Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Second Dispatch: From Jerusalem and the West Bank

Today was a day of confusing contradictions and contradictory emotions. This morning our group visited the newly redone Yad Vashem holocaust museum. To say that it was moving would be to understate the matter in the extreme. The media savvy and interactive displays would capture the heart of all but the most committed anti-semites. Many in our group were reduced to tears at the power of the display. All agreed that it was significantly more gripping than the previous Yad Vashem.

This afternoon our group went through the somewhat harrowing experience of crossing the border from Israel to the West Bank to visit Bethlehem. Our Jewish hosts were unable to accompany us because it violates Israeli law. We heard earfulls about the problems with suicide bombers and the justifiable need for a fence (aka "the wall") to protect Israel's security as they left us off at the wall separating Israel from the West Bank.

The crossing involves navigating several security checks, fenced in passages, and through a door in a very imposing cement wall. The eerily cheerful sign on the Israeli side, posted courtesy of the Ministry of Tourism, wished us peace. The opposite opinion was expressed by murals on the Palestinian side calling Zionists the hypocritical oppressors of all free peoples (or there abouts).

Once on the Bethlehem side of the wall we met our Christian Palestinian hosts who were respectful, unctuous, and generally quite helpful. On the ride to Shepherd's Field (YMCA version) our driver filled us in on the political unrest. Yes, the populous was just as shocked by the Hamas landslide as we had been in the west. Indeed, as a Christian minority in Bethlehem (down from a once dominating 80% of the population just a few years ago), fears are rife that Hamas will impose Sharia law on the Christian community as well as the Muslim one. Our driver hoped that the fear will not drive more Christians out of Bethlehem.

After seeing Shepherd's Field and the Church of the Nativity (with Jerome's Grotto), we did the obligatory shopping trip in one of the local olive wood stores. There we heard even more of the angst of the Christian community, clearly suffering under the aftermath of the second intifada which drove away tourists in droves for more than four years, and the more recent relations with Israel over security issues.

Before you jump to the conclusion trendy with some socially conscious evangelicals that the issue is a simple one of Israeli oppression, you should have walked Ben Yehuda Street with some of us tonight. We went on a shopping expedition for Judaica souvenirs to take home in this spot popular with Israeli locals and tourists alike. In one store we saw the detritus of a suicide bombing: several ordinary metal nuts used as shrapnel in a war of terror on the population of Jerusalem. The store displayed the unlikely weapons intended to kill and maim. They were part of a blast that had blown out their window and scattered metal nuts like hand grenade fragments throughout their jewelry shop.

What side does one take? Do we stand up for the oppressed minorities in the territories, suffering grievously under the economic isolation created by Israel's sealing off of the borders? Or, do we understand Israel's justifiable right to exist and to defend itself in a dangerous world where some of its neighbors, even the heads of state, do not believe in their right to exist?

Our entourage of pastors keenly felt the pain of our Christian brothers in Bethlehem. Quite simply, they continue to exist only as we keep patronizing their shops and businesses. Yet, after experiencing afresh the horror of evil in the form of anti-semitism in its ugliest form, we also empathized with the need for Israel to seal its borders in order to reduce suicide bombings.

May an all wise and most merciful God preserve our sisters and brothers in the West Bank AND grant peace to Jerusalem.

Friday, January 27, 2006

First Dispatch from the Galilee

The news in Israel is all about Hamas and the landslide victory in the polls. Israeli citizens are just as confused and perplexed by it as all of the Americans on Fox and CNN.

Some are actually predicting that there mighet be an upside to all of this. In the "only Nixon could go to China" sense, perhaps only a Hamas could dare to make peace with Israel. However, first reactions by the population here are all negative, albeit not as alarmist as in the States. After more than 55 years of uncertainty, Israel takes the develops around it a bit more philosophically, even a bit fatalistically.

Meanwhile, it is Shabbat here. We all enjoyed a special Shabbat meal last evening. Pastors Glenn "Durable Data" (my roomate) and Lee Hamby are both doing well.

Monday, January 23, 2006

His Barking Dog on Hiatus During Israel Sojourn

His Barking Dog will be taking a hiatus in order for your humble blogger (along with Pastors Glenn “Durable Data” Layne and Lee Hamby) to tour Israel until Feb 3. This probably means an absence of postings until our return unless we solve all of the mysteries of the Da Vinci Code or discover Q underneath the Dan Panorama Hotel. If Glenn Layne figures a way to walk on water on the Sea of Galilee (rather than just float like a cork on the Dead Sea), I will be posting a picture.

Please pray that the Palestinian election, slated for January 25, goes off without a hitch and that Israel does not decide to go to war with Iran next week. Of course, if either of these disasters happens and we make it back to the U.S. anyway, expect to hear all about it in this blog. Upon returning, I will also offer some current observations on the political situation in Israel and relations between Palestinians and the Israeli government.

My silence and that of Dr. Glenn Layne will be our gift to our friends on the left in the ABCUSA.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Learning From Our Southern Cousins Before It's Too Late

After purging liberals from their ranks, Southern Baptist conservatives who won control of their denomination are now taking aim at each other according to Rachel Zoll, an AP Religion Writer (http://hosted.ap.org/).

She cites the Rev. Wade Burleson, a Baptist leader from Oklahoma, saying that fellow conservatives who crusaded to elect only leaders who believe in strict Biblical inerrancy are carrying their campaign too far, targeting Southern Baptists who disagree with them on other issues.

In an open letter to the SBC, Burleson objects to the exaltation of the denomination and its structures “over” the local congregation and to what he sees as advising missionary candidates to transfer membership to the “right” congregations.

In his letter, Burleson, a member of the board of the SBC International Mission Board, said: “The IMB should keep the main thing the main thing. We defeated the liberals 20 years ago, but I'm afraid the ugly head of legalism could be rising from the new SBC and it may be harder to defeat than liberalism.” http://www.stevekmccoy.com/sbc/2005/11/wade_burleson_o.html

"Conservatives who loved the battles of decades past have fallen victim to a crusading mentality of bloodthirst," Burleson wrote. "Since all the liberals are gone, conservative crusaders are now killing fellow conservatives."

"Sadly, the Southern Baptist Convention is now moving toward a time when everyone must look the same, talk the same, act the same, believe the same on the nonessentials of the faith, or else you will be removed as `not one of us,'" he wrote in a Dec. 10 entry in his blog, http://kerussocharis.blogspot.com/.

Burleson's postings may have already cost him a leadership role in the denomination. Trustees of the Southern Baptist international missionary agency took the first step this month toward ousting him from their board, accusing him of "broken trust" for writing about a meeting on his Web site.

His Barking Dog is not the place to debate whether or not Pastor Burleson or his denomination is in the right. But, his experience should serve as a cautionary tale for us in the ABC. As evangelicals within the ABCUSA fold contemplate withdrawing from the parent organization due to heterodox theology, we need to take heed to the dangers inherent in our actions. After crusading against the “liberals,” heaven protect us from becoming legalists in the process, exchanging one horrible heterodoxy for one equally dangerous.

[Not speaking officially]

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Vision Architects Build New Organization from the Name Up: Cornerstone Network Group

Santa Ana, Calif. – Jan. 19, 2006 –

As a culmination of meeting together for two full days at Northern Seminary, Lombard, Ill., Vision Architects announced the name of the new movement replacing American Baptist Evangelicals: Cornerstone Network Group. Its mission is to equip churches for global impact. Its vision, Leaders energized, congregations mobilized, the world evangelized.

