been heard from the ABCWest? When are they going to follow their neighbor, PSW? I hope they will, but their silence is deafening.
The Executive Ministers are not going to lead their regions out of the denomination (Refer to Parchment valley agreement as exhibit No.1.). Dale Salico did not lead his region out: strong pastors provided the leadership and the dynamics along the trajectory making withdrawal a possibility. In my estimation, Dale has exemplified the role an Executive should shoulder in carrying out the desires of the region. And he has done it admirably! How much success do you think would have been accomplished if Dale had been against the move? I don't think much if any. An exec can't do it himself but he can support or derail what the churches want to do. Remember, the status quo is always the easy position to maintain.
ABE has been marginalized and I have been marginalized for the past 14 years as a leader in ABE (and I am one whose wife considers me to be a Liberal). ABE worked hard to provide the evidence, in our behavior, to allow persons to counter the "radical" stigma being attached to us. But the other side won't give up the fight and strategy because they know it will always work with the moderates.
I don't see a mass migration of churches or regions leaving the ABCUSA. I do see a slow, but steady, stream of churches who have finally come to their senses and hold biblical faithfulness above collegiality and reasonableness.
The seeds of radical branding are being sown on this discussion forum right now in the discussion of biblical interpretation concerning women in ministry or womens' ordination. I would not be surprised if all those posting are being accumulated as evidence to prove the claim (by a prominent ABC leader) that after we get rid of the homosexuals we will then go afer the women in ministry.
Individual churches, make your own moves and don't wait for the region for direction. You can be assured that watching grass grow will be much more rewarding and faster than waiting for your region to act. WVBBT, take heart and come on out. Indiana churches, you who are going to be rejected, come on out. No need to put up the whole list or regions, each of you know what I mean and you know what you need to do.
Being radical means getting back to the root. What better word (than radical) to describe a person or a church who is wanting to get back to the root of our existence, Jesus Christ.
I don't think regions will leave en bloc. For the most part, individual churches will have to take their own stands to escape the continuing corruption of the unholy alliance with VF.
John ends his posting with a McFaddenesque disclaimer: (Everything I write here are my own thoughts and opinions and do not represent any official postion or opinion of ABE and/or its representatives.)