Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Salico Continues Town Hall Meetings in Alhambra (CA) in Preparation for the April 29 Vote

At this moment (7:42 p.m.), Dr. Dale Salico has been explaining and answering questions for almost three-quarters of an hour to several hundred PSW Baptists at the First Baptist Church of Alhambra (CA). He has been using a Powerpoint presentation to articulate the steps taken by PSW to attempt to work within the ABCUSA. At this point, most of the questioners have represented the disgruntled left. But, judging from a look at who is here (mainly from San Gabriel Valley churches), it looks as if the vast majority hail from the right.

As the evening continues to unfold (8:00 p.m.) more of the conservative pastors are standing up and making affirmative statements, supportive of Dr. Salico. Reference has also been made to a paper by Dr. Bob Meye (posted on His Barking Dog yesterday. Salico strongly affirms the work of Dr. Meye and has handed copies of it out to the entire assembly.

As Dr. Salico sees the issue, PSW will seek to establish distance between the PSW and the national body to reduce the "constant level of clashing that goes on between the two." "What will the PSW look like? PSW exists to be strengthening churches to change their worlds for Christ. That will not change," says Salico. Core values of Biblical authority, local church integrity, leader development, and kingdom multiplication will also not change, he notes.

Dr. Salico walked through the regional statement on human sexuality. It establishes standards for heterosexual fidelity, biblical morality, and a proscription of homosexual behavior. Quoting from the regional policy statement from 1995, Salico recalled how he was asked by the search committee that called him as Executive Minister if he would implement the policy. This involved advocating at all levels of the denomination for traditional "biblical" morality. Also he was asked to urge all covenanting partners to take action to implement the 1992 resolution on human sexuality. Finally, the committee tasked him with the responsibility of explaining how the following of the first two points was "essential" and necessary for the "continued unity of this denomination." In a sense, the actions being undertaken currently by the region board are merely an application of the charge given to Dr. Salico when he came here in 1997.

Will we be all alone? No. Relationships with other regions, the Board of International Ministries, and more will continue. BIM has agreed to enter into a new agreement with the PSW churches. MMBB, Willow Creek Association, Vision USA, ECFA, Vantage Point 3, American Baptist Theological Center, Northern Seminary, Multicultural Ministries, and the Hispanic Baptist Convention, PSWLA Black Caucus, and AB Indian Ministries are but a few of the partners that will continue in relationship with PSW.

After a stand up break, Salico returned to his clear and persuasive Q&A at 9:00 p.m. In response to a question, he recalled the history of actions within the ABCUSA on the subject of human sexuality. His account of the history of the 1992 resolution by the General Board was enlightening to many who did not know the history.

A moving question from a member of one of the San Gabriel Valley churches spoke of being the adult child of a family broken by the homosexual desires and behavior of his father. He asked what the region intended to do with regard to resourcing churches for practical incarnational ministry to GLBT persons. Salico spoke of a major conference to be presented within the year, featuring three national speakers (a pastor with extensive ministry to gays, a seminary prof from Eastern, and a leader of an exit type ministry for homosexuals).

As Salico explained it, the only item of business on April 29 will be: "Should the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest (ABCPSW) withdraw from the Covenant of Relationships and Agreements with the American Baptist Churches USA as rrecommended by the Board of Directors of the ABCPSW?" The ballot will allow only a yes or no answer. Questions of clarification may be asked. However, there will be no time devoted to debate or discussion. Salico has made a number of Town Hall meetings available for the expressions of opinions, asking of questions, and the like.

The purpose for the meeting is "for the Board to receive an expression of the will of the delegates to provide the Board with the guidance and input it needs to make a responsible and informed decision on withdrawing from the Covenant of Relationships of the American Baptist Churches, USA."

Salico was unflapable, ultra-calm, and methodical in his presentation. He carried himself with an authority not borne merely of natural abilities but by Spirit-filled unction.

[His Barking Dog is merely an observer to the events unfolding. I do not speak for anyone official or for any entity in the PSW]

Monday, February 27, 2006

"Letting Scripture Speak" - Veteran New Testament Scholar Summarizes Biblical Teaching About Homosexuality - Posted on ABCPSW Website

Veteran New Testament Scholar Dr. Robert P. Meye, Member, First Baptist Church of Pasadena (CA), Dean Emeritus and Professor Emeritus of New Testament Interpretation, School of Theology, Fuller Theological Seminary (2/21/06), recently lifted his pen to write about the biblical record regarding homosexuality. Dr. Meye not only enjoys a richly deserved reputation for erudition and probity, but also for his commitment to personal Godliness.

The timing and title he gave to his statement, "Letting Scripture Speak Regarding Homosexual Practice: Seriatim Notes for the Churches' Consideration," suggest that Meye offered his observations to assist the churches of the PSW in their discernment process preparatory to the April 29 advisory vote whether or not to withdraw from the ABCUSA Covenant of Relationships. The use of the adverb "seriatim" refers to a one after another series. For purposes of greater clarity, we have highlighted in color the linguistic cue, "it won't do."

His complete article can be found on the ABCPSW web site (http://www.abcpsw.com/). Readers of "His Barking Dog" are encouraged to read the entire piece. Since his work was published in such a public forum, I have elected to offer up some "teases" from Dr. Meye's statement. What follows here are some selected paragraphs excerpted for our readers.

[In the Bible] There is no instance of homosexual practice presented in a positive light.

Homosexual practice is consistently judged in the very harshest manner, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament . . .

. . . Paul declares that there is no place in the Church or the kingdom of God for those whose lifestyle (practice) is in violation of the biblical code regarding sexual intimacy But he also makes it abundantly clear that the church has welcomed and incorporated into its life those who have believed in the Gospel and have embraced a new lifestyle.

It won't do [emphasis and colorization by the editor throughout] to speak of the paucity of references to homosexual practice in the Bible. One does not have to post a lot of signs against that which everyone in the world of the Bible understands is a forbidden practice. Note: there are no signs in our world, which say, "Murder is not allowed. Nor, for that matter, any signs saying, “Lying is not allowed.”

It won't do to speak about the absence of reference to homosexual practice among Jesus' words. In respect to sexual relations Jesus held to the Old Testament pattern, so that there was nothing new that he needed to say in this matter.

It won't do to place a wedge between Jesus and Paul. Paul is first, last and always a servant of Jesus; if Paul cannot be trusted then we have a can of mush for our authority. Jesus and his servant Paul point us in the same direction in the case of sexual practice.

It won't do to pit the biblical imperative of love against the judgment that homosexual practice is contrary to the will of God: Both the mandate to love and the mandate against homosexual practice are essential factors in the one biblical revelation. Is it intrinsically a lack of love that leads a parent to admonish or discipline a child for disallowed behavior?

It won't do to call on the biblical words to accept one another as an open door to welcoming and affirming a homosexual lifestyle in the church. The apostle Paul, whose stirring words at the end of Romans regarding acceptance of one another are perhaps the most well known and most used of all biblical words in this regard, begins the Roman letter with the strongest possible declaration that homosexual praxis is contrary to the Gospel, to the good will of God.

It won't do to issue a call to unity as a value trumping obedience to the command of God. God commands obedience, not sacrifice (of your values to my values, or my values to your values). In any case, it is not my values, or your values, but God's values that are primary.

It won't do to call upon "science" as a power that turns upside down the biblical pattern of revelation, which narrative has determined the Christian tradition with respect to homosexual practice. Neither biology, nor physiology, nor sociology, nor psychology, have offered a reason to turn aside from the traditional Christian position regarding homosexual practice. Indeed, they have offered plentiful wisdom that supports the traditional position . . .

. . . The arguments that "new light' has come to the Church with respect to homosexual practice are unenlightening. It will not do to call upon the instance of slavery as a compelling paradigm for the Church to now reverse its position with respect to homosexual practice. Those who crusaded against slavery typically drew their inspiration from the Biblical narrative, whether primarily or secondarily so. The Bible knows the difference between slave and free, emphatically so. Even though it does not issue a blanket imperative against slavery, it points to freedom as the better way. But it does not allow homosexual practice at all; it points in the contrary direction . . .

. . . Finally, one can only regret the very strong, derogatory language used against those who hold the same traditional position that the churches have held for two thousand years, right up to the present time. In the newspapers we commonly read such words as “ultra right” (!), 'don't get it,' 'straight jacketed', used pejoratively by those who affirm the place of homosexual practice in the church, to describe the large mass of Christians with whom the speaker happens to differ. Those espousing the traditional pattern are even accused of being “homophobic.” Such language amounts to a denial that the Holy Spirit has illumined the mass of Christians in the world throughout the history of the Church. Has the whole Church been “ultra right” for two thousand years? Were Jesus and Paul “ultra right”? Did Jesus and Paul “get it”? Were they “homophobic”? Descriptive labels have their place in discourse, but indiscriminate name-calling does not a church build or a position justify. The whole body of Christ needs to take care in respect to dealing with differences, even as real differences are taken seriously.

When he decides to summarize the biblical witness in a short compass, Dr. Meye says simply, yet eloquently:

The biblical word of revelation upon which the Church bases its life in Christ provides an overwhelming pattern declaring the will of God with respect to sexual intimacy: sexual intimacy belongs within the marital, covenant relationship of a man and a woman. Any consideration of or teaching about homosexual practice will do well to begin with the divine pattern in creation, God's creation of man as male and female, to live together in the intimacy of that relationship.

Dr. Meye captures quite well the exegetical conclusions based upon solid scholarly study of the original text in its linguistic, cultural, historical, and theological context. Evangelicals do not believe this because they are bigoted, specifically homophobic. Most evangelical leaders have had heart breaking experiences ministering pastorally to homosexuals in crisis in their congregations.

The evangelical complaint has to do with the rejecting nearly two millennia of Christian tradition and teaching in favor of a revisionistic contemporary reading. In the final analysis, conservative Christians are simply pleading with their friends on the left: "let the Scripture speak!"

[His Barking Dog professes no exegetical prowess, nor authority to speak on behalf of any entity within the PSW]

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Dialog with the BaptisLife.com Message Boarders

A word of personal commendation
By Dennis E. McFadden

I want to take this opportunity to credit "Jerry" (I know his full name but am withholding it) with EXACTLY the kind of Christian deportment that is so often missing in our conversations about the ABC (by both the left AND the right). Following my original post regarding Central Baptist seminary on Wednesday, February 22, Jerry sent me an email with supplementary/contradictory data, sourced from the ATS. I was delighted to put it on my blog immediately, along with an "eating crow" graphic.

Then, having not had the opportunity to see that correction, but having viewed my criticism of a couple of BaptistLife.com contributors Thursday, February 24, he posted a strongly worded comment to my piece, asking me if my behavior was inconsistent with my rhetoric. While his comment was quite passionate, it was entirely fair and a pretty good observation (had I not already done exactly what he felt I should do).

Evidently, when Jerry discovered that I had posted his entire e-mail to my blog, he voluntarily deleted his own comment (although blogspot had already sent it to me in an e-mail form).

Reactions by some of the bloggers at BaptistLife.com were quick. One suggested that my blog account does not permit comments from unregistered users, but that he would have liked to have said:

"I am glad to see that you have found the ABC Family RoundTable at www.BaptistLife.com I wish you had been willing to give your readers the opportunity to see both Bruce Gourly and Timothy Bonney's comments in their original context, on our forum."

Ironically, just this week another frequent blogger from that same forum sent me an e-mail expressing dissatisfaction that I so often quote people's pieces in full. He advised me that it was not good netiquette to publish someone else's writings, even with attribution. The comment cited above, however, is exactly why I prefer to utilize entire articles when practical. Without the context of the words of those we are opposing, it is entirely too easy to make them sound foolish and to select only the words which will appear the least formidable. Constructing straw men of the left is just as ethically wrong as fashioning straw men of the right. When you publish enough context for people to make their own judgements, they can determine for themselves who has the better (and more truthful) case.

But, back to my commendation of "Jerry." When a reader to the forum assumed that the comment had been removed by me for editorial (presumably ideological)reasons, it would have been simple for Jerry to let the matter stand, leaving me to appear foolish or mean spirited. Yet, that is not what he did.

Responding promptly, "Jerry" said: "As far as I know he's never deleted a comment from his blog. That was me. But I scuttled it very soon after it was posted. McFadden and I seem to have cross-posted and my comments were no longer valid. (And too too confrontational in the first place.)"

WOW!!! What an example of the kind of Christian deportment that those of us on the right (as well as the left) could stand to learn from. When given an opportunity to allow an unfair and untrue characterization to tar an ideological opponent, "Jerry" proved himself to be a "stand up" guy, abounding in integrity. [For the record, my only deletion of a reader's comment came in the first week of blogging when an unwanted advertiser posted spam in my comments section. That prompted me to switch to registered users only as apparently the only way to avoid being spammed to death.]

Jerry evidenced integrity as well as class in his communications with me and in the message board. His simple act of truthfulness and kindness inclines people to assume a greater credibility for his future comments. May his tribe increase! These next months and years will be difficult enough in the ABC. Our strongly held and principled disagreements could easily degenerate into the kinds of bitter acrimony and ugliness characteristic of so many "church fights." We do not need to make it worse by demonizing good people with whom we disagree.

[His Barking Dog cops to being mostly negative about many things in the ABC. These are personal opinions, however, and do not imply endorsement by any official entity in the PSW]

Friday, February 24, 2006

A Knowledgeable Reader Corrects My Analysis of Central Baptist Seminary

One of the very best features of the blogosphere is the opportunity to receive correction from gazillions (isn't that the technical term for it?) of fact checkers. Yesterday, one of my readers challenged my analysis of the Central Baptist Seminary situation with some of his own facts, derived evidently from the a very official source, the ATS. I appreciate accuracy and am happy to offer his supplementary/contradictory explanations. Here are his comments:

The figures I gave [you] came from the Association of Theological Schools fact books, found on their web site www.ats.edu.

Central has been weak for 50-60 years after the SBC formed Mid-Western. Like I said, Central is on an ABC-SBC border, and the ABC constituency is on the less populated side of that border. I grew up in Missouri, and the pastor of my childhood was in one of the last classes that graduated very many SBC pastors.

But Mid-Western isn't very healthy for a SBC seminary.

It's the smallest SBC seminary. Golden Gate, the next smallest SBC seminary has not quite twice the number of students, but has over three times the number of Full Time Equivalents, which means Golden Gate is teaching many more credit hours per student than Mid-Western. There are continual rumors that Mid-Western will be turned into a satellite of Golden Gate.

Northern Baptist also seems to have many part-time students. While their total student count is over twice the number as CBTS, they have only 28 more FTEs. I'm not sure exactly how many credit hours a seminary student takes a semester, but assuming 15 credit hours a semester, NBTS is only teaching 420 more credit hours a semester than CBTS.

Mid-Western has is lucky enough to have been founded with a very large campus in what now is a fast growing area of Kansas City. They've been able to sell of parts of the campus to raise money. I think they have sold 40-50 acres in the last couple of years for something like $8-9mil. Central, on the other hand, is in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Kansas City, and done a good bit of ministry in that neighborhood for years. I doubt that there is a great market for Central's current campus.

My take is that Southern Baptist's move in forming Mid-Western created two weak Baptist seminaries in Kansas City.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Regional Ministry Board of the Great Rivers Region Makes Strong Affirmations of Traditional Biblical Morality in Unanimous February Vote

In the midst of confusing signals from a variety of regions regarding homosexuality, the Great Rivers Region has acted in an interesting way. The Regional Ministry Board appointed a task force to propose a response to the ABC dealing with the present "conflict" in the denomination. The task force charge calls for a final report on April 28, 2006. They also issued a strikingly strong statement of their convictions and shared beliefs. Note that the resolution was adopted unanimously at a regular meeting of the Regional Ministry Board of the Great Rivers Region. It will be interesting to see what construction Valley Forge puts on the action.

Dwight Stinnett
ABC Great Rivers Region

GRR Regional Ministry Board Response to Churches
RMB 0602 Agenda Item #5.g.

Since the last meeting of the Regional Ministry Board (RMB) of the Great Rivers Region (GRR) we have received several legitimate resolutions from GRR churches in good standing that urge or demand various actions by the RMB concerning the present conflict within ABCUSA. In order to respond to those resolutions in a thoughtful, consistent way the GRR Board has appointed a special task force to propose actions to the Board and compose a single, comprehensive response to those churches and the General Board of ABCUSA. That task force is charged to bring its work to the regional board at the next scheduled meeting (28 April 2006). The full GRR Board will consider and act on the proposal at that time. However, in order to be faithful and prompt, this “interim” response was adopted by the GRR Regional Ministry Board. Speaking as that Board:

We affirm the 1984 ABCUSA General Board American Baptist Policy Statement on Family Life (7036:6/84) that says, in part, “We affirm that God intends marriage to be a monogamous, life-long, one flesh union of a woman and a man, who in response to God’s call leave father and mother and cleave to one another. We affirm God’s blessing and active presence in marriage relationships so entered in response to God’s call.”

We affirm the 1992 resolution adopted by the General Board of ABCUSA (8200:10/92), which says: “We affirm that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”

We affirm the Confession of Faith adopted by the General Board of ABCUSA in 1998 and endorsed by the Regional Ministry Board of the Great Rivers Region as part of our “common criteria” specifying the qualifications for church membership in GRR. That Confession says, in part: “American Baptists proclaim the Good News of the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, knowing that salvation (forgiveness of sins, release from guilt and condemnation, reconciliation with God) and eternal life are granted in grace to all who trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. This Gospel is the central message of the Bible.”

We further affirm the 2005 amendment to that Confession including the line: “[We are a biblical people] who submit to the teaching of Scripture that God’s design for sexual intimacy places it within the context of marriage between one man and one woman, and acknowledge that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Biblical teaching.”We further affirm that God’s redemptive love in Jesus Christ is available to all persons, and it is the high calling of each and every church to preach, teach and minister in such a way that God’s love for all persons is reflected.