Effective Monday, January 23, 2006, the current ABE web site will be closed, and a new web site opened at www.cornerstoneng.org. Anyone who wishes to retrieve information from the current site at www.abeonline.org must do so before Monday, January 23. After that time, anyone attempting to log on to the current site will be automatically directed to the new site.

Cornerstone Network Group continues to be a work in progress; likewise, the web site will not be completed for some time. The Vision Architects will meet again February 8 and 9 to continue drafting this new movement.

COMMENTARY: Initial reaction to the new name has been nearly unanimous and universal: practically nobody liked it. First responders on the ABE Message Board were generally unsparing in their criticism of the name. One of the most vocal pastors advocating a withdrawal from the ABCUSA vowed he would "not join a non-descript group" and asked if the Vision Architects were ashamed of the word Baptist. He lamented that not only has the left "hijacked" the denomination; they have even left us without an identity as Baptists.

After having served on my share of committees, it is easy enough to understand how the name surfaced and received approval within the cloister and group dynamics of a task force. Bill Nicoson and the Vision Architects will need to put forth a sustained campaign to explain and rally support for the unconventional choice of a moniker. Ultimately, however, what the network is called should be secondary to the services it provides for its members.

My own assessment is that impatience with what some perceived as delay and others took to be an environment of secrecy militated against easy and early acceptance by vocal ABE members. However, Nicoson and his associates enjoy a good deal of ethical credibility with their constituency. It is too early to pronounce a negative judgment on the ultimate success of the movement based upon partial, preliminary, and non-representative initial comments.

His Barking Dog will refrain from expressing any view of the suitability of the name until it is explained fully by the Vision Architects. God speed Bill Nicoson and Vision Architects! God speed!

[Unofficial opinion in just about EVERY sense of the term. This blog does not speak for anyone in PSW or ABE aka Cornerstone Network Group]

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A Faux History of American Evangelicalism: From the Pilgrims to the Fundys

On a lighter note . . .

Some of the blogs on the Internet inform, others entertain. "Call me Ishmael" posted the following faux history of evangelicalism on the blog, "This is not my blog" Be informed and ENJOY!

Every once in a while I need to take a time-out from all the emerging hubbub of my life for some quiet little devotional reading. This morning I was in the book of Third Drafts, chapter 1, which reads:

[1] These are the generations of evangelicalism in the land of North America.

[2] Now congregationalism begat Pilgrims who sailed from Leiden to Massachusetts and were soon joined by their brothers, the Puritans. [3] Pilgrims and Puritans begat theocracy, which in the days of Hutchinson, also called Anne, and Williams, also called Roger, begat discontent. [4] Discontent begat Baptists, and soon all manner of church polities and creeds prospered in the land, while prosperity itself begat spiritual apathy and slumber. [5] Then came a day of Great Awakening, which begat New Lights. [6] And thus did the Old Lights squint, and great was their outcry throughout the land, [7] but the sons of Edwards and the sons of the Wesleys and the sons of Whitefield did not heed their cries, [8] for they saw the mighty works that God wrought among them.

[9] Then the sons of men listened to the Paineites, who spoke of “Common Sense,” and “The Crisis,” and [some mss. read “later” here] “The Age of Reason,” and the kings of the earth took sides and waged war, and the Montesquieuites and Rousseauites rose up in the land, [10] and they said, “Let us be called the United States of America, where no king rules from New England to Florida, and west to the Mississippi!” [11] And so every man believed that which was right in his own eyes, and thus it was even after the warring ceased.

[12] In the turmoil of those days a great darkness fell upon the land, and men looked for light, both old and new, but could not find it. [13] The sons of Calvin and the sons of Arminius cried out, and behold, the land was soon filled with Taylorites and Finneyites who imagined that they created the light themselves. [14] But nevertheless the light spread, and a Second day of Great Awakening came, which begat revivalism, and revivalism begat manipulative evangelistic techniques, and manipulative evangelistic techniques begat many verses of “Just As I Am.”
[15] Now in those days, a son of Africa was counted as three-fifths of a person, and could be owned by a son of Europe in the region of Dixie. [16] And for two generations the Foxites and the Wesleyites stirred up many of their evangelical brethren to cease this abomination, crying, “Abolition! Abolition!” [17] But before the reign of Lincoln could commence, the cries went out from Dan, Virginia, to Beersheba, South Carolina: “Secession! Secession!” [18] And, lo, 600,000 men were slain on the field of battle before the rebellion was ended.

[19] Soon after, when every man had returned to his house, behold, Moody said to Sankey, “Let us sing great hyms to large crowds in spacious halls on both sides of the Atlantic!” [20] And thus revivalism, which had begotten manipulative evangelistic techniques, now also begat mass evangelism, [21] and mass evangelism begat interdenominational cooperation, [22] and interdenominational cooperation begat organizations, and agencies, and publishing houses, and Bible conferences.

[23] But while the sons of Darby gathered in Niagara, the sons of Schleirmacher said to the sons of Darwin, “Let us circumscribe the truth of Scripture according to the limits of our scientific presuppositions.” And it was so. [24] And when the sons of Luther, and the sons of Calvin, and the sons of Arminius, and of Wesley, and even of Moody and of Darby—when they heard of these things—each one said to the other, “If the foundations are being destroyed, what should the righteous do?” [25] And thus they took up pen and ink, and each man flew to his printing press, and each man contacted his colporteur, they did great battle against the sons of Schleirmacher and the sons of Darwin, and all who would come against them. [26] Now the rest of their acts, and all they did in defense of the propositional truth of Scripture, are they not written in the books of The Fundamentals?

Oh, for those simpler times!


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

West Virginia Chairperson Reports on Fact Finding Progress - Unitiy or Schism Ahead?

Several months ago the West Virginia Baptists narrowly rejected a vote to withdraw from the ABCUSA immediately. By a wider margin they voted down a reaffirmation of relationship with the mainline denomination. As an outcome of that meeting a Working Group was formed and tasked with "finding the facts" regarding relationships between the WVBC and the ABCUSA. The chair has made an initial report of their progress which was posted on the ABE Message Board today. His Barking Dog offers the early report for the benefit of our readership.

Report of the Working Group
December 2, 2005

A Working Group on Denominational Relationships was formed at the 2005 Annual Meeting of the West Virginia Baptist Convention with the mission of “finding the facts” regarding relationships between the region and the denomination.

An initial orientation meeting took place in Parkersburg on November 10. The purpose of this meeting was to:

A) Grasp a recent history of ABC life and denominational relationships through an interview of Dr. Doug Hill and Dr. Lloyd Hamblin.

B) Divide among Working Group members responsibilities for research and reporting.

C) Establish a Mission Statement for the Working Group.

D) Set time and location of future meetings of the Working Group.

Both Doug Hill and Lloyd Hamblin were helpful in providing an understanding of the development of our current denominational structure. An outline of SCODS and SCOR, key issues and significant leaders were reviewed.

Members of the Working Group volunteered or were appointed to research the facts on the following relationships and to report to the Working Group their findings at each meeting.

· Legal procedures – James Johnson
· Continuing relationships with like-minded regions – Holley Faulkner
· Relational status of institutions and groups within the WVBC – Paul Ritchie
· Legal status of endowments and funds –Audy Perry
· Constitutional factors – Jean Cunningham· Channels of continuing relationships – Ed Rogers

The mission statement adopted by the Working Group is:"The working Group exists to pursue and report the facts and options concerning the WVBC’s future relationship with the ABC/USA for the purpose of making informed decisions.

"Three future meeting dates have been set. They are January 6, February 10, and March 10.

All three of these first three meetings will be held in Charleston at Emmanuel Baptist Church.

Regular reports will be made available. The Working Group will discuss how best to make that happen at its January meeting. The desire is to inform the larger body of the group’s progress.

Submitted byRichard McClure, Chair

Source: http://www.abeonline.org/Members/forums/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=661

Monday, January 16, 2006

Official Speak and Scuttlebutt from the ABC of the Central Region; Fog Descends Obscuring Truth

The resignation of Dr. Art Jaggard has occasioned some more debate. Below can be found the official statement from the region and a reaction by one of the pastors in Kansas. The first quotes come from the Beaconchurches web site; the final one from the ABE Message Board.

This is the ABC/CR's response to the question: "Would the region like to comment on Dr. Jaggard's recent resignation? Was the resignation forced?"

Signed: Beaconchurches

Dr. Jaggard is a gifted and talented minister who has chosen to go forward in his ministry by seeking a pastoral position in a local congregation. The Region and Region staff will do everything it can to support Art in this new direction for his life and ministry. This support includes a limited period of financial support for Art and his family as he seeks to make this transition. Our prayers will go with him as he moves ahead in ministry.
Steven C. Van Ostran, D.Min.

American Baptist Churches of the Central Region
5833 SW 29th
Topeka, KS 66614
(785) 272-7622

In response to Dr. Ostran’s statement, the following was posted on the ABE Message Board . . .

Just got back from a meeting with more than 20 pastors from SEA ABCCR. No one there would take Steve Van Ostran’s letter seriously. In fact most felt that Art and all of the SEA pastors were under the threat of Art losing his separation package if too much was said. So in that line I will say more after May 31.

Dr. Glenn Layne (Durable Data) has already blogged that Art's resignation from ABCCR was an example of a "staunch evangelical who seems to have crossed the wrong people in ABC of the Central Region." Layne called Jaggard's departure the result of a "liberal purge" in the judicatory. While it is unlikely that much more information will surface in the near term, His Barking Dog will report on any additional details as they emerge.

Interestingly, it was arch liberal Dr. Herzog II who predicted that forced departures (his actual term was the more Draconian "pogrom") would result if the evangelicals "won" in the ABCUSA. Evidently, fears of unjust unemployment might more legitimately be attributed to those holding evangelical views. So far the left seems to be having its way with their more orthodox brethren. But this is merely the penultimate word, not the ultimate one.

[Not speaking for anyone official in the ABCPSW]

Sunday, January 15, 2006

"Free at last! Free at Last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Delivered on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963.

Source: Martin Luther King, Jr: The Peaceful Warrior, Pocket Books, NY 1968

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity. But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free.

One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.

So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition. In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.

This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.

So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights.

The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges. But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. we must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" we can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring." And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

"Lost" Gospel of Judas Said to Claim "Judas Acting for God"

One of the most controversial unpublished finds in the field of biblical studies, the so-called "Gospel of Judas," promises to ignite significant controversy when it is unveiled early this year by a Swiss foundation and the National Geographic magazine. The "Judas" saga was confirmed in detail late last year at the annual Society of Biblical Literature meeting which was held in Philadelphia. Scheduled for an Easter publication, followed by a succession of three books, it will reach the public just before the release of Ron Howard's film adaptation of "The Da Vinci Code." Evidently heresy will have a holiday in 2006.

Forbidden gospel 'will show Judas was acting for God'
By Hilary Clarke, in Rome (Filed: 13/01/2006)

The planned publication of a "forbidden" Gospel of Judas is set to reawaken a centuries-old controversy over the man who betrayed Jesus.

A Swiss foundation and National Geographic magazine are to publish translations of the ancient Coptic text discovered in Egypt in the 1970s.

Although the full details have not yet been made public, snippets discussed in academic circles say it will prove Judas was acting at the behest of God when he sold Jesus to the Romans for 30 pieces of silver.

Its publication will raise fears among traditionalists that efforts may be made to rehabilitate a man whose name is synonymous with betrayal.

Sympathisers with Judas contend that had Jesus not been crucified, he would not have been subsequently resurrected to save humanity.

The translator of the Gospel of Judas is Rodolphe Kasser of the University of Geneva, the world's leading Coptic scholar. The torn and tattered papyrus text had been offered to potential buyers in North America and Europe for decades after it was found at al-Minya in Egypt.

It resurfaced recently as the property of the Maecenas Foundation based in Basle, Switzerland.

Controversy also surrounds the origins of the text, which dates from the fourth century, with some scholars arguing that it was not written by Judas, but by a group of his supporters.


Personnel Changes in Central Region: Plan, Panic, or Pogrom - Theological Frictions Rub ABC Staff the Wrong Way

Reasons for personnel changes are notoriously difficult to discover or to explain accurately. Generally, those that know don't talk and those that talk don't know. When termination documents call for silence in exchange for continued salary or extensions of medical benefits, etc., the problem is compounded considerably. However, the recent resignation by Art Jaggard from his position as Southeast Area Minister of the ABC of the Central Region has prompted more than a little speculation by the pastors in his area. Two responses appear newsworthy, one from the ABE Message Board and one from the Beacon Churches blog.

"Fred Ansel gave a blanket order at a staff meeting that anyone who attended [the ABE event in] Lombard would be fired. I am not sure if he privately told Art specifically to cancel or resign or not. I just know the statement was made at a staff meeting of the ABCCR."

In the end, Art did not attend the Lombard gathering. He remained Area Minister for a few more months.

Why was Art Jaggard terminated from his employment with ABC/CR? No, reason has been given for the resignation. Art has no comment! Any reader can tell that he and Debbie have not found a new place of ministry --- “I feel led to be open to serving as a pastor of a local congregation.”(emphasis added) Therefore one also has to wonder if Art was fired (forced to tender resignation --- most pastors are not fired they are asked to resign!)

One might wonder at the possible reasons

* Art was the only staff member to declare the practice of homosexuality sin at the Jerusalem Council. Other ABC/CR staff spoke against the adopting of the change to the Minister’s Council Code of Ethics, which would have made homosexual practices a violation of the Minister’s Council Code of Ethics.

* The Southeast Area was in the top half of the ABC/CR per capita United Mission giving pretty regularly. The area also engaged in New Church planting and local mission. Could this have made some on staff uncomfortable? Do we have some turf protection going on in the ABC/CR?

* He pushed for open and accountable leadership from the bottom to the top. Again, was the region staff uncomfortable with being open and accountable?

* His leadership in the area brought about transformation that called for continued support of United Mission while also encouraging new channels for giving and new ways of doing mission together. There are those in leadership for whom this would cause problems --- even the leadership of a church or region can say those seven last words of a dying church “We have never done it that way before!”

* Was it Art’s encouragement of those who started the beaconchurches website? While not creating or owning the site; Art did express care for those who felt that Fred’s statement “The Bible does not condemn Homosexuality.” [was wrong]. When beaconchurches was started Art said, “The churches that can no longer trust the Central Region system are still family and we need a format for them to connect.”

It may be any, all, or none of these reasons.
[ http://www.beaconchurches.net/]

Regardless of the reasons for his departure, His Barking Dog quotes Dr. Glenn Layne approvingly when he wrote,

"Art Jaggard is a staunch evangelical who seems to have crossed the wrong people in ABC of the Central Region. He writes with the dignity and honor of a man with a heart for God."

