Saturday, February 04, 2006
Analysis of Fledgling ABE Post-Lombard Movement Challenges "Grass Roots" Claim
Timothy D. Bonney, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Des Moines, has been quoted in His Barking Dog on several previous occasions. While I was away on my Israel trip he offered up some commentary on the state of the post-Lombard evangelical movement within the ABC in his blog.
Tim writes from a left-of-center perspective (he is, after all, a notable member of the Roger Williams Fellowship). However, I have always found him to be honest and astute in his observations. Bill Nicoson and the vision architect committee should take heed to these kinds of observations and communicate fast and furiously with their constituency NOW. Only then will Nicoson be able to avert at least the appearance problem Bonney and others have been identifying based on the relative silence of the vision architects. It does not help that the new post-ABE website has been delayed due to various difficulties.
The following commentary comes directly and without editing, from Rev. Bonney's blog, http://tbonney.squarespace.com/home/.
This week I learned that the vision architect committee of the American Baptist Evangelicals have chosen a new name for the organization. The new name has been announced to be "Cornerstone Network Group."
It has been the intention for several months for the ABE to work towards leaving American Baptist life. In doing so, they needed a new name for their movement which did not include "American Baptist." But, to my great surprised, it also doesn't include words like "Baptist", "Church" or even "ministry" or "mission", etc.
This new name seems to follow in the footsteps of ABC of the West renaming itself "Growing Healthy Churches." You will note that neither name contains any reference to being Baptist though at least GHC actually includes "churches."
What are we to make of both groups dropping the "Baptist" from their name? What are we to make of "Cornerstone Network Group" sounding nothing like a Christian organization?
I think we have to surmise that neither the former ABCW or ABE want to publically identify themselves as Baptists. This is a startling turn of events since as long as I have been an American Baptisst the ABE has been trying to tell American Baptists how we ought to be Baptists, what they believe it means to be Baptist, and that we should adopt a Baptist Creed to be pure Baptists. Now, their leadership wants to cease to identify as Baptists at all. This brings into question if they were ever really that committed to American Baptist faith and practice in the first place.
And, why pick a name that sounds less like a church group than a computer company? (By the way there is or was a Canadian computer firm called "Cornerstone Network Group." Do a google search if you don't believe me.) Right now it seems to be the "in" thing to do. But, is this any way to define a Chrisitian organization by using a name that purposefully fails to describe who or what it is?
Another turn of events in this story is that it appears that the creators of the new name did not share the new name with grassroots members of the ABE before publishing it, deciding to open a new web page, and even killing the ABE online forum. In other words, this was a top down decision in which ABE's own members had no choice. Many of those members seem to be at least disappointed and, in some cases, hopping mad.
ABE always claimed to be a grassroots organization speaking for conservative American Baptists. But, again, we find that not only isn't the ABE leadership committed to being Baptist, they are also not really committed to being a grassroots organization either. Such top down leadership and control does not bode well for the future of an organization that will seek to recruit autonomous congregations to its fold.