We affirm the Covenant and Code of Ethics for Ministerial Leaders adopted by the Ministers Council, which includes the promise: “I will maintain a disciplined ministry in such ways as keeping hours of prayer and devotion, endeavoring to maintain wholesome family relationships, sexual integrity, financial responsibility, regularly engaging in educational and recreational activities for professional and personal development.”

We affirm the 1976 Ministers Council Senate resolution, which says in part: “We believe that the practice and advocacy of homosexual activity to be incompatible with Christian principles and grounds for denial of ordination; we also affirm that past homosexual practices, when disavowed, should not be a barrier to ordination.” We also note that the Great Rivers Region Ministers Council endorsed that same resolution.

We affirm that immoral behaviors, including sexual intimacy outside the bonds of marriage, are grounds for clergy discipline and for withdrawing recognition.

We affirm our long-standing covenantal expectation that churches seeking membership in the Great Rivers Region “will not ordain or call as pastor a practicing homosexual.” Churches which choose to do so risk their fellowship with other churches in this Region.

We affirm that all the staff and programs of the Great Rivers Region will be consistent with the expectations of these above positions.

We affirm that our Executive Minister has diligently informed this Board and our churches of these issues. We further affirm that he has accurately and faithfully represented the positions of this Board. We further affirm that we expect him to accurately represent our positions with the covenant partners of ABCUSA., including the Office of the General Secretary, the President of ABCUSA, the presidents of the program Boards of ABCUSA, and other interested parties.

We affirm that we are a covenant people and are deeply troubled that ABCUSA has been fractured. We call on all parties to prayerfully seek healing and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in dealing with these fractured relationships.

Adopted unanimously by the Regional Ministry Board of the Great Rivers Region at the regular meeting on 3 February 2006.

On Intolerant "Tolerance" and a Call to Balance and Accuracy

Rev. Bruce G. recently wrote the following in a Baptist message board:

“I stumbled upon this interesting blog today:
http://hisbarkingdog.blogspot.com/ In light of Baptist blogging making the news of late (and excluding the blogs of our own excellent ABCers), what ABC blogs would you nominate as some of the best in ABC life?”

The Moderator of the "Baptist Faith and Practice Forum" for the message board responded: "I wouldn't nominate the above blog. He has a very negative spin on everything ABC and is personally part of a crowd that is leaving the ABC. He soon will not be an American Baptist and is seeking ordination from another body.”

One of the most pervasive charges by the left against the right deals with the purported “intolerance” of conservatives. In my own experience, such rhetoric fails to describe the situation accurately. Most of the conservative bloggers and message boards known to me carry posts by persons concerned about factual accuracy and a willingness to credit one’s opponents with intellectual acumen, regardless of strong and principled disagreement on issues. In the last week, I have seen three evangelical ABC bloggers respond to corrections offered by critics. In a couple of cases the lurkers were rude and intolerant and the bloggers humble, gracious, and quick to accept correction. Yesterday, for example, a blogger openly admitted he had been wrong, thanked his critic for the correction, and pledged to do better in the future.

In the instance cited above where a Moderator of a forum dismissed this blog as having “a very negative spin on everything ABC,” the blogger exercised his right to disagree on the intellectual or literary merit of His Barking Dog (join the crowd!). That is certainly fair enough. However, it is more than a little interesting that while this same individual has frequently been praised and quoted with approval in this blog, he misstates factual matters on which he and I have already corresponded by e-mail!

In the current ABC crisis, feelings will inevitably become frayed through the exchange of strongly worded disagreements. We can little afford to allow ourselves the luxury of dismissing our opposition, misstating their positions, or engaging in what we know (or should know) to be factually untrue. The ethics of blogging for Christians should at least require us not to bear false witness in our efforts to advance our own case. For us, the words of James should rule: “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires” (James 1:19-20).

But, even beyond this, we owe it to ourselves and our readers to avoid the tendency to sample only that with which we already agree. In the forum cited, the only blogs that made the cut so far as recommended by readers were those from the left to the center-left of the ABC spectrum. While progressives often decry the intolerance of the right, at least most of those on the right try to read and consider both sides of the issue before expressing their opinions.

[His Barking Dog professes, along with Sgt. Schulz of "Hogan's Heroes" to "know nothing, nothing," especially about the formal authority structures of the PSW and other entities within this region. I speak only for myself]

World Council of Churches Concludes Its 9th Assembly On Note of Doing Less, But Doing It Well

Today saw the wrap up of the 9th Assembly of the World Council of Churches. Here are a couple of pieces taken directly from the Assembly web site.

The Assembly is over! Today, most of the 691 delegates from the WCC’s 348 member churches and other participants have already left Porto Alegre. With them, along with papers and multimedia files, they take memories of an intense period of encounter, prayer, and celebration - in morning and evening worship, 90 Bible study groups, and in the 200 workshops and other events making up the Assembly’s parallel mutirĂ£o. On another level, the in-depth work done by the Assembly on themes and issues, structures and relationships is likely to impact the WCC fellowship and the wider ecumenical movement for a long time to come.

The World Council of Churches Assembly programme guidelines committee has established four main areas of engagement for the life and work of the organization until the next Assembly: unity, spirituality and mission; ecumenical formation; global justice; and public voice and prophetic witness to the world. Delegates at the 9th Assembly in Porto Alegre, Brazil, affirmed these four areas on Thursday 23 Feb.

The central committee mantra of "Do less, do it well" noted earlier by the finance committee was echoed in the programme guidelines. "It is important for us to keep that in mind," Bishop Anders Wejryd, a delegate from the Church of Sweden, said during discussion of the recommendations. "We so easily wish for so much".

Specific actions named in the engagement areas include holding an international Ecumenical Peace Convocation to mark the conclusion of the Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV), undertaking an expanded follow-up of the AGAPE economic justice process, and addressing the "sharp ecclesiological questions" raised in the report of the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC.

The report challenges the WCC to be "a strong, credible ethical voice" in the world. It underlines the importance of communications to member churches and to the broader world, doing so "in a timely and imaginative way".


Cornerstone Network Group Getting Close to the Finish Line

What’s happening with the Cornerstone Church Network? Rumors have been flying. Frustrations at the silence have been voiced, and in some instances seemed nearly deafening. But where are we and what is coming?

First, the Lombard conferees commissioned Bill Nicoson to assemble a diverse group of leaders, dubbed “vision architects,” charged with working out the inchoate wishes of hundreds of evangelical Baptist leaders. A more ethnically, geographically, and gender diverse team one could hardly find. Hailing from every part of the ABC, representing most ethnic constituencies, and agreeing on the need to put actionable steps to the largely incomplete dreams expressed in Lombard, they have been hard at work.

Second, the effort has been much slower than anyone anticipated due to the complications of legalities, and the technicalities of birthing such an ambitious network. Bill freely admits that he should have communicated more and sooner. However, since so many of the details were in flux, he did not feel free to share much of anything for fear that rapid change would make it obsolete before it was even disseminated.

What should we expect to come out soon?

* Bill and the Vision Architects are putting dates on calendars for several gatherings around the country to discuss what the team has done pursuant to the charge they received at Lombard.

* The overarching structure being proposed will center around themes of being Relational, Missional, and Global.

* The intention is NOT to invent another top-down or bureaucratic organization. Rather, they are proposing a nimble and lithe network, very similar to the pattern of computer networks. In order to keep it non-institutional and avoid top-heavy patterns of “governance,” the Vision Architects plan to create avenues of involvement that depend upon person-to-person contacts and resourcing, rather than running everything through a centralized office or power center.

* The resulting network will stress high commitment on the part of congregations. They are proposing annual membership so that a measure of accountability attaches to fidelity to doctrinal commitments shared by ALL members of the network. Congregations will function either as “mentoring” churches helping others or as churches receiving mentoring from another congregation. In some cases, a fellowship may elect to stand in both relationships.

Yes, this gestation has taken a long time. But, like the development of a human child, the time cannot safely be shortened. We do stand on the precipice of an exciting time, brimming with possibilities and potential. Those who have been privileged to catch glimpses of the new reality, even now moving from dream state into focus, are excited. I heard of one African American pastor who had tears in his eyes when he beheld what was being proposed. “At last, this is what I’ve been looking for in the ABC all of these years,” he said.

[His Barking Dog sits on the hills outside Jerusalem, lamenting the destruction, and praying for God to bring a new day out of the dust. I am not to be confused with those who actually have authority to shape that future in the PSW or through the Vision Architects]

What Happens When Baptists Dress Up Like Bishops?

An Opinion Piece
By Dennis E. McFadden

Generally my posts migrate from His Barking Dog to various message boards. Today, however, a response to a pastor on a message board has become the substance of a posting here. The pastor was weighing in on the topic of role confusion among ABC judicatory officials. How, he pondered, could we have "judicatories" when our polity is not connectional nor authority-based? Here are some of my off-the-cuff thoughts on the subject . . .

