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.]

No comments: