Sunday, April 30, 2006

Day After Analysis of the PSW Vote and Its Implications

After Action Analysis
By Dennis E. McFadden

Both Valley Forge and Covina put on a full court press to "get out the vote" for yesterday’s referendum on withdrawal from the ABCUSA. Dale Salico scheduled meetings in nearly a dozen geographical locations in the region. VF sent several letters (of both the "good cop" and the "bad cop" variety) and applied significant pressure to ethnic pastors. Additionally, Dr. Bob Roberts came to the PSW and spoke in a number of venues, including a full debate with the PSW executive minister, Dale Salico. Therefore, virtually the ONLY churches sitting out the vote were those so disconnected from PSW AND ABCUSA as to provide neither financial nor participation support.

So, if up to 50% of the congregations did not even cast a vote in the meetings yesterday, how will that impact the number of churches remaining with Valley Forge? Several factors complicate the answer:

1. Some congregations may elect to remain with the ABCUSA in a technical sense for various tactical reasons. (not the most honorable course, but a reality nonetheless). These churches will maintain an official affiliation with PSW and ABC. However, their "participation" in ABC could be in the $1 a year range.

2. Some congregations may require a separate vote to deal with the legal realities. Other churches took their congregational vote in such a way so that the church would follow the board’s decision on May 11. For example, some congregations have already voted to leave ABC iff the May 11 determination by the regional board goes that direction. For those congregations, the decision was already made.

3. Best guess at this point, the congregations represented by the 1,125 votes to withdraw will break with the ABCUSA, at least in a de facto way and most likely in a de jure manner as well. The congregations represented by the 209 votes will stay with the ABCUSA, although some of them have already indicated an intention to become dually aligned with the PSW (yes, that is what some of them said!).

4. By virtue of their disinclination to come to ANY of the seven geographically dispersed centers to vote (including Phoenix, the Indian reservations, San Diego, Santa Barbara, etc.), expect almost all of the non-voting churches to stay with the status quo: that is, they will remain ABC congregations. However, since virtually all of these congregations already fail to participate meaningfully (either financially or by attendance) in ANY ABC events, expect that this will not mean much to either PSW or to the ABC. The absence of their participation in many/most cases already indicates a disinclination to support VF (they have "withdrawn" from the ABC defacto for years).

5. I just learned tonight that two of the largest churches in the PSW (one with weekly attendance of nearly 3,000) did not send delegates because they saw the vote as anticlimatic. In their ministries, they had already written off the national association and did not feel it was meaningful to bother sending delegates to confirm that judgment. They each wrote letters to the region board indicating their strong support for Salico and the intention to participate in the post ABC organization. Certainly they will throw in their lot with the withdrawing PSW congregations.

My wife, herself an Associate Pastor of an ABC congregation, made a helpful observation. All of the 84% voting to withdraw did so for basically the same reason (i.e., perceived issues relating to biblical authority). But, of the 16% declining to withdraw at the present time, the reasons were quite varied. Jeanette's observation may be slightly overstated. Some of the votes from the left favored withdrawal, I am told, to be rid of the PSW and all of the controversy. However, on balance, it would seem that Jeanette's point was well taken. The vast majority of "yes" responses came from people professing concern over issues of biblical authority; the "no" expressions came from a wide variety of points of view.

Indeed, I personally know some of the negative votes came from persons quite opposed to VF but saying that it was not "the right time" tactically to withdraw. Some of them suggested that we should work in concert with other evangelical regions to accomplish common goals rather than leaving now. Others argued that it would hurt the evangelical cause to withdraw. Valley Forge would be wise not to interpret the 16% as strongly supportive of their position.

Remember that even if every possible delegate cast a ballot, and even if every non-participating congregation cast ALL of their votes in favor of remaining with the ABC, the vote to withdraw would have still carried by a substantial majority.