In my work with (and observations of) the national and regional leadership over several decades, it has appeared that many of our "mid level judicatory" and "upper level judicatory" people, all the way up to the "General" himself, suffer from "purple envy." When they meet with their "peers" they tend to want to be one of the crowd. By the way, NEVER assume that a pastor is the peer of a denominational bureaucrat. After a couple of years in office, they begin to see each other and their corresponding members in other denominations as their true peerage. Compare Al Fletcher's strange change of heart from ABE board member to accepting the Cardinal Cajetan role at Augsburg as the one, along with Desmond Hoffmeister, designated to "deliver" VF's "message" to PSW to recant).

Hanging out with so many bishops and bishop wannabes, they begin to think that an episcopal purple insignia of authority is the appropriate color for their role. If you push them, they will tell you about the "unique unenforceables" of ABC life and about the supremacy of the congregation. But, in their day-to-day work with each other and with their "fellows" in other denominations, they are acculturated into an environment of hierarchicalism, top-down management, and the assumption that while all Baptists are equal, some Baptists are "more equal than others" (thanks Mr. Orwell).

The confusion of roles is endemic due to several factors:

* Baptists really ARE different in polity from most connectional denominations.

* We really don't know what to do with our differences in a world where books, seminars, management theory, etc. directed at "judicatory administration" assume a more connectional and centralized power structure.

* Human nature makes it very difficult to assume power without letting it go to your head. McFadden's Maxim: Where you stand has a lot to do with where you sit. Al Fletcher, for example, was a firebrand evangelical as a pastor. As an executive minister, however, he is a staunch defender of the national organization, the unofficial "voice" of the Parchment Valley accord, and the one sent by VF to plant a kiss on the cheek of Dale Salico in a meeting a few months back. The criticism by some of the lack of grass roots elements in the post-Lombard movement is predicated on this same kind of assessment (although I want to hang back and give Bill some time to define and defend himself before issuing judgments).

So, "confusion of roles" is exactly what we have and should expect to continue. Most mortals find it very difficult to be tasked with responsibilities while being denied the authority to go with the job. In some cases, it results in frustration and resignation. In other instances, the leader emulates the patterns common in organizations where responsibility comes with authority. Unfortunately for Baptists, this will inevitably lead to conflict and disputation.

In my opinion, the fight over homosexuality is partly due to genuine doctrinal differences over biblical authority. However, another aspect of the issue, often left undiscussed, traces to grassroots anger towards the inconstant imposition of ecclesiastical authority; sometimes on, sometimes off. Bemoaning the "unique unenforceables" of ABC life would not offend so greatly if it did not come from the same people acting quite bishop-like in conduct of their ministries in other areas.

[His Barking Dog does not even own anything colored purple, so don't confuse these musings with the official opinions of any entity in the PSW]

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Central Baptist Shrinks as Conservative Cross-Town School Flourishes

Factoid: Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, under the leadership of theo-left Dr. Molly T. Marshall, announced plans to move its campus to smaller quarters as a cost saving measure for the school serving a combined student body of 130 persons( http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/

Factoid: Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, under the leadership of staunch evangelical Dr. R. Philip Roberts, boasts a student body nearing 400 women and men.

Here is part of the account regarding Central Baptist, affiliated with both the ABCUSA and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship . . .

To save money, Central Baptist Theological Seminary plans to move — probably this summer — from the campus it has occupied since 1923 at 31st Street and Minnesota Avenue in Kansas City, Kan.

The seminary will relocate in smaller facilities somewhere in the metropolitan area, though an exact location has yet to be announced.

“We must put our resources into quality educational instruction rather than deferred maintenance,” said Molly T. Marshall, president of the 105-year-old American Baptist seminary. She called the current 90-acre campus “a draining burden for us.”

The seminary is facing nearly $5 million in deferred maintenance costs, she said. The move, she said, should save the seminary about $400,000 a year.

MBTS describes itself as "Biblical. Conservative. Evangelistic." Central boasts the writings of its controversial president, Dr. Marshall. In addition to her three books (No Salvation Outside the Church? A Critical Inquiry, What It Means to Be Human, and Joining the Dance: A Theology of the Spirit), the seminary promotes her dozens of chapters in books and articles, and her Biennial addrress from last summer in Denver. As one who sat through Dr. Marshall's sermon, I would not think that it would be a competitive advantage for anyone seeking an evangelical theological education or planning to serve in a church with orthodox convictions.

The declining fortunes of Central Baptist parallels trends among most mainline denominational schools. At the same time that ABC schools with moderate to theo-left reputations reveal desperate measures to stave off bankruptcy, evangelical institutions flourish. For example, Northern Seminary with its overtly evangelical identity, continues to cast an ambitious vision.

[His Barking Dog hails from the evangelical wing of the church but should not be confused with the official spokespersons in the PSW]

WCC Admits to Rapidly Declining Income; Pledges "Realistic" Budgets

The symbol of liberal ecumenicalism, the World Council of Churches, admits that it has suffered a 30% decrease in total income between 1999 and 2006 according to its finance committee and as reported in its official web site for its 9th Assembly (www.wcc-assembly.info). Like its American affiliate, the National Council of Churches, the WCC has been a frequent target for criticism by evangelicals and more orthodox Christians. Questions about the uniqueness of Jesus Christ in a pluralistic world, the popularity of Marxist versions of liberation theology, and a tendency to uphold radical political positions have accounted for much of the discomfort U.S. evangelicals have with the WCC.

With responsible and realistic budgets and a three-year action plan to be approved later this year, the WCC affirms its decision to focus on its unique role as a global fellowship of churches.

On 21 February, the 9th Assembly passed the report of its finance committee which, while acknowledging a 30% decrease in total income between 1999 and 2006, recommended that the council "continue to set realistic and responsible budgets". The framework budget for 2007 estimates available income at CHF 39 million.

The Assembly finance committee affirmed the central committee recommendation that the "WCC do less, and do it well," and encouraged it to "sharpen its focus and to communicate its unique role and responsibilities as a global fellowship of churches".

This will be spelled out first in a three-year plan (2007-2009) to be presented to the new central committee in September 2006. The plan will include the programme priorities identified by the Assembly as well as the associated staffing considerations. It will also include "responsible conclusion of certain project work in 2006", and "possible options for the transfer to and continuity of other programme projects within church and ecumenical networks".

The finance committee report revised the short-term membership income target, fixing it at CHF 7 million for the period 2007-2009, while retaining the previous CHF 10 million-target for the long term. Churches that fail to pay their membership fee should be "declared non-active after three consecutive years of non-payment," the report proposes to the central committee. "At the end of 2005, 75% of member churches contributed, compared with 55% in 1999," the report states.

The income development strategy will continue working on "maintaining relationships with the principal funding partners". On 2005, 65% of the WCC's total income consisted of contributions to programmatic work, 90% of which came from 20 funding partners. "Although a certain stability was achieved between 2003 and 2005, there is an anticipated decrease of 4% in programme contributions in 2006" and "a further reduction of 6%" in 2007, the report says.

The finance committee report acknowledged the development of "new work methods based on networking". It also affirmed the need to implement a "programme planning, monitoring, evaluation and reporting" process in a way that permeates the councils "working culture".

The finance committee expressed "profound gratitude" to member churches, specialized ministries, congregations and individuals whose contributions made WCC work possible.

The full text of the "Report from the Finance Committee" is available at:

Assembly website:http://www.wcc-assembly.info/index.php?id=454&L=1

WVBC "Working Group on Denominational Relationships" Aims to Describe, Not Prescribe

This month's report from the WVBC "Working Group on Denominational Relationships" not only updates the rest of us on the progress being made but offers its own scoop for some of us in non WV locales. While many of us were expecting a final recommendation from the commission, they profess that was never part of their charter. Instead, they only see their task as exploring and explaining denominational relationships so that congregations and decision makers will have all of the necessary information available to them. Interesting.

Report of the Working Group
February 10, 2006

The Working Group on Denominational Relationships continues to “find the facts” in an attempt to understand the relationships between churches, our region and the agencies and institutions of our denomination. Following an initial orientation in November, the group has met two additional times. Our continuing mission is “to pursue and report the facts and options concerning the West Virginia Baptist Convention’s future relationship with the ABC/USA for the purpose of making informed decisions.”

Members of the Working Group have been in contact with denominational, regional and church leaders across the nation. Group members have applied themselves to comprehending the intricate, organizational relationships between these and reporting to the Working Group their findings. Those group members again are:
• Jim Johnson
• Holley Faulkner
• Paul Ritchey
• Audy Perry
• Jean Cunningham
• Ed Rogers
• and Larry Willison, Marijane Kiley, Rich McClure and David Carrico.

The Working Group is meeting monthly. Their next meeting is March 10, 2006.

The Emmanuel Baptist church in Charleston has graciously provided space for the group to meet.

Regular updates will be made available through the West Virginia Baptist newsletter. The group will report to the Executive Committee on April 1, 2006. Following that report, we hope to promote a plan for sharing our findings with the larger group of West Virginia Baptists. We are well on our way to meeting the goal of having something to the larger group by the 2006 Annual Meeting.

Confusion still exists as to the purpose of the Working Group. Some are anticipating a recommendation from the group. That will not happen. It is imperative that we all understand the Working Group is not responsible for making any recommendations. The group exists for the purpose of helping all of us to understand how we are related. What each individual, each church, each association and each region does with the provided information will be determined by the action of those bodies. Our aim is to help each make informed decisions.

Submitted by
Richard McClure, Chair

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Art Jaggard's New Book Reveals a "Class Act"

Thanks to the gift of a new friend, I have just received a copy of Art Jaggard's latest book, The Future of Religious Organizations. A brief perusal of the volume leaves me wanting to begin reading in earnest NOW! Considering his current employment situation, one section near the end speaks with a deep irony and an evocative poignancy worthy of quoting:

I find myself most often hovering between Bargaining and Resignation. Still, I do see the light at the end of the tunnel. A new day is emerging. It is clear to me that the overwhelming majority in the Central Region want a Bible based sense of mission driven family. Jesus wants it too. The old structures will be replaced, but our sense of family will be stronger.

That having been said, we need to take care that we do not act out of our sense of grief, no matter what stage we are in. I am confronted with my own grief and I confess that there are times when I am captivated by it and not by the mission that Jesus Christ has called me to. The solution of course is the same for anything that misses the mark of Jesus Christ. As we repent from our grief Jesus helps us move on. He actually heals our hearts and we become instruments of His kingdom (p. 148).

Where can we find more leaders (or "middle judicatory staff member" as Dr. Jeff Woods calls him in his forward, xiv) like Art Jaggard? God bless you, Art!

Monday, February 20, 2006

US Reps to WCC Say Iraq War Was a Mistake and Apologize for Not Opposing It Prophetically

U.S. denominations in the WCC include the ABCUSA. At the 9th Assembly of the WCC, meeting in Brazil, Leonid Kishkovsky, moderator of the U.S. Conference, presented an apology for insufficiently prophetic efforts to oppose the war in Iraq which was "launched with deception" and which violates "global norms of justice and human rights."

Representatives of the US Conference for the World Council of Churches (WCC) addressed a message to the WCC's 9th Assembly on 18 February saying that the US-led Iraq war was a "mistake", and apologized to the ecumenical community for failing to raise a prophetic voice to prevent it.

The Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, moderator of the US Conference for the WCC, made up of 34 US churches that are members of the Council, told a 9th Assembly plenary, "We lament with special anguish the war in Iraq, launched with deception and violating global norms of justice and human rights."

Speaking at a press conference earlier, Kishkovsky said the delegation was making the statement to the ecumenical community to "show repentance and solidarity with those who suffered".

President of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the US, Rev. Michael Livingstone referred to solidarity shown with the US over the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001, saying, "In a number of ecumenical settings, we were deeply moved by post 9/11 visits, where we were offered sympathy over the tragic loss of life."

Nevertheless, the statement says, the US responded to the attacks "by seeking to reclaim a privileged and secure place in the world, raining down terror on the truly vulnerable among our global neighbours.

"Our leaders turned a deaf ear to the voices of church leaders throughout our nation and the world, entering into imperial projects that seek to dominate and control for the sake of our own national interests. Nations have been demonized and God has been enlisted in national agendas that are nothing short of idolatrous."

Presented in the form of a prayer of repentance, the message continues, "We confess that we have failed to raise a prophetic voice loud enough and persistent enough to call our nation to global responsibility for creation, that we ourselves are complicit in a culture of consumption that diminishes the earth. Christ, have mercy."

The statement says that while global warming goes on unchecked, the US refuses to acknowledge its responsibility and rejects multilateral agreements aimed at reversing disastrous trends.

It says, "Starvation, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the treatable diseases that go untreated indict us, revealing the grim features of global economic injustice we have too often failed to acknowledge or confront."

"Hurricane Katrina," it continues, "revealed to the world those left behind in our own nation by the rupture of our social contract. As a nation we have refused to confront the racism that infects our policies around the world."

Rev. Dr Sharon Watkins, president of the Christian Church Disciples of Christ, who supported the statement, said, "This letter is not an attempt to undermine American troops. They are brave men and women who are our sons and daughters and our neighbours. But here we gather with Christians around the world, and meet the parents of other sons and daughters."

Visibly moved, she said, "We come face to face with brothers and sisters who suffered because of choices our government made, and we are making the statement to acknowledge solidarity with the suffering."

The statement itself affirms, "We mourn all who have died or been injured in this war; we acknowledge with shame abuses carried out in our name."

Explaining the timing of the statement, Rev. John Thomas, president of United Church of Christ, said, "An emerging theme in conversation with our partners around the world is that the US is being perceived as a dangerous nation."

He said that the Assembly was "a unique opportunity to make this statement to all our colleagues" in the ecumenical movement. The statement says, "We come to you seeking to be partners in the search for unity and justice."

Thomas acknowledged that not all church members would agree with the thrust of the statement, but said it was their responsibility as leaders to "speak a prophetic and pastoral word as we believe God is offering it to us".

The US Conference for the World Council of Churches is composed of 34 US churches which belong to the WCC:

Assembly website:

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Ex-American Baptist Minister Turned Reformed Jewish Professor Writes Revisionist NT History

Veteran religion writer Richard Ostling offers an insight into the debate between evangelicals and liberals over the nature of the Gospel. His account about an American Baptist minister, Julie Galambush who converted to Reform Judaism, gives evidence of the way in which doubts about core Christian convictions can lead to repudiation of Christianity itself. Are articulate left-of-center American Baptists really all that different from intelligent proponents of non-Christian faiths, Reform Judaism for example?

As ex-Christian, Jewish author gives a rare look at faiths' split
The Lowell Sun, 2/18/06
AP Religion Writer

Julie Galambush brings a rare background to the often delicate topic of Jewish-Christian relations and her special interest in the first-century split between the two faiths.

She was an American Baptist Churches minister and teacher at the Lutherans' St. Olaf College in Minnesota. Now a convert to Reform Judaism who belongs to a temple in Falls Church, Va., she teaches Bible at the College of William and Mary.

Galambush, naturally, doesn't believe in Jesus' divinity. But her main emphasis is that Christians misunderstand what their scriptural writers originally meant to say about Jews.
She develops that case in The Reluctant Parting: How the New Testament's Jewish Writers Created a Christian Book (Harper San Francisco). Her book originated with experimental classes on the New Testament she led at a Maryland synagogue.

The New Testament is "one of the strangest Jewish books ever written," she writes, and one that "most Jews neither own nor read." Yet they should read it, she believes, because it's vital that Jews understand Christianity.

The nutshell paradox: The New Testament has many passages that are sharply critical of Jews, yet it was written mostly by Jews and largely for Jewish readers to teach about a Jewish messiah.

Galambush's theme is that modern Christians -- and most Christians across the centuries -- distort what the critical comments meant because they don't realize that the New Testament was recording an intense debate within the Jewish community.

The really hot dispute, she says, occurred between the two factions of Jews who followed Jesus. One insisted that all the commandments of the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament) applied to Gentiles who joined the Jesus movement. Others like Paul, and eventually Peter, said Gentile converts could ignore some of those requirements, especially circumcision.

The latter, "liberal" faction won out and its New Testament exponents were writing harsh attacks against fellow Jewish Christians "rather than Jews as a whole," Galambush says.


Saturday, February 18, 2006

Dr. Glenn Layne Weighs In On the Cornerstone Church Network

"Durable Data's" Dr. Glenn Layne has done it again: he pulls together the strands of our evangelical experience, the longing for a faithful church to provide a Baptist witness, and the frustrations with the length of time required by this quite untidy process. His post from today's blog is worthy of a wider circulation. "His Barking Dog" proudly stands in solidarity with Glenn's analysis, observations, and conclusions. Like the venerable blogger of "Durable Data," I want to give the Vision Architects enough time to get their behind-the-scenes work done appropriately. Then, when they unveil the work in a Lombard-like conference, we can all see their proposals and tweak them as the grassroots sees fit.

I was there at the conception of the organization to follow American Baptist Evangelicals. We gathered in Lombard, Illinois on the campus of Northern Seminary to discuss what needed to happen next. We saw the ABCUSA in tatters, with its theological soul sold out to a concept of "liberty" foreign to the faith of the New Testament.

And we were agreed that a new organization for Baptists coming out of the ABC needed to be created--a nimble, missional organization focused on (1) strengthening churches to do mission, (2) planting new churches to reach the lost millions of America, (3) supporting and sending missionaries to reach the lost billions of the world and living in accordance with (4) a robust, mature, enforceable, historic statement of faith.

Early on, I stressed the importance of a name that clearly communicated the nature of the new organization--that would come tripping off the lips with clarity.