[Not representing anybody official in the PSW; just about as likely to be speaking for others as Senator Ted Kennedy would to be at a Judge Alito support rally]

Combining Truth AND Love in the Robertson Flap: More than a Robert Smiegel SNL Cartoon

"Saturday Night Live" began their 1/14/06 show with a tasteless Robert Smiegel animated attack on Pat Robertson and his latest lapse into foot-in-mouth disease. Unfortunately, thanks to Robertson's egregious breech of comity and Christian decency, it opened the door for a much wider target of evangelicals generally. The piece went well beyond the issue of Robertson, even slandering Jesus Christ in the process. Thoughtful evangelicals have already weighed in on this topic, both critiquing Pat and distancing themselves from his viewpoint. One insightful commentator, Joel Belz of "World Magazine," offered some of the best advice yet. Part of what he said can be found below:

The folks at NRB didn't ask for my advice on the matter. But because the issue comes up so often in a variety of contexts, I want to agree here with both parties in the debate.

On the one hand, there's no doubt this is a public issue—and that Matthew 18 has only limited application. Mr. Robertson's offensive comments were as public as they could have been. NRB is a public organization, serving millions of people. The whole matter is literally an issue of public relations. So the solution to the problem must, by its very character, be a public solution.

On the other hand, private face-to-face meetings are typically a very sound preface to going public. Go public without such a meeting, and all you have to report is that you have an embarrassing difference. Have the private meeting first, and you may be able to announce that you've found a way to resolve the embarrassing difference—or even that retractions and apologies have been offered.

Biblical principles are almost never offered as formulas to be applied in a sterile and clinical manner. And more often than we like, biblical principles don't force us into an "either-or" mode so much as they do a "both-and" style of thinking. In this case—as in so many that we find ourselves in along the way—Pat Robertson needs a dose of truth and a dose of love. The secular public knows too little of such a combination.

Copyright © 2006 WORLD MagazineJanuary 21, 2006, Vol. 21, No. 3


Friday, January 13, 2006

Mainline Mess: ABC Fracture Impending and Certain This Year Says Veteran Religion Writer

Few religion writers have the stature or experience of Ed Plowman. Many of the readers of "His Barking Dog" will remember his years of reporting for "Christianity Today." Now, in a "World Magazine" piece, he offers his observations on the impending implosions in several mainline denominations, including the Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church USA, and the ABCUSA.


American Baptist Churches (U.S.A.) will fracture. The 1.5-million-member denomination, based in Valley Forge, Pa., has a strong position on homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture. But its liberal-dominated governing board has blocked all efforts to enforce the policy on member churches on grounds Baptist churches are autonomous, don't have creeds, and have the right to interpret the Bible as they wish. The board also has allowed gay-approving churches to transfer from predominantly conservative regional units to gay-friendly ones in a different geographic area.

The ABC's Southern California--based Pacific Southwest region, with 300 mostly conservative churches in three states, is scheduled to vote in April on whether to proceed with plans to pull out of the denomination. Several other regions are poised to do likewise if the board continues to balk at discipline of congregations. The financially strapped ABC would be hard-pressed to survive. It already has cut staff to bare bones, and it rents out most of its headquarters to private firms. A large chunk of its membership is dually aligned with black denominations or the pro-gay United Church of Christ, and this shows in financial loyalties.

The Northern California--based American Baptist Churches of the West, which has kicked out several pro-gay churches from membership, changed its name as of Jan. 1. The region's new name is Growing Healthy Churches—"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," said executive minister Paul Borden.

Leaders of American Baptist Evangelicals, organized as a renewal group in 1982, recently declared the ABC is beyond renewal. They voted to become a support group for whatever new entity emerges from the ruins of Valley Forge this year.

Copyright 2006 WORLD Magazine, January 14, 2006, Vol. 21, No. 2

Thursday, January 12, 2006

IRD Announces Plan by Soulforce to "Crash" White House Easter Egg Roll

The Institute on Religion and Democracy issued a news alert today regarding an announced effort by Dr. Mel White's Sourforce group to "crash" the White House Easter Egg Roll. White, a USC educated PhD, producer of more than fifty award winning Christian films, served as ghost-writer for such evangelical luminaries as Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, D. James Kennedy, Ollie North, and Pat Robertson before coming out of the closet as a homosexual activist and advocate. White was a popular communications professor at my alma mater, Fuller Theological Seminary, when I arrived there in 1975. He founded "Soulforce" in 1998 with his partner Gary Nixon. The "goal of Soulforce is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance."


Thursday, January 12,2006: Soulforce, in coalition with other groups advocating acceptance of homosexual practice within Christian churches, is planning to crash the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.

"On April 17, 2006, when the White House lawn is opened to families for the Annual Easter Egg Roll, imagine if the first 1,000 families onto the lawn were LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] families," enthused an e-mail alert from Soulforce.

"LGBT" participants are being urged to gather at the White House gate the night before so as to be the first to enter the next morning. They will also arrive with special t-shirts to identify themselves as "LGBT."

The White House Easter egg roll dates back to the years after the Civil War and has become a venerated event. Besides thousands of children and parents, the roll often includes prominent entertainers, the Easter Bunny, and sometimes the President and First Lady.

Soulforce, in cooperation with other pro-homosexuality caucus groups, such a the "Reconciling" group for United Methodists, is asking same-sex couples and other non-traditional families to bring their children to the White House so as to expose America to "LGBT" families.

"The media will be there (they are always there for the egg roll) and millions of Americans – many for the first time – will meet our families," the Soulforce e-mail reported. "This is an amazing opportunity to reach homes in blue states and red states with positive images of our families participating in this great American family tradition."

Soulforce went on to promise: "This event will be like nothing anyone has ever seen before. The White House lawn – the Bush White House lawn – will, quite unexpectedly, be filled with gay and lesbian families. This is something people will be talking about for a long time, an event that will make history!"

According to Soulforce, "It is time to claim our place at the table. Come to our nation's capital and let America see who we really are." Soulforce promised: "It is basically going to be the biggest LGBT family party ever, you and your kids will have a great time.

Recipients of the Soulforce e-mail were asked to be "discreet" and not to post the information on websites because the "success of this action depends on keeping it under the radar of the media and the administration!!!"

Over the years Soulforce has become well known for its disruptive demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience at church conventions. Other sponsors of this effort to target the White House Easter egg roll include: the Metropolitan Community Church, PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), COLAGE (Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), Love Makes a Family, BLGT Office of the Unitarian Universalists, and the unofficial Reconciling Ministries Network within the United Methodist Church.

Evangelical scholars address ‘Whatever Happened to Truth?’

Jan 12, 2006
By Kyle Smith
Baptist Press

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)--The assault on truth -– being fought today on the fronts of biblical authority, culture, philosophy and hermeneutics -– has evoked a hearty response from a team of leading evangelicals led by New Testament scholar Andreas Köstenberger.

Their book, titled “Whatever Happened to Truth?” published by Crossway Books, contends for the existence of truth -- a truth that can be known in God’s written Word, the Bible, and God’s incarnate Word, Jesus Christ.

Edited by Köstenberger, the book is a compilation of addresses from the 2004 meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, featuring chapters by such scholars as R. Albert Mohler Jr., J.P. Moreland and Kevin J. Vanhoozer who join Köstenberger in setting forth the battle for truth on a variety of levels.

Köstenberger, professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., and editor of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, said the book is designed to equip college students, laypeople and ministers alike to contend confidently for the truth of Scripture in a postmodern world.

“Truth is under siege in our society on several levels,” Köstenberger said. “It is under attack at the level of biblical authority. People scoff at the notion of scriptural inerrancy or inspiration. Truth is also under attack in our culture, as Al Mohler amply demonstrates in his superb piece in this volume. The most concerted effort to replace the notion of absolute truth in recent years has come from a movement called ‘postmodernism,’ which contends that subjective experience, not divine revelation, inevitably governs human perception.

