Sunday, January 01, 2006

Fighting Fair in 2006: Even if we can't "just get along," can we at least not get along more Christianly?

"Happy New Year. Welcome 2006. A Big Year with Big Changes for Baptists."

So opines Dr. Glenn Layne in his "Durable Data" blog ( In the midst of our own navel gazing and self-doubt, much of it appearing in the threads of the Message Board of the American Baptist Evangelicals, it is probably useful to see the focus and determination of those on the left. In the current issue of "Associational," published by the Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists (, executive director Ken Pennings says:

AWAB’s vision is to create and support genuine community among our members. I’m now working with 12 teams of people throughout the country, each planning a community-building event to bring together welcoming Baptists for food, fun, fellowship, worship, education and witness.

I love working with the program leaders of other welcoming programs. We’re working on a strategy to make the Institute of Welcoming Resources (IWR) more easily accessible and more complete in the resources it offers.

Each member of the AWAB Council has taken on a key position of leadership, in membership, finances, pastoral relations, denominational relations, communications, and programming. I love working together as a team!

We know about all that has transpired in the ABC/USA, and are resolved not to be distracted from our mission by what might happen in the denomination. We will invest our energy doing the great work God has called us to do.

Indeed, The Lord has exalted AWAB by a gift so great, so unheard of, that language is useless to describe it, and the depths of love in our hearts can scarcely grasp it. We offer then all the powers of our souls in praise and thanksgiving. The Almighty has done great things for AWAB, and holy is God’s name!

Rev. Pennings possesses an optimistic spirit, a clear sense of mission, a vision for transformation within the ABCUSA, and a self-consciously biblical/theological grounding for his position. Regardless of where you come out on AWAB, reading their material impresses me with the factual and evenhanded (and usually restrained) nature of their news reporting, the absence of overreaching in their polemics, and the surprisingly gentle way in which they deal with their opponents. With the exception of a tendency to label as "far right" the positions of people actually inhabiting the "center right" niche in our denomination, they model a "Christian" demeanor in the midst of conflict.

If you have read ANY of my posts in this blog or the ABE Message Board, you realize my deep opposition to AWAB and the positions of the Valley Forge leadership. I am the guy, afterall, who took ordination with another evangelical group during 2005 as a protest against VF equivocations. However, I sometimes long for the evidence of more of the Fruit of the Spirit and Christian graces in our discussions. At times our intra-evangelical differences with each other are aired with an acrimonious edge, our reporting includes unsubstantiated (or at least unverified) rumors, and our tone toward those on the left has taken on a vitriolic acidity.

Looking back on some of my 495 postings on the ABE Message Board (mostly since being totally offended at the Denver biennial), these admonitory comments are made looking in the mirror. My prayer for 2006, as we face those "big changes" Glenn Layne predicts, includes a hope that we will exercise discipline in our use of our tongues so as not to sin against those with whom we disagree.

I am happy to polemicize with the best of 'em, just not unfairly or even unintentionally bearing false witness. While we should continue to oppose AWAB and the Medley administration at SO many points and on SO many levels, we can stand to learn some lessons from them.

Even if we can't "just get along," can we at least not get along more Christianly in 2006?

Dennis E. McFadden

1 comment:

roy said...