The initial name that "the new organization" announced was quickly panned by friends and foes alike: "Cornerstone Network Group." Friends of the old ABE said it sounded like an insurance company; foes (for example, the reliably wrong Timothy Bonney) said it was a case of bait and switch.

[An aside on Bonney et al.: Have you noticed (I sound like Andy Rooney, the last unbearable five of 60 Minutes) that liberal churches love the names of their denominations? There is a reason for that. See my post on What Happens When the Bible Shrinks? When Scripture takes the backseat, one thing that rushes in to take the role of authority is "our tradition" (be it Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc.) That's why theo-left churches would just about rather be caught dead than to have a name like Centerpoint Church (the new name of FBC Colton, CA).]

Cornerstone Network Group quickly regrouped (pun intended) as Cornerstone Church Network. It still lacks the B word, as I quipped to Bill Nicoson. I suspect that if that remains unchanged some churches will actually supply the word: "First Baptist Church of Podunk is affiliated with Cornerstone (Baptist) Church Network."

I am all for giving the "Vision Architects" the space needed to expound their vision. I urge ABE/CCN to get their website up and running (and it needs to have the forum capacity that the old ABE website had) and to have another national gathering along the lines of last September's Lombard meeting to receive feedback from the same ad hoc body which commissioned the New Movement. I urge my fellow revolutionaries both to be patient and bold in this crucial moment in time.

"Lord, bless our broken desires to be faithful to Your call to serve as laid forth in Your Word. We long to see the influence of the Lord Jesus expand in our midst and in our world. Go before us and grant us wisdom; in the authority of the Son of God, we pray, Amen."

[While His Barking Dog generally barks in harmony with Dr. Layne, neither of us speaks for any official entity in the PSW . . . or even for each other for that matter]

Friday, February 17, 2006

Going, Going, Gone . . . the Disappearing ABC Sunday School

What has become of the Sunday School/Church School in the ABCUSA? The graph in this blog comes from official ABC sources. Changing cultural patterns, differences in how "church" is done in this decade, a shift to small groups, and many other explanations might be offered to explain the drop in enrollment. But, considering how much smaller average attendance would be than a more static "enrollment" metric, can we begin to say that the church school is now on life support and in danger of expiring?

Conservatives will quickly reply that the losses in numbers within the ABCUSA may be attributed to doctrinal laxity and organizational identity confusion. Does anyone have more illuminating statistics to help analyze this trend?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Mainline Morass Viewed Through ABC Lenses

The reasons why Americans have been migrating away from the seven denominations popularly known as "mainline," including the ABCUSA are articulated clearly in Exodus: Why Americans Are Fleeing Liberal Churches for Conservative Christianity by Dave Shiflett Sentinel HC, 224 pp., $23.95. Using a breezy interview style, Shiflett patches together spiritual journeys of several people to make his case for why the mainline has rapidly become a sideline in American Christianity.

As reviewer Mark Tooley describes it: "Shiflett anecdotally relates how liberal Protestantism, once America's dominant religious force, is exhausted, spiritually, politically, and demographically. The pilgrims he traces--Weekly Standard writer and senior editor Andrew Ferguson, writer Frederica Matthewes-Green, conservative publisher Al Regnery, Southern Baptist leaders Albert Mohler and Richard Land, former Nixon aide Charles Colson, and an evangelical preacher who was present at the Columbine shootings, respectively found peace in Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Baptist conservativism, and evangelicalism."

A more graphic way of viewing the trend would be to examine the actual "resident membership" reported by Valley Forge (NOT the inflated total membership number often used as a metric for assessing the size of the denomination). The graph presented at the top of this blog, along with its distressingly downward trend, was designed, scaled, and published by the ABCUSA. It reveals the clear decline about which conservatives have been claiming comes as a direct consequence of doctrinal confusion and moral latitudinarianism in the ABCUSA.

Today one of my friends on the left (we might call him "Rev. Dr. Ethically Sensitive") helped me comprehend what motivates Valley Forge types to cling so tenaciously to their party line despite empirical evidence that it has been killing the denomination. He observed that an unusually large number of ABC national leaders are either southern expatriates or persons who had their formative spiritual experiences in the cauldron of the civil rights struggle. That certainly applies to key figures such as Dr. Roy Medley, Rev. Cheryl Wade, and Dr. Aidsand Wright-Riggins III.

For Dr. Ethically Sensitive and many of the other "expats" from the south, the national ABC structure has accomplished something of genuine significance. In a world of ethnic polarization, the ABCUSA has been able to bring peoples of all ethnicities to the table where they have both a voice and a vote. Accomplishing this enormous feat came at the price of structural artifices such as quotas, strict rotations, and procedural rules insuring that diversity would be honored and observed. Dr. Ethically Sensitive fears that the dismantling of the ABCUSA, whether through spinning off disgruntled regions or adopting a type of the Michigan regional board suggestion of returning to a pre-1907 structure, would destroy this fragile flower of ethnic diversity.

What many of those who lived under the oppression of Jim Crow laws in the south (or who came up through the ranks of the "movement" in the 1960s) seek is a meaningful model of racial reconciliation among all of God's children. All of the Rube Goldberg SOPs, standing rules, and quotas in the ABCUSA were designed to produce an environment where such reconciliation might take place.

Ironically, while large numbers of the "progressive" congregations in the east show meager single digit non-white memberships (one vocal leader of the cause in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has only 3% non-white membership) many of the PSW congregations are quite ethnically diverse. The church I belong to, for example, boasts 28 ethnic groups and only 20% white membership. Our boards also reflect this diversity with only 2 whites on the ruling board. In the PSW, ethnic diversity is accomplished by organic rather than organizational techniques.

Nevertheless, Dr. Ethically Sensitive's comments were an epiphany for me. Most evangelicals -- this one included -- probably do not give adequate attention to the reasons why the left clings so stubbornly to their positions, even in the face of declining membership. Before now some of us have even proffered the suggestion of a "remnant" mentality as a partial explanation. Trying to comprehend the situation from the perspective of deep formative experiences in the south helps enlighten an otherwise inscrutable conundrum. It also demonstrates why some of our national leaders refuse to yield, even as the threat of schism becomes increasingly likely. They simply do not believe that they can surrender ground at this point; their entire adult lives have been committed to a social experiment (e.g., becoming the "most ethnically diverse mainline denomination"). They see the maintenance of the ABCUSA as it is as critical to engineering an environment where racial reconciliation can be modeled and lived out in some way.

Sadly, while Dr. Ethically Sensitive's observations carry the ring of truth as an explanation, they offer no optimism for resolving our conflicts amicably. We evangelicals are similarly incapable of yielding ground on biblical authority for reasons at least equally fervently felt. While the baggage of the left may help us understand their lemming-like organizational behavior, it does not explain their relative indifference to issues of biblical authority and personal sin. Nor does it provide us with a roadmap for moving toward any kind of rapprochement. As Shiflett has observed, the exodus from mainline denominations appears unstoppable.

Dennis E. McFadden

[His Barking Dog speaks only for your humble blogger; not for the PSW, any other entity within its boundaries, or even for my good friend, Dr. Ethically Sensitive]

Salico Tackles Question of Possible Ethical Violation in Withdrawing from the ABCUSA

The FAQs of The Association of American Baptists in the Pacific Southwest raised the question as to whether ABC ministers joining in a regional withdrawal from the ABCUSA would be in violation of the Ministerial Code of Ethics. The FAQs of the Association clearly state that "candidates for ordination in ABCPSW are still being asked to affirm the Code of Ethics even though the region board is encouraging ministers to break it." Today's periodic FAQ from the Covina office, written by Dr. Dale Salico, Executive Minister of the ABCPSW, attempts to address this allegation.

Questions & Answers About ABCPSW and ABCUSA, #10

Dale V. Salico

Question: If the ABCPSW withdraws from the Covenant of Relationships of the ABCUSA, will its pastors be in violation of The Covenant and the Code of Ethics for Professional Church Leaders of The American Baptist Churches in the U.S. A.?

For many years the ABCPSW has required pastors to sign the Covenant and the Code of Ethics for Professional Church Leaders of The American Baptist Churches in the U.S. A. as a requirement for recognized ordination in our Region. Why? Because the ABCPSW has taken its commitment to the Covenant of Relationships seriously. As long as we remain in covenant, we will faithfully carry out the requirements of the Covenant.

The portion of the Code of Ethics that is in question states:

I Will ... hold in trust the traditions and practices of our American Baptist Churches; I will not accept a position in the American Baptist family unless I am in accord with those traditions and practices; nor will I use my influence to alienate my congregational/constituents or any part thereof from its relationship and support of the denomination. If my convictions change, I will resign my position.

Those who allege that the withdrawal by a Region from the Covenant of Relationships places pastors in the position of violating the Code of Ethics are confusing two very different documents written with different intentions. The Code of Ethics speaks of a pastor’s responsibilities as a leader in a church that, through its Region, is a member of the ABCUSA. It is saying that in becoming a pastor of an American Baptist Church one must not intend to use one’s influence to alienate the church or cause it to withdraw from the denomination. The Code of Ethics is also saying that if the pastor’s convictions change, so that he or she can no longer in good conscience cooperate with the ABC, the pastor should resign rather than try to convince the church to leave the denomination.