Frankly, the ones who should be concerned coming out of yesterday's vote would be national leadership and the much put-upon Dr. Chetti. His loyalty was certainly evident in being willing to shoulder the burden of watch care over so many inactive churches. Let's assume (IFF VF's numbers are accurate) that 50% of the congregations--spread geographically over two states + Hawaii--are so disengaged as to ignore voting in one of the seven dispersed centers. Now Sam Chetti is responsible for providing pastoral "watch care" for as many as 150 new churches, just about doubling his number of congregations.

Since they almost never come to regional or national meetings, are not able (or do not choose) to contribute financially to PSW or ABCUSA, and are often the smallest and most problem-ridden congregations, Sam will have a greatly increased work load with few compensatory benefits. Imagine trying to service the needs of congregations geographically dispersed from Arizona to central California, to the Mexican border in addition to your already full time job!

Only a handful of the "loyal ABC" congregations (e.g., Pasadena, Redlands, First Institutional Phoenix) contribute significantly to the region/national organization at all. And, even here, they hardly make a dent in the support provided by the very large number of ABC congregations with attendance over 250. By my count, only one congregation in that category is remaining with the ABCUSA. The three largest churches in the PSW (with an average weekend attendance of between 10,000 and 12,000 combined) all went solidly for withdrawal, one of them unanimously.

I have previous described yesterday's vote as feeling like a combination of a death in the family, a prodigal child, and a divorce (I'm guessing here) all rolled into one. Whichever "side" one takes in the dispute, yesterday was a painful day.

By way of analogy, how would you feel becoming pastor after a church split where virtually ALL of the active members left the church and you were "blessed" to inherit the inactive membership of non-attending non-givers as 90-95% of your parish? That is Sam Chetti's sad prospect.

On the other hand, the churches remaining with the ABCUSA will deprive PSW of many of their churches reflecting ethnic diversity in the region. Several of the most prominent pastors in Pomona today were African-American and Hispanic. Nevertheless, Dale Salico will lose much of the numerical strength of our ethically diverse congregations.

Writing as a conservative evangelical (truth in advertising), I cannot but feel loss at the fracturing of the common front with other regions (e.g., signatories to the Parchment Valley accord) and the loss of dialog with so many good friends on the left (many of them in the AWAB camp). They have enriched me in ways that cannot be adequately described. Nevertheless, as a delegate of my church and pursuant to my own conscience, I cast my ballot for withdrawal.

[His Barking Dog stills claims no ties to officials in PSW; my barking still from a very independent back yard.]

Saturday, April 29, 2006

PSW Congregations Vote Overwhelmingly (84%) to Withdraw from ABCUSA; Final Decision Rests with Regional Board on May 11 (REVISED posting)

Personal reflections by an eye-witness to the vote to recommend withdrawal from the ABCUSA.

By. Dennis E. McFadden

American Baptist Churches in the Pacific Southwest voted by an 84% majority today to advise the board to withdraw from the American Baptist Churches USA. In a meeting lasting little more than 45 minutes, Saturday, April 29, 2006, delegates from the PSW congregations cast their ballots on the single question: "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 recommended by the Board of Directors of the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest?"

The single business before the meeting, the recommendation to withdraw from the Covenant of Relationships in the ABCUSA was decided by a 1,125 to 209 majority. Now the board of managers of the region will take up the issue in a meeting slated for May 11. The recommendation from the board to withdraw from the Covenant of Relationships came unanimously from the board at its December 2005 meeting.

By 10:00 A.M. the entire floor and much of the balcony of the spacious auditorium of FBC of Pomona was filled and waiting for the meeting, still 30 minutes hence, to begin. Delegates were checked in through a procedure insuring that only official representatives of the churches would be admitted. The congregation listened with interest as the six remote locations checked in for the live conference call, all run through the Pomona sound system.

The arcane rules of proportionality insured a certain measure of inevitable confusion. Some congregations 25 times larger than others had only twice the number of representatives accredited. And, while some congregations practiced a "winner take all" approach (e.g., the historic FBC of Pasadena which had voted 2 to 1 to remain in the ABCUSA), others insisted on proportional representation (e.g., FBC of Temple city which went 85% in favor of withdrawal would cast a portion of their votes for each side).

