Thursday, February 09, 2006

Knocking Down a Rumor About PSW Motives for Withdrawing

Earlier this week Dr. Glenn Layne blogged, identifying a recent speculation making the rounds regarding the motivations for PSW's proposed withdrawal from the ABCUSA. Glenn writes, "I heard some discussion that there is a (FALSE, FALSE, FALSE!) rumor floating around that the PSW separation is 'all about a personal dispute between Dale Salico and Aidsand Wright-Riggins.' This rumor seems to be in circulation due to whispers circulated by the national leadership of the ABC Black Caucus." Obviously Glenn disbelieves the rumor, and so do I.

In the interests of full disclosure, let me state that I have known Aidsand Wright-Riggins for almost 35 years since the days when he served my home church, the First Baptist Church of Ontario (CA). Ace has been a friend for all that time and a trusted advisor (although we frequently disagree). During his Ontario days he even made pastoral calls on my folks. Similarly, Dale Salico has been a friend now for more than eight years, during his service as Executive Minister of the PSW.

Where would a story of personal animus come from and why would anyone be inclined to believe it?

During the administration previous to Dr. Salico, relationships with National Ministry were often strained. Dr. John Jackson had ideological difficulties with a number of initiatives of NM. Indeed, if someone had spoken of a possible personal animosity between Aidsand and a PSW executive, Jackson would have been a more likely suspect.

It was in the summer of 1991 that Aidsand exploded in anger and cussed out the Ministers Council Senate meeting at Green Lake. Reacting to a perceived instance of systemic racism, he dressed down the ministers in very harsh terms. The repercussions of that outburst resounded loudly in the PSW at the time. Perhaps due in part to this event, but more probably to general ideological disagreeemtns with Wright-Riggins, Jackson was unwilling to invite Aidsand to many (if any) events in the PSW. This created a situation of further distance between the region and the home mission arm of the denomination.

When Dr. Salico assumed his role as Executive Minister, he generally continued many of the initiatives and patterns of Jackson. I cannot remember many times when Aidsand was invited to offer ministry within the PSW at large. He did, however, make trips to California, his "home" region were he was raised and educated, without participating in much that was regionally sponsored.

To my knowledge, the working relationship between Salico and Wright-Riggins was polite and never sunk to the level of animosity. The only incident known to me which might help explain the rumor grows out of a visit by Wright-Riggins and some of his NM team with the PSW staff about two years (?) ago. In that set of meetings one of Salico's Church Resource Ministers (aka "Area Ministers" in some other regions) asked a particularly pointed question of Wright-Riggins. Reportedly, Ace reacted angrily saying that if the person were a member of his staff he would slap him. While the meetings did not accomplish a great deal, neither were they characterized as a failure by the participants.

Both Dr. Wright-Riggins and Dr. Salico are personally known to me. It is exceedingly difficult to believe that either of them would be so petty as to engage in recriminations affecting relationships between the region and NM. Dale has a legendary long fuse and a settled practice of patience under the most provocative of circumstances. And, I have personally heard him speak well of Dr. Wright-Riggins in private conversations.

Sometimes the most truthful answer is the one given publicly. PSW's proposed decision to separate from the ABCUSA would seem to be unrelated to relations between Salico and Wright-Riggins. If anything, it owes more to Dr. Medley's argument that one cannot depart from the Budget Covenant without a corresponding withdrawal from the Covenant of Relationships.

Imputing either personal animosity or racial animus as the motive force for the PSW moves does not honor the character and integrity of either Salico or Wright-Riggins.

[Despite that both men are counted as friends of mine, the observations found here are my own alone and would probably be disputed by each of them. Nevertheless, they represent my honest belief as to the nature of the relationship.]

1 comment:

Alex F. Chisholm said...

Dennis, I appreciated your comments. I was unaware of the history of Dr. Higgins.
We missed you at last week's ordination council. You missed something that was pretty interesting. One of us asked John Hopkins if many black churches would attend the April 29 meeting. He said the vast majority of black pastors would not waste their time. We asked why the indiffernce. He was the one who said that it it the opinion of most black pastors that this whole ABSUSA pullout is due to conflicts between Dr. Salico and Dr. Higgins. In the pastors' minds,as far as I could tell, the withdrawl is pretty much a white/anglod issue, of which they have not interest. And the few strong black pastors that due care about it,are evenly divided ... He ( John Hopkins) will vote to withdraw and Dr. Covington is going to vote to stay in.

Thought you might want to know. Alex