The situation in the ABCPSW is NOT addressed in the Code of Ethics. It is addressed by a document entitled, The Covenant of Relationships and Agreements Among the General, National, and Regional Boards of the American Baptist Churches, published in 1984. Article VI, entitled, The Process for Withdrawing from the Covenant states:

Any covenanting party, at a scheduled or duly called board meeting, may withdraw from the corporation and its board from its covenantal relationship with the other parties of the Covenant, as of the time of the next ABC Biennial meeting.

The decision to withdraw from the Covenant shall be communicated to the General Board, with a request that the General Board notify all covenanting parties.

Note that the Covenant of Relationships does not state or imply that withdrawal by a Region would be a violation of the Ministers’ Code of Ethics. If Regions are free at any time to withdraw from the Covenant of Relationships, it follows that the churches of that Region are also free to withdraw from the ABCUSA. The Region, it must be remembered, is a mission agency created by its churches.

The Board of Directors of the ABCPSW decided that while they have authority to withdraw from the Covenant of Relationships, they would not exercise it without a clear expression by delegates elected by the churches that withdrawal is indeed the desire of the churches. The fact that each church is entitled to at least five delegates plus its pastor, means that the vote will be an expression of the churches, not just pastors. Therefore, if the Region withdraws from the covenant of Relationships it will be because the churches of the Region have called on the Board of Directors to do so.

If the ABCPSW withdraws from the Covenant of Relationships, each congregation will need to make a decision about its continued membership in the ABCPSW. Here the question must be asked, Is it possible for a congregation to decide to withdraw from membership in the ABCUSA without undue or unethical influence by the pastor to do so? Obviously the answer is yes. Lay church leadership is capable of such action. Therefore, the fact that a church withdraws from the ABCUSA does not indicate that the pastor violated his or her commitment not to “use [his/her] influence to alienate [his/her] congregational/constituents or any part thereof from its relationship and support of the denomination.” Whether the pastor stepped over that line would need to be determined on a case-by-case basis. Studying, discussing the issues, and seeking God’s guidance together as pastor and people does not constitute undue influence.

The Region Board, by unanimous vote, using secret ballot on December 8, 2005, recommended withdrawal from the Covenant of Relationships. The Board is asking pastors and church leaders to study this recommendation, study the Word of God with members and leaders, and pray for God’s guidance regarding how the Lord would have them vote on this important issue. Churches, following their own bylaws should then instruct their delegates to represent the discernment of each church.

If the ABCPSW withdraws from the Covenant of Relationships it will not be because a local pastor used his or her influence to alienate the congregation. It will be because the delegates from the churches affirmed the recommendation of the Region Board. The process in which we are engaged between now and April 29 is designed to include as many people in our churches as possible, as together we discern what the Lord of the Church is saying to us. On April 29, the vote of the delegates will either confirm or correct the discernment of the Region Board of Directors.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

L.A. Executive Minister Agrees to Do Heavy Lifting for General Secretary Medley

Dr. Samuel S. Chetti, Executive Minister of the ABCLA, announced his intention to provide administrative oversight to non-withdrawing ABCPSW congregations in response to a direct request by ABC General Secretary Roy Medley. In a letter, dated February 7, 2006, Chetti informed his congregations of a decision by the regional board in January to offer support in the event that ABCPSW withdraws from the Covenant of Relationships.

In a letter addressed to colleagues “in ministry,” Chetti explained:

Since churches are connected to ABC-USA through a regional body, Rev. Medley requested that LABCMS provide administrative connection. On January 14, 2006, our Board of Directors met in response to Rev. Medley’s invitation to consider options of assistance. It is our desire to help our American Baptist brothers and sisters during this time of transition. Enclosed you will find the decision of the Board of Directors of Los Angeles Baptist City Mission Society to the General Secretary’s request that we provide assistance of administrative connection to the newly formed association of American Baptists in the Pacific Southwest area.

While Chetti allowed that the action by his board came in response to a direct appeal by the ABC General Secretary, he clarified that “this administrative connection does not mean we accept the new churches into our convention. They exist as an autonomous ecclesial body, self-sufficient unto themselves. Where there is ministry advice and oversight by LABCMS staff, our expenses will be reimbursed by the new organization. This relationship will cease once the new association becomes a regional body.”

Clearly, several important points surface in Chetti’s communication:

1. Despite reports that he did not want to provide oversight responsibilities for the non-withdrawing PSW congregations, Chetti was willing to respond to the personal request by Dr. A. Roy Medley.

2. Any expenses incurred by the administrative relationship will be reimbursed by the new organization.

3. No one anticipates the arrangement becoming permanent. Indeed, the letter from Chetti specifically indicates that the oversight will cease “once the new association becomes a regional body.” On this last point, Dr. Jeff Woods had already broached the possibility of a new regional body to replace the PSW during the recent round of informational meetings held in San Diego, Redlands, Pasadena, and Los Angeles. In the Redlands meeting, Woods addressed the issue of churches becoming an informal association prior to solidifying as a formal region in covenant with the ABCUSA. If memory serves me, he spoke in terms of the process taking a couple of years.

General Secretary Medley’s response to the possible PSW withdrawal shows prudential concern for caring for members of the ABC family who might be disenfranchised by a PSW vote to separate from the national body. However, readers should remember that Dr. Dale Salico repeatedly proposed accommodations that would have allowed PSW to continue relating to the ABCUSA. The precipitator for the breach was not personal animus, stubbornness on the part of Salico, or impossibly high thresholds for continued participation. Dr. Medley informed the region that none of the proposed accommodating measures were acceptable and that the issue was a “take it or leave it” one.

In the final analysis, American Baptists are asked to accept rejection of biblical authority, endorsement of (or passive acquiescence to) violations of biblical morality, and theological latitudinarianism masquerading as “radical discipleship.” Representatives of the left parade antinomian notions of “soul liberty” as if Scripture and more than two thousand years of church teaching should be simply swept aside in favor of the social and theological fads de jour.

[His Barking Dog has never been asked to exercise administrative responsibility over any group of ABC churches, withdrawing congregations, or entities within the PSW. This dog barks solo]

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Roger Williams' Fellowship Bonney Muses on ABE Naming Confusion and Perceived Deception

Rev. Timothy Bonney, a leader within the Roger Williams Fellowship, signatory to the pro-evolutionary "Clergy Letter Project," former General Board member in the ABCUSA, and pastor of the Des Moines FBC, takes aim again at the post-Lombard American Baptist Evangelicals. In this recent post on his blog, FreeBaptist.org (http://tbonney.squarespace.com/home/), Bonney muses on the ethics of descriptive names vs. what he sees as deceptive ones.

Several days ago I reported that the American Baptist Evangelicals were renaming their organization "Cornerstone Network Group." I noted that nothing in the new name sounded like a church organization. I also pointed out that rank and file members of the ABE didn't like the new name and, apparently, were not consulted before the new name went public.

Now the ABE vision architects have decided to modify the name to "Cornerstone Church Network." Hopefully, they consulted with members of the ABE in this new choice.

As I commented in my previous article, both the ABE and American Baptist Churches of the West have chosen more generic names rather than denominationally specific names. Neither "Cornerstone Church Network" or "Growing Healthy Churches" sounds like a denomination or a group of churches with a denominational identity. There is no reference to the fact that both of these groups are, at least at this time, made up of Baptist churches.

Dr. Paul Borden says of the name change in his region "Today local congregations in all denominations are changing their names and in the process removing or downplaying their old labels. They want names that matter to both those within and those outside the congregation. They want names that reflect their mission and vision and that communicate meaning to the people God has called them to reach." (see his entire article at

Dr. Borden's argument is that the new name change makes the church or organization more relevant reflecting their mission and vision and downplays "old labels." All this is done because Borden believes that we are in a Post-denominational age.

The argument is that since denominational labels don't attract people to our churches, lets remove our denominational connection from the name of our church, region, and organization. But, when you join that church you find out, eventually, that you have joined a Baptist church with Baptist beliefs, Baptist organizational styles etc.

Several questions come to my mind in this current trend of church growth methodology:

1. Is it really honest and healthy to cover up your church historical denominational identity to attract those who are uncomfortable with the label "Baptist" or is it a form of deceptive advertising?

2. Do generic names such as CCN or GHC really say who and what the organization is and what it is about? What information does the non-Christian really get from those names that helps them want to be a part of a church related to one of these organizations? Or, do these names actually purposefully obscure who or what an organization is by downplaying its roots and connections?

3. Does such generic names really help the organization to attract people? Is it really a good marketing tool for a church organization to choose a non-descript name?

Dr. Walter Shurden, a Professor at Mercer University, says of the trend of church and organizations to choose generic names in his article "The Denominational Traditions and Post-Denominationalism."