“Truth has also suffered greatly in the area of hermeneutics, where individual interpretation and communal experience have replaced the notion of truth as sustaining an existence independent from a given interpreter.”

Both the urgency and importance of the topic at hand led Köstenberger to conclude that Whatever Happened to Truth? “may be one of the most important books I ever had a part in writing.”

“The book is supremely significant for several reasons,” he said. “First, there could be no more important subject than truth. Second, with the notion of truth slipping in recent public discourse, truth needs a robust, competent defense. Third, the book’s essays were written by scholars and evangelical leaders who are the most competent on this topic.”

While relevant and important reading for all Christians today, Köstenberger noted that the book can be especially helpful to college students and young people facing an assault on truth from within their schools and campuses.

“This is a book that articulates an intelligent response to the recent rejection of truth in our culture yet does so in a highly accessible and succinct way,” Köstenberger said. “People can pick up this book and read it or parts of it in a short time. I believe many will be gripped by the truth of Scripture, Christ and Christianity and be re-energized to bear witness in our pluralistic, relativistic and postmodern world.”

Köstenberger said he hopes the book will find an entrance not only into college campuses but also the workplace, where it will serve as a tool to be used by defenders of the truth in their witness to unbelievers.“I hope [the book] will also boost the confidence of those who already believe but who are intimidated by the prevailing confusion and attack upon truth in our culture,” Köstenberger added.

“I hope Whatever Happened to Truth? will embolden Christians to stand up and witness to the Truth, the Way and the Life, fully convinced that the Lord Jesus Christ, and He alone, is the way to God and the one who can save us from our sinful, rebellious condition. I hope the book will serve as a prophetic denunciation of the demise of truth in our increasingly pagan culture and as a wakeup call to God’s people to share the truth with others.”

ABC Through the Eyes of the Christian Media

One reason for clarity in our discussions and decisions relates to how they are perceived in the wider community, both Christian and secular. Christianity Today assesses the current ABC flap as the "American Baptist Non-Breakup." Here is how the venerable CT processes our recent history . . .

The governing board of American Baptist Churches USA (ABC) voted 59-45 on November 24 to add a stand against gay sex to their "We Are American Baptists" statement. Meanwhile, leaders of the Pacific Southwest region, who earlier decided to leave the denomination, announced on December 9 that local congregations will vote in May about whether to leave. But the West Virginia association, the denomination's largest, voted in November to stick with the ABC.

Deadly Stampede at Muslim Pilgrimage

The Associated Press reported today on a deadly stampede in Saudi Arabia during part of the Hajj, an annual pilgrimage and one of the pillars of Islam.

MINA, Saudi Arabia — Thousands of Muslim pilgrims rushing to complete a symbolic stoning ritual during the hajj tripped over luggage Thursday, causing a crush in which at least 345 people were killed, the Interior Ministry said.

The stampede occurred as tens of thousands of pilgrims headed toward al-Jamarat, a series of three pillars representing the devil that the faithful pelt with stones to purge themselves of sin. Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki said 345 people were killed. Dr. Abbasi, a Red Crecent doctor at the scene, put the number of injured at 1,000.

Blogger Revdrron (http://revdrron.blogspot.com/) offers some background on how such a tragedy could happen. Notice his editorial comment at the end of the piece. Today he writes:

Iranian Pilgrims in Mecca Shout "Death to America, the Great Satan" in an Anti-American Rally…

Following are excerpts from a rally of Iranian pilgrims in Mecca, aired on Channel 1, Iranian TV, and on Al-'Alam TV, on January 9, 2006.

Crowd: Israel is the enemy of Allah.

Man: May the hands of the infidels be chopped off.

Crowd: May the hands of the infidels be chopped off.

Man: May the hands of the infidels be chopped off.

Crowd: May the hands of the infidels be chopped off.

Man: (Chopped off) from the land of the believers.

Crowd: From the land of the believers.

Man: The Audience will now split into two groups: One group will settle the score with America, and the other will settle the score with Israel.

This group now: Death to America!

Crowd: Death to America!

Man: Death to Israel!

Crowd: Death to Israel! Death to America!

Man: Death to America!

Crowd: Death to America!

Man: Death to America!

Crowd: Death to Israel! Death to America! Death to Israel!

Man: All together now: Death to America! Death to Israel!

Crowd: Death to America! Death to Israel! Death to America! Death to Israel! Death to America! Death to Israel! Death to America! Death to Israel!Etc, etc, etc....

The mind of sinful (mind set on the flesh) man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace... (Romans 8:6)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Celebrating Chaos: The Proud Identity of a "Diverse" and Disintegrating Denomination

What does it mean to say that we are a pluralistic and diverse denomination? What does that really look like in its day to day operations? A blurb from the Associational e-news of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists and a post from the ABE message board show the contrasts at work in our ABC life.

First, from AWAB, the celebration of the disfellowshipping of four churches a decade ago:

"10th Anniversary of Disfellowshipping of Churches - Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church, Oakland, CA, is hosting a worship service on January 6, 2006, 7 p.m., to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the disfellowshipping of Lakeshore, 1st Berkeley, New Community of Faith and San Leandro Community Church. In song, prayer, scripture and the spoken word we will lift up the themes of standing strong and moving forward."

Then, from the ABE message board comes the way in which local churches in the Central Region are contemplating their participation in the ABCUSA. In large part these congregations are a reaction to what the denomination did in the wake of that disfellowshiping action ten years ago. By overturning the decisions of the region acting in discipline; by accepting the churches as part of regions as far geographically removed from California as New York; as a result of finding ways to promote that AWAB cause throughout the layers of the denominational structure; the ABCUSA institutionalized disorderly chaos as part of our corporate culture. One of the results, as we can see from today's post on the ABE message board, is a splintering fragmentation of our denomination:

"However, I was informed that some churches in [ABC of the Central Region] are considering dual alignment with the Conservative Baptists and one church in fact is meeting with a representative from Longmont, Colo. this week. Others are waiting to see the results of that meeting. I was told that the plan is to give the ABC $10 a month as "rent" on the property and give the rest of support to [Conservative Baptists]."

The post-Lombard strategy group has met (with another meeting slated this month) to hammer out specifics of the new evangelical Baptist movement. Sources say that they have been working with professionals on the media side of "getting the word out" as well and have even coalesced around a few possible names. Meanwhile, Pacific Southwest Baptists prepare for their April 29 meeting to provide an advisory vote for their regional board on future ABC relationships.

Dr. Medley has declared himself to be traditional in matters of human sexuality AND unwilling to be separated from those who in Christian conscience differ from him on the issue of homosexuality. He calls this a privileged paradox of our ABC life. For him "holding on to one another" trumps questions of the moral and hermeneutical implications of our differences. But, as James Berkely has said (quoted in an earlier post of His Barking Dog):

'Holding on to convictions can be terrible, if the convictions are evil, untrue, damaging, or God-defying. In addition, some mutually exclusive convictions will never meld successfully in the same group. Holding on to convictions per se is not necessarily a good thing.

Both sides can’t be right, since one conviction contradicts the other. Both sides could be wrong, and some third conviction could be right--whatever it might be. But far more likely, one side is right and one side is wrong.

If that’s the case, what is so great about celebrating a church in which a great number of members are advocating by conviction something actually morally evil? And perpetuating that condition. And calling it a good to be valued?"

Attempting to hold the ABC together despite our significant divisions over human sexuality and the locus of identity in baptist life (sola scriptura as the norming norm vs. Christian experience) will only result in Dr. Medley aging more rapidly than any mortal should and the continued inevitable chaos such as was referenced earlier in this posting.

[His Barking Dog does not pretend to present, represent, or relay any official voice from within the PSW; it carries the views of the blogger alone.]

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Dr. Layne Gives Prescription for ABC Cure

Dr. Glenn Layne has done it again. In the midst of preparations for his upcoming trip to Israel, the venerable writer of Durable Data has found time to offer his own prescription for curing the ABC sickness. Notice how his proposed suggestion closely parallels the motion by the Michigan region board last year.

That initiative was buried in prosaic understatement by the American Baptist News Service report of June 29, 2005 : "The General Board also received messages of concern from the region board . . . of the ABC of Michigan, which, among other concerns, calls for 'the establishment of a task force to (a) examine the nature of our present cultures and the impact of postmodernism and (b) assess implications for potential organizational change for the ABCUSA.'" In actuality, the Michigan motion called for the same radical decentralization Layne advocates, including the abolition of the Office of the General Secretary and the General Board.

by Dr. Glenn Layne

A lenghty conversation I had with an unnamed ABFMS (American Baptist Foreign Mission Society, the legal name of the Board of International Ministries) missionary this week, along with some chats with members of my church got me thinking: is it still possible to save the ABCUSA?

Readers of Durable Data will realize that I have predicted and at times called for the end of the ABCUSA as we know it. Yet I still believe that it is possible to save the ABC. It would require a level of vision and self-sacrifice on the part of the Valley Forge elite which I doubt they are capable of, but it can be done.

How? In two words, radical decentralization. This is much as the ABC of Michigan proposed: go to a pre-1907 configuration of regions, societies (such as ABFMS) and churches. Recall that in the 19th century, most Baptist churches in the north worked through loosely associated societies for missions, church planting and benevolence until the formation of the Northern Baptist Convention in 1907. Prior to 1907, Baptists in the north related to one another via fellowship and mission, with the association being the key unit of contact.

1907 was the beginning of a gradual process of centralization of program. The societies were gradually "tamed" under the Office of the General Secretary. The ABCUSA was established as a respectible mainline denomination--a terrible thing for the rowdy spirit of the people called Baptists.

What could be done now? I have some specific suggestions:

1. Abolish the Office of General Secretary. A good first step would be the resignation of the current occupant of that office and the appointment of a trusted figure to undersee the dismantlement of the Valley Forge apparatus. I suggest John Sundquist.

2. Liberate the program boards. The ABFMS, MMBB, and what we now call National Ministries (the American Baptist Home Mission Society) would become free-standing parachurch missions organizations.

3. Abolish the General Board. It is entirely unnecessary.

4. Abandon the body of useless and foolish policy statements that have been filling up the filing cabinets at the Valley Forge HQ for the last generation.

5. Sell the Valley Forge HQ and use the money for world missions and church planting. Encourage the program board offices to relocate in less expensive areas of the country. For example, we could put ABFMS in suburban Chicago and ABHMS in Colorado Springs. MMBB is already in New York. Maybe a revived educational board could find a home in the west--say, Phoenix or Las Vegas.

Will these things happen? Well, in my dreams. I don't know of anyone in Valley Forge who has the courage to make this happen. But this, I think, is the only way to save the ABC.

Source: http://www.durabledata.blogspot.com/.

[Comments in this blog do not represent any official PSW positions]

Saturday, January 07, 2006

When Holding On to One Another Costs Too Much

Presbyterian James D. Berkley, Interim Director of Presbyterian Action, has written recently on the controversy in the Presbyterian church over their Theological Task Force report on human sexuality. ABC observers will find surprisingly close parallels to the issues, if not the exact lanugage, of our own conflict. The echoes of Dr. Medley's Biennial address are striking, particularly the desire to hold on to "one another" despite "differing convictions."

Here’s what I see: Two paragraphs in a row in the editorial find Haberer speaking approvingly of ways for Presbyterians “to hold on to one another while holding on to their differing convictions” (emphasis added).

Haberer is holding up two things he considers worth holding on to: (1) “one another” and (2) “differing convictions.” People are worth holding on to, but I would contend that differing convictions are actually the problem--make that an evil--rather than a good.

Obviously, if a terrorist believes that blowing up babies in a nursery is good and a humanitarian believes saving babies from danger is good, both firmly held convictions are not equally noble. Nor will such mutually contradictory viewpoints be conducive to good fellowship and singleness of purpose among the holders.

Holding on to convictions can be terrible, if the convictions are evil, untrue, damaging, or God-defying. In addition, some mutually exclusive convictions will never meld successfully in the same group. Holding on to convictions per se is not necessarily a good thing.

So what are the different convictions that Haberer believes people can hold on to while they hold on to each other in the Presbyterian Church? One side thinks it evil that sexually active homosexual persons cannot be ordained under our constitution. It’s prejudiced, unjust. The other side thinks it evil that God’s clear moral law and will could ever be lightly tossed aside to ordain the serially sexually unrepentant. It’s immoral, conforming to Satan’s lie. Both are firmly held convictions.

But there’s a problem. Both sides can’t be right, since one conviction contradicts the other. Both sides could be wrong, and some third conviction could be right--whatever it might be. But far more likely, one side is right and one side is wrong.

If that’s the case, what is so great about celebrating a church in which a great number of members are advocating by conviction something actually morally evil? And perpetuating that condition. And calling it a good to be valued?

Hold on! Shouldn’t a church interested in God’s true truth (as Francis Schaeffer put it) be more concerned with resolving colliding convictions rather than tenaciously holding on to them? Shouldn’t a church interested in God’s will want to determine and live out that will, rather than simply say about tough moral quandaries, “Whatever…”?

I can’t agree with Jack Haberer on this one. There are convictions within the PCUSA that badly need to change, not be held on to. That’s classically what conviction of sin, confession, repentance, and sanctification are all about--turning from wicked ways and thoughts. “Turn back, O man, forswear thy foolish ways!” If there are right convictions and wrong convictions in the church, then we must have the gumption to try to turn the wrong-headed convictions into righteous ones.

No. Holding on to one another cannot come at the cost of cheap denigration of truth and God’s will. As our Book of Order so wisely states, “No opinion can be either more pernicious or more absurd than that which brings truth and falsehood upon a level, and represents it as of no consequence what a [person’s] opinions are” (G-1.0304).

Remember the old ad line about chicken: “Parts is parts!”? Well, “Convictions is convictions” is just as silly.

Source: http://jimberkley.blogspot.com/2006/01/let-convictions-collide-as-they-must.html

[As usual, the choice to cite our Presbyterian brother is unilateral on my part and not to be confused with anyone having official roles in the PSW]

Friday, January 06, 2006

Loose Tongue + Hubris + Reporters Ignorant of the Meaning of Religious Language = Robertson Flap

From the January 5 edition of CBN's The 700 Club:

ROBERTSON: I have said last year that Israel was entering into the most dangerous period of its entire existence as a nation. That is intensifying this year with the loss of Sharon. Sharon was personally a very likeable person. I am sad to see him in this condition.

But I think we need to look at the Bible and the Book of Joel. The prophet Joel makes it very clear that God has enmity against those who, quote, "divide my land." God considers this land to be his. You read the Bible, he says, "This is my land." And for any prime minister of Israel who decides he going carve it up and give it away, God says, "No. This is mine."

