Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Open Letter: "With All Due Respect, Mr. General Secretary, You Have Not Spoken the Truth"

“Because schism in the church is grievous to our Lord, we have done—and will continue to do—everything we can to maintain the unity of the Body of Christ, which is so clearly taught in scripture,” Medley emphasized. (ABCUSA press release, 12/14/05)

Dear Dr. Medley,

With all due respect, Mr. General Secretary, you have not spoken the truth. Not only have you NOT done "everything [you] can" to maintain unity in the ABC, you have only made the problem worse and more intractable by some of the actions you have undertaken to do.

1. Your message at the Denver Biennial offered you a golden opportunity to extend an olive branch to those yearning for a return to biblical authority as a governing distinctive in the corporate life of the ABC. Instead you began with what has sadly become your signature approach to this topic: On the one hand I hold a certain view personally, BUT on the other hand I want to credit, accredit, and contribute my prestige to defending the opposite viewpoint.

You certainly don't have the same problem speaking univocally on any number of other topics, including some which have more American Baptists in the dissenting group than this one. You don't go out of your way to show support for those who for reasons of conscientious interpretation take a complementarian rather than an egalitarian view of male-female roles. Nor to you jump to the defense of those American Baptists who tend to be more supportive of the Bush administration on issues of national and international policy. My point is not to advocate for either of those views, merely to note that our polity has not prevented you from speaking with prophetic clarity on the topics.

Your bully pulpit works quite well on any number of controversial and even divisive issues, just not this one dealing with human sexuality. Why doesn't our polity prevent your prophetic pronouncements on the other areas where sincere sisters and brothers disagree? Rather than doing "everything" you could to bring peace, you were widely interpreted as insulting the very people you claimed to want to reach out to in your message.

2. Your visits to the PSW did not do "everything [you could]" to promote unity or reconciliation in any way. Instead, while they served to continue humanizing the image of Roy Medley the man (let me stipulate that we all agree that you are a gentle, genial, and caring pastor), it reinforced the worst stereotypes of Dr. Medley the General Secretary. At the September meeting in Covina, hundreds of pastors and church leaders came to hear you. Several spoke to you--respectfully, yet firmly--without receiving anything in reply but a rehearsal of the party line about "our polity prevents us from doing anything."

The meetings in the San Diego area, Redlands, and Pasadena offered you another wonderful chance to appeal directly to the church leaders. Along with your colleagues from National Ministries, International Ministries, MMBB, and your own deputy for regional relationships, you might have adjusted your presentation to take into account the reasons for the signal failure of the Covina gathering. Instead of doing "everything" you could, you served up more of the same tired and worn lines which had been aired with such a disastrous outcome in Covina.

The GEC delegation claimed to have discharged their responsibilities to the best of their abilities. As the authors of the report concluded: "We feel satisfied that we have done everything humanly possible to challenge and persuade PSW to reexamine their present course."

What they did, according to numerous eye witness reports, was to try to identify with some of the concerns of PSW, suggest that others in the denomination felt similarly, and that therefore the region should continue to stay the course within the "family." What they did NOT do was to offer even a shred of hope that attitudes in the GEC had changed such that PSW concerns would be addressed and acted upon in the near term. Indeed, Dr. Salico's oft-stated comment seems the more realistic evaluation. He opines: "It is neither biblical nor ethical to play "let's pretend" when God calls us to lead."

3. Finally, Dr. Medley, you have failed to do "everything" you could to resolve this schism-threatening situation because you have not done the least you should have done: spoken forth a clear and biblical message as the standard. Our ordination vows called upon us to be faithful to attending to the Word of God in our private devotions and in our public declarations.

Without first speaking forth a "Thus saith the Lord," attempts to make excuses clothed in the garb of "soul competency" only serve to vitiate the content of the Gospel. What stands at the end of the day is not a clear moral standard about which we may have some differences in application. Instead, we end up with a defense for believing and doing just about any fool thing we want to, all in the name of a revisionist interpretation of soul liberty. This strips the treasured Baptist distinctive of any meaningful and univocal biblical content. Rather than describing how Baptists work out the implications of sola scriptura, soul competency becomes an "on the other hand" value pitted against biblical authority in some sort of relativistic calculus.

Sir, I was an early supporter of your administration, have prayed for you (and still do), enjoyed the privilege of speaking many of these ideas to you directly and privately, and still hope that you will do the "everything" you can to prevent disaster. But, after watching events unfold during the past eighteen months, it is clear that not only have you not done "everything" you can, you have still to do the least you can.

Fondly but sadly,

Dennis E. McFadden

[Only speaking for myself, not for any PSW entity; just about as likely to be official as Paul Crouch is to be a keynote speaker at a R.C. Sproul national conference]


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 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.

Dennis E. McFadden said...

Dear fac ut vivas:

1. I am president of an ABC affiliated organization and neither want nor need ANY more power, positions, or roles.

2. Secondly, I have told Roy directly of my issues with the direction we are going.

3. Your comments about MMBB are, frankly, incomprehensible. MMBB operates like a secular business with respect to the contracted benefits. Those cannot be lost, taken away, and have no connection to convictions or conscience or anything else you referenced.

If your point is that I should be willing to lose my non-contracted benefits (e.g., emergency assistance, spouse grant, educational grant for children of deceased members, thank you checks, etc.), Sumner has already announced that that we will lose all of those. Frankly, since you write behind a non de plume, I have no idea what you have contributed to the "family" over the years. However, during my pastoral tenure, we heavily supported ABC missions, often listed as one of the denominational leaders in giving. With regard to the RMMO, we even received the Widow's Mite award one year after a $27,231 offering. Additionally, I have brought my nearly 200 employees into MMBB. So, I guess you could say that my "support" for ABC has been fairly significant.

Sorry if that isn't enough for you.