"I have heard it said that one cannot grow a church any longer with a denominational adjective fixed to the church sign. It is much better, so the argument goes, to drop the denominational label and go generic. Even if that judgment contains an element of truth in terms of the "evangelistic outreach" of the churches, is there integrity there? If you switch the denominational sign to a generic one but retain the theological, ecclesiological, and ethical distinctives of what goes on inside the house, are you not just a bit guilty of what the federal government has designated as the "truth-in-packaging" law? If the "truth-in-packaging" law applies to a can of soup or a box of breakfast cereal, does it not apply to religious faith? Does not what is on the outside of the package have to conform to what is on the inside? Isn't there genuine integrity in the sign that reads "Calvary Baptist" and underneath in smaller letters: "Indepent, pre-millennial, Bible-believing, and Blood-bought. "Now that's clarity! I know what that church stands for! I also can determine if I want to stand with them!"(See

Dr. Shurden makes the important point that to be Baptist, have Baptist theology, Baptist polity but obscure that fact in advertising, naming, and outreach can bdeceptionf desception. It can be a form of "bait and switch" tactic in which the integrity of the organization is brought into question.

The other argument that is used to encourage church organizations to use generic naming is that it is what will attract people to our churches. If denominational labels chase people away, the argument goes, choosing a non-denominationallabeleneric lable that doesn't offend anyone will be more attractive to outsiders.

While this sounds on the surface like marketinge marketting savvy behind it, current marking gurus actually disagree. According to marketing and branding strategy that is now being promoted to some of the largest companies, it is very important to create solid brand identification in order for a company to attract new customers. According to professional marketer Mike Wagner of the White Rabbit Group in his article "
Be Different, Be Inviting, or be Gone!", you have to build brand identification in order to attract. People have to recognize your label and know just what it stands for.

Wagner went so far, in a presentation to the Johnston, Iowa Chamber of Commerce, as to say that you have to be so distinctively different that people have an opportunity to love your or hate you but, if you choose the middle ground where no one is offended then you are dead as a company because you will not be remembered or recognized.

Wagner pointed out the success of Starbucks and Apple Computing. He contended that people really love or really dislike Starbucks and Apple Co. They attract because they have chosen to be really and truly different in a market where of sameness is the rule. They do not try to attract everyone. But, they strongly attract those persons who share their same values.

"American Baptist Evangelicals" was a name that told people exactly who they were dealing with. It was a brand name that recidentifiedd idenitfied who and what the ABE stood for. "Cornerstone Church Network" does not seem to to give the same clarity of purpose or mission. What is there to attract persons with the same values? What are those values?

It seems ironic to me that an organization that has spent the last decade trying to push the ABC/USA to take specific stands on issues of theological controversy, to force churches out who disagree, and for the ABC to be more creedal in its doctrinal views has now chosen to be less specific and less identifiable in the name of its own organization.

The American Baptist Churches, USA stands for the Biblical principles of soul freedom, local autonomy, priesthood of believers, and unity in diversity. What does the Cornerstone Church Network now stand for? I guess we will all have to wait and see. Right now it is hard to tell.

Friday, February 10, 2006

February 12 - Darwin Day - What is the Connection to Beliefs About Homosexuality?

American Baptist blogger, "Rev Dr. Ron" referenced the upcoming Darwin Day (February 12) for those wishing to celebrate the birthday of the famed evolutionist(http://revdrron.blogspot.com/).

Ron opines: "Imagine, a church celebrating a philosophy that contradicts everything Christianity is founded upon. To think that folks would go to church, sing hymns, pray and then hear a message essentially telling them that they were not created by God; instead they were randomly formed when some cosmic dust burst together. Then they hear that life just sort of happens, there's no purpose, it's all random!"

In connection with Darwin, the following "Clergy Letter Project" by the same sponsor as the one promoting "Evolution Sunday," has attracted more than 10,000 clergy signatories (although "Evolution Sunday" only has 441 names so far )(http://www.uwosh.edu/colleges/cols/rel_evol_sun.htm). A number of the 10,000 names for the original "Clergy Letter Project" come from the pens of notable American Baptists or those related to them. One of the persons listed in the roster is The Rev. Dr. Patricia S. Medley, of Freehold, NJ, an Evangelical Lutheran Church minister married to our own Dr. Roy Medley. Notice the wording of the letter.

We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris. We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.

Interestingly enough, the ABC luminaries registering support for the statement included current and former missionaries (e.g., Norman B. Abell), seminary professors (e.g., Matthew C. Baldwin, Sharon P. Burch, Kenneth Cauthen, Ralph H. Elliott, Debra J. Mumford, Tarris D. Rosell, Archie Smith, Jr., and Emilie M. Townes), executive ministers (e.g., Larry L. Greenfield, Marcia J. Patton, Robert W. Williams, W. Kenneth Williams, and Wm. D. Scott), Valley Forge types (e.g., Norman M. Green, Jr. and Duncan McIntosh), and members of the General Board (e.g., Timothy D. Bonney and Heather Rittenhouse). Roger Williams Fellowship leader, Jerrod H. Hugenot, and retired institutional leader Richard E. Ice also appear in the larger list.

However, it is especially fascinating, given the contention conservatives make that the debate over homosexuality in the ABC is not about sex but about biblical authority, to see how many AWAB churches are represented among the signatories. Evidently a decision to read the Bible in an evolutionary manner comports well with revisionistic approaches to biblical teaching in other areas such as human sexuality. Of all of the American Baptists who signed the "Clergy Letter Project," a surprisingly high percentage came from the ranks of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists. The following is an incompete culling of AWAB names from the master list of supporters for the "Clergy Letter Project."

The Rev. Deborah Bennett Reynolds, Lake Avenue Baptist Church, Rochester, NY

The Rev. Dr. Larry Bethune, Senior Pastor, University Baptist Church (ABCUSA), Austin, TX

The Rev. Craig A. Collemer, The Frist Baptist Church in Beverly, MA, Beverly, MA

The Rev. Scott W. Cousineau, Minister of Education and Youth, First Baptist Church, Worcester, MA

The Rev. Deborah Davis-Johnson, Immanuel Baptist Church an American Baptist congregation, Portland, ME

Pastor Brian Dixon, Dolores Street Baptist Church, San Francisco, CA

The Rev. Wendy D. Fambro, American Baptist Minister, Ithaca, NY

Catherine Fransson, Pastor, Seattle First Baptist Church, Seattle, WA

The Rev. Dr. Paul C. Hayes, Noank Baptist Church, Noank, CT

The Rev. H. James Hopkins, Pastor, Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church, Oakland, CA

The Rev. Barbara Hulsing, Pastor, Good Shepherd Baptist Church, Buffalo, NY

Dr. Stephen D. Jones, Coordinating Pastor, Seattle First Baptist Church, Seattle, WA

The Rev. Jim Ketcham, Lake Avenue Baptist Church, An American Bapstist Congregation, Rochester, NY

The Rev. Thomas R. McKibbens, Senior Minister, First Baptist Church, Worcester, MA

The Rev. Randle R. (Rick) Mixon, Ph.D.Interim Pastor, First Baptist Church, Granville, OH

The Rev. Richard Moore, Minister to Youth, University Baptist Church, Austin, TX

The Rev. Karen O'Connell, Minister, Judson Memorial Baptist Church, Minneapolis, MN

The Rev. Kenneth L. Pennings, First Baptist Church, Madison, WI

The Rev. Larry Phillips, Emmanuel Baptist-Friedens United Church of Christ, Schenectady, NY

The Rev. Timothy Phillips, Pastor, University Baptist Church, Seattle, WA

Marcus C. Pomeroy, Pastor, Central Baptist Church, Wayne, PA

The Rev. Heather Rittenhouse, First Baptist Church, Granville, OH

The Rev. Michael Roberts, Lake Avenue Baptist Church, Rochester, NY

Kevin D. Rose, Minister of Discipleship & Mission, Cumberland First Baptist Church, Indianapolis, IN

The Rev. Jeremy Rutledge, Covenant Church (affiliated with the Alliance of Baptists and the American Baptist Church), Houston, TX

The Rev. M. Catherine Tamsberg, Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, Raleigh, NC

The Rev. Allison J. Tanner, Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church, Oakland, CA

Susan Vanderburgh, MFT & Pastoral Counselor, American Baptist (member of First Baptist Church of Berkeley, CA), Berkeley, CA

The Rev. Jamie P. Washam, Pastor, Underwood Memorial Baptist Church, Wauwatosa, WI

The Rev. Lawrence E. Witmer, Lake Avenue Baptist Church, Rochester, NY

Durable Data's Dr. Glenn Layne blogged on the subject "What Happens When the Bible Shrinks?" earlier this week (http://www.durabledata.blogspot.com/). Readers of His Barking Dog would do well to consider his cautionary warnings. ABC debates over homosexuality are seldom about that subject alone or even principally. Rather, they are part of a more systemic tendency to read the Bible revisionistically. The old fashioned word for this hermeneutical project is unbelief.

[These views are those of the blogger alone and do not represent any other entity within the PSW]