And the same thing -- I had a wonderful meeting with Yitzhak Rabin in 1974. He was tragically assassinated, and it was terrible thing that happened, but nevertheless, he was dead. And now Ariel Sharon, who was again a very likeable person, a delightful person to be with. I prayed with him personally. But here he is at the point of death. He was dividing God's land, and I would say woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the EU, the United Nations or United States of America. God said, "This land belongs to me, you better leave it alone."

Reporting on Robertson's remarks dumbed them down to a crass attack on an apparently dying man. This prompted a swift White House response, distancing itself from Robertson's remarks. A White House spokesman called the comments about Ariel Sharon’s stroke “wholly inappropriate and offensive.”

Spokesman Trent Duffy responded Friday to the Christian leader’s suggestion that the Israeli prime minister, who suffered a massive stroke Wednesday, was being punished by God for dividing the Land of Israel by evacuating Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip last summer. “I think those comments were wholly inappropriate and offensive, and really don’t have a place in this or any other debate,” Duffy said onboard Air Force One on Friday.

The Robertson statement raises so many interesting points: how does a sovereign God exercise his prerogatives in history? Should Christian leaders presume to speak for the Lord in affixing blame and assinging explanations for disasters? Why do good things happen to bad persons and vice versa? Why does the press find Robertson so interesting anyway?

However, the point I want to raise is the difficulty conservative Christians have communicating in understandable ways via the secular media. If a pastor said "I felt the Lord leading me to speak up," a secular press would be jumping to conclusions of psychosis. If one of us says that you "must be born again to enter the Kingdom of Heaven," we would be lambasted for our hate speech or, at the very least, a shocking absence of largeness of spirit and comity with people of other religions.

People like Robertson are given to extravagant comments and controversial pronouncements. He certainly seems capable of getting himself into enough trouble on his own even without misquotations or misundersanding. But, the media appear singularly tone deaf to the peculiar language of conservative Christianity. When simple statements affirming a belief in the uniqueness of Christianity come across as hate speech and the common parlance of the church gets heard as evidence of psychotic breaks with reality, then we must ofject to the collective ignorance of those reporting the news.

All of you who find yourself in a position to offer up sound bites to the press already know how overly careful we must be to avoid sounding like lunatics when the story gets written. Robertson, who evidently has an endless store of outrageous lines for media consumption, becomes an easy enough person to misquote and take out of context. That does not explain, however, the tendency for the secular press to be so ignorant of the language of faith and the meaning of faith utterances.

One could only hope that educated and professionally experienced reporters would make a greater effort to understand the people they cite. No wonder we get the Middle East story so wrong so often. We do not fairly report what we do not begin to understand.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

"It's Not Me, No, No, No, It's Not Me, Lord! It's Not Me You're Looking For Lord"

Tulsa pastor arrested on lewdness accusation

By RICHARD GREEN - Associated Press Writer

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An executive committee member of the Southern Baptist Convention was arrested on a lewdness charge for propositioning a plainclothes policeman outside a hotel, police said.

[The 59 year old] senior pastor at South Tulsa Baptist Church, was booked into Oklahoma County Jail Tuesday night on a misdemeanor charge of offering to engage in an act of lewdness, police Capt. Jeffrey Becker said. [He] was released on $500 bail Wednesday afternoon.

[The pastor], who has spoken out against homosexuality, asked the officer to join him in his hotel room for oral sex. [He] was arrested and his 2005 Mercedes automobile was impounded, Becker said.

“I was set up. I was in the area pastoring to police.”

The lewdness charge carries a penalty of up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Wow! Doesn't that just bless your hearts? Imagine the Davidic like sound to the line: "I was set up." Just think, if this fellow had written Ps 51, it might have gone something like this . . .

Psalm 51 (2006 User Friendly Version of "Repentance")

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to my excuses: unto the multitude of my explanations blot out my mistakes of judgment.

Wash me moderately from mine issues, and cleanse me with a surplus of self esteem.

For I explain my alleged transgressions: and my supposed sin is never before me.

Against me, me only, have I let myself down, and done this minor indescretion in the sight of whoever finds out: that thou mightest be accommodating when thou speakest, and be gentle when thou understand my circumstances.

Behold, I was shapen in an environment of other people’s bad influences; and in inopportune circumstances did my mother conceive me.

Behold, thou desirest an average response in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt give me free will to go whichever way I find attractive.

Purge me with extra understanding, and I shall be enabled: bless me, and I shall be happy for the moment.

Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast kept from breaking may rejoice.

Hide thy face from my all fully explainable slights, and overlook all mine inperfections.

Give me an easy time, O God; and renew a self-determining spirit within me.

Cast me not away from thy presence because I was set up; and take not thy holy spirit from me, remembering that none of it was really my fault.

Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

Then will I enjoy my hypocrisy; and sinners can fend for themselves.

Deliver me from guilt trips by others, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy permissiveness.

O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth my enjoyment with myself.

For thou desirest not sacrifice; which is a good thing so that it will not cost me anything valuable: thou delightest not in burnt offering or sacrifices of any kind.

The "sacrifices" of God are a happy spirit: a full and a self-satisfied heart, O God, will make me feel so fulfilled and cozy.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

PSW Unweils Rules for the April 29 Duel

PSW has posted the following details on the April 29 meetings on their web page. Readers of "His Barking Dog" may be interested in the "rules" relating to the upcoming advisory vote by congregational representatives (http://www.abcpsw.com/specialmtg.html).

Special Meeting of the Region - April 29, 2006
Information Your Church Needs to Know Beforehand

Information Meetings - Prior to the April 29, 2006 Meeting

The Executive Minister will hold a series of Informational Meetings for pastors, church leaders and interested members in various locations around the Region in February. Information will be shared regarding the recommendation of the ABCPSW Board of Directors including reasons for the action, the process by which the decision will be made, and the future of the ABCPSW as a Region not in Covenant with the ABCUSA.

What Should Churches Consider Doing Before April 29, 2006?

Churches should review the documents that may define their relationship with the ABCUSA and/or the ABCPSW. These include:

Articles of Incorporation.
Church Bylaws or Constitutions.
Other documents that deal with the operation and governance of the church.
There are numerous situations in which a church's relationship with the ABCUSA and/or the ABCPSW is pivotal to a property or financial transaction. Often legal documents state that a loan or actual ownership of a property is conditioned on the church continuing in affiliation with the ABCUSA. For this reason, we recommend that churches review documents for reference to the ABCUSA including:
Loan Agreements and Promissory notes, including loans from ABCPSW, the ABCUSA, another ABC congregation or the American Baptist Extension Corporation.
Trust Deeds
Deeds and related title documents
Property Trust Agreements
Property use agreements
Church or pastor support agreements
Employment agreements
Property purchase agreements or option to purchase agreements
Personal property trust agreements (for example, gifts of cash or property in a special fund or trust for the support of a church program)

In addition, churches may have entered into gift annuities, charitable remainder or charitable lead trusts, or similar arrangements with church members providing for payments. These should be reviewed to ascertain whether there are terms or conditions requiring affiliation with the ABCUSA.

This is not an exhaustive list, but one intended to encourage you to review potentially important documents before taking actions. All documents that refer to the relationship between a church and the ABCUSA and/or the ABCPSW should be reviewed for their effect on both parties, and to determine steps that should be taken to avoid problems.

If your review brings to light a situation that may be impacted by your church's decision, we urge you to consult with legal counsel for guidance on steps you should take to resolve the situation.

In addition to a church's own records and archives, copies or originals of many church legal documents are on file at the ABCPSW Church Resource Center.

The Special Meeting of the Region - April 29, 2006

The bylaws of the ABCPSW do not provide for meetings of the Region other than at the Annual Conference. However, under the California law that deals with non-profit corporations, such a meeting is permitted. The meeting will be run according to the following rules:

1. Churches will hold meetings in accordance with their own bylaws to determine how their delegates to the Regional meeting will vote on the issue.

2. Nature and Purpose of the Meeting of the Region. Both the Covenant of Relationships of the ABCUSA and the Bylaws of the ABCPSW authorize the Region Board of Directors to make decisions regarding the adoption, amendment or termination of any covenant to which the Region is party (Article 6, Section 2, E). In final analysis, the Region Board of Directors must make the final decision regarding whether to withdraw from the Covenant of Relationships with the ABCUSA. The purpose of the Meeting of Delegates from the Churches is for the Board to receive an expression of the will of the Delegates to provide the Board with the input it needs to make a responsible and informed decision. Following vote, the Board of Directors must meet to take appropriate action based on the vote by church delegates.The recommendation approved by the Region Board must clearly state this purpose of the meeting.

3. The meeting will be held simultaneously at five sites: First Baptist Church of Pomona and sites to be selected in Phoenix, Las Vegas, Hawaii, and on the Hopi Reservation. In order for this to happen: a) Everyone at every site must be able to hear both what is being said at the podium at the main site (Pomona) and questions or comments made by delegates at all sites; b) There must be opportunity for questions for clarification of the issue before the body. Because informational meetings will be held in various locations throughout the Region prior to the Meeting of the Region, the Board may rule that there will be no discussion or debate at this meeting, c) A member of the Board of Directors should preside at each location, d) The President of the Region will lead the meeting from Pomona. The role of Board members presiding at distant locations will be to expedite arrangements so each location follows directions from the President, e) Ballots will be counted at all sites. The President will call for results from all sites, which will be announced and tallied. The President will then announce the total vote.

4. Each church will be assigned a number of delegates in accordance with the bylaws of the ABCPSW, Article 4.

Each Cooperating and Affiliated Church may elect from its membership:
(1) five (5) Delegates;

(2) one (1) additional Delegate for every one-hundred (100) members of such Church in excess of the first fifty-one (51) members;

(3) one (1) additional Delegate if such Church's per capita giving to the American Baptist United Mission Basics (or any successor thereto) in the calendar year preceding the Regional Annual Conference equaled $30, plus one (1) additional Delegate for each whole number multiple of $10 of such per capita giving in excess of $30 in such year;

(4) one (1) additional Delegate for each whole number multiple of $3,000 of such Church's total giving to the American Baptist United Mission Basics ** (or any successor thereto) in the calendar yearpreceding the Conference; and

(5) In addition to the foregoing, the Senior Pastor of any Cooperating or Affiliated Church may serve as a Delegate. (Note: When the ABCPSW is meeting in regard to issues related ABCUSA, Affiliated Churches will not be able to participate in any discussion or decision relative to these issues.)** The equivalent to United Missions Basics in the Flexible Stewardship Plan is the sum of Lines A1 (ABCPSW Ministries); A2 (International Ministries); A3 (National Ministries); and B (United Mission Option).

The ABCPSW Bylaws indicate that persons named by churches as delegates to a meeting of the Region must be registered in advance with the Executive Minister. For the purpose of this meeting, Delegate Registration must take place not later than one week before the scheduled meeting and should indicate the site that will be attended by church delegates. Lists of Delegates will be available at each site on the day of the meeting. As delegates arrive, they will register and receive printed ballots for use in the meeting.

6) Because the purpose of this vote is to provide the Board of Directors with a clear expression of the will of the Delegates from churches, there will be no delegates representing Associations. Furthermore, members of the Regional Board of Directors will not be delegates, unless they are so registered as delegates from churches.

What is a Cooperating Church?

All Cooperating Churches in the ABCPSW are eligible to vote. A cooperating church holds membership in both ABCPSW and the ABCUSA.

Who is not eligible to vote?

Churches that have already withdrawn from the ABCUSA are Affiliated Members with the ABCPSW and therefore cannot vote on issues relating to the Region's participation in the ABCUSA.

New church plants that have not applied and been accepted into full membership in the Region (new church plants are not eligible to apply for full membership in the region until at least three years from date of launch, reach sustainability, are incorporated, and are recommended by their association).

When Our Prayers for a Miracle Seem to Fall Flat

ABNS ran this account of the tragedy in West Virginia (http://www.abc-usa.org/news/20060103a.htm). The only survivor was 26-year-old Randal McCloy Jr. Deacon Toler of the ABC church was one of the 12 men who died in the tragic events of the past few days. Optimistic, but ultimately erroneous, news reports dubbed initial reports of survival by all but one of the miners the "West Wirginia Miracle." Growing up I remember hearing stories of the difficulties faced by my paternal grandfather and uncles who spent years in the coal mines. Our hearts go out to the families of all of the miners.


VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS)—A deacon at Stump Chapel—an American Baptist church in Sutton, W.Va.—is one of the 13 miners trapped early Monday by an explosion in the Sago Mine in Tallmansville, W.Va.

American Baptists across the country are encouraged to pray for Deacon Junior Toler and his family, along with the other 12 miners and their families.

Also, Sago Baptist Church—the church in the media photos where families and friends are gathering for news as the crisis unfolds—is an American Baptist congregation in the West Virginia Baptist Convention. Pray for the church, as well, as it ministers to so many at such a difficult time.

Both the West Virginia Baptist Convention and National Ministries, through the Office of Disaster Relief and One Great Hour of Sharing offering funds, have offered assistance to the church.

Monday, January 02, 2006

No Nostradamus Predictions Here, Just Educated Guesses on the ABC Crisis

"This year, as the PSW departs the ABC, other regions may well be emboldened to act. Messages I have receieved from all across the nation bear witness that several other regions may well follow PSWs lead." - Dr. Glenn Layne

I have also received information from other regions supportive of the PSW actions. One well placed observer made the following prediction:

"I do believe the ABC-USA is well on its way to imploding. Regions may not leave in mass like the PSW, but watch the continuing distancing from VF that will come about by inidividual churches, and even Regions flying under the radar over the next two years. It will be a defacto disentegration, and Roy will be the responsible master architect."

Support for this trajectory is seen in the implications of the name change in the region formerly known as American Baptist Churches of the West, the diversion of money from the Unified Buget by increasing numbers of churches throughout the country, and by denominational statistics released by Valley Forge.

Money remains the tip of the sword in much of the debate. During the past few months efforts were made to play "good cop/bad cop" by VF personnel. John Sundquist, with the blessing of Dr. Medley, toured key mission giving churches, making appointments with their pastors. Several of the pastors have explained the message as one of clever persuasion theory. One summed it up this way: "Sundquist came in, lamented the way the idiots were mucking things up in Valley Forge, but shruggled his shoulders and said 'what can you do, we're family.'"

His appointments supported Medley by the novel tactic of agreeing with pastors in most/all of their criticisms of all things Valley Forge, offering his own "insider tips" on how bad things really are, but making a plea for sticking with the "family," offering faint hopes of change in the future. Smart strategy, but too clever by half. One of the pastors laughed at the thought that John actually thought that pastors of significant giving churches would fall for the transparent ploy.

Look for little official action in other regions until AFTER PSW takes a vote of the churches on April 29. The direction of the decision and the magnitude of the plurality/majority may prove influential in other regions. But, don't be surprised if the prediction of gradual disintegration mentioned earlier in this blog turns out to be the actual mechanism of dissolution.

Dennis E. McFadden

[Claiming no Nostradamus-like predictive ability nor connection to any PSW entity; just blogging what I see through my "99 Cents" store telescope]