In the final analysis, there was no way to tell which side was most disadvantaged by the rules. Balancing the overwhelming clout of a mega church such as Pomona, which had voted unanimously to withdraw, with congregations one twentieth their size with a divided vote and half the delegates yet casting a "winner take all" ballot to remain, made it impossible to assess advantage. And, some of the churches reporting strongest support for the ABC but absent were evidently offset by those strongly in opposition to ABCUSA but declining to send delegates.

The press release by the American Baptist News Service claimed that "just over 50% of the member churches registered to participate in the vote."
Significantly, however, even if every eligible delegate had cast a ballot and every one of the non-participating churches cast votes to remain in the ABCUSA, the outcome would still have favored withdrawal by a substantial majority.

During the vote counting, Rev. Jay Walden, Worship Arts Minister at the Pomona congregation led worship using a mixture of traditional hymns and contemporary songs. Following the announcement of the vote there was no clapping, cheering, or public demonstrations of emotion.

Rev. Daniel Huerta, Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Paramount (CA) offered a moving closing prayer in English and Spanish. He thanked the Lord for the cordial atmosphere of the meeting and the strong resolve to be committed to a biblical course of action.

Interesting sideline: PSW pastors stood on principle and against self interest in the vote today. In addition to the various fraternal urgings and paternal remonstrances from Valley Forge, one part of the "velvet covered" brick was not so well cushioned. Pastors knew that voting to leave ABC would result in the loss of at least 7 of the so-called "non contractual" benefits provided by MMBB. In other words, a variety of perks (all but one financial) that could result in tens of thousands of dollars in lost assistance, were on the line.

Active ABC clergy were in the forefront of the movement to withdraw from the ABCUSA. Indeed, with few exceptions, the churches electing to remain with the national denomination had a variety of retired ministers pushing that cause in congregations. San Diego area churches, for example, were case studies of some prominent retirees making life miserable for current pastors who tended to support the PSW leadership.

A few of these pastors standing with Dale Salico may lose their pulpits as a result of their courageous stands. And, even those who do not, will most likely lose MMBB non-contractual benefits (no big deal as long as you stay healthy, are not disabled, don't have unforeseen financial crises, do not die during your working years with minor children still in the home, and don't care to receive the "Thank You" checks each year during retirement).

Nevertheless, even with many of the retired mnisters opposing withdrawal and more than a few stirring up congregations against their pastors, the PSW clergy stood tall, even against their own financial self interests. Regardless of what you think about the strategy of withdrawal or the timing, you must credit the faithful courage of PSW pastors who led despite the odds.

May the pastors in the rest of the ABC prove as steadfast, immovable, always abounding in their labor for the Lord knowing that nothing they do for the Lord will ever be in vain!

[His Barking Dog still wanders around wild, not on the leash of the PSW or any entity within it. I did cast my delegate vote in favor of withdrawal as did all of the 23 representatives of our congregation.]

PSW Press Release Announces Withdrawal Vote for Reasons of "Irreconcilable" Differences of Theological Convictions

Churches Vote on Denominational Relationship

Official Press Release


Delegates from the congregations of the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest (ABCPSW) voted 1125 "yes" to 209 "no" in support of a recommendation to withdraw from the Covenant of relationships with the American Baptist Churches, USA. Delegates, meeting in seven locations in Southern California, Arizona, Nevada and Hawaii, were voting on the question, "Should the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest withdraw from the Covenant of Relationships and Agreements with the American Baptist Churches, USA, as recommended by the Board of Directors of the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest?" This vote by the delegates will be referred to a meeting of the ABCPSW Board of Directors for action on May 11.

The Board of Directors, stating that "deep differences of theological convictions and values between the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest (ABCPSW) and the American Baptist Churches in the USA (ABCUSA) are understood by the Board of Directors of the ABCPSW as irreconcilable," had recommended withdrawal from its covenant relationship with the ABCUSA. While the Board had authority on its own to withdraw from the national denomination, it called for a special meeting of delegates from churches "to provide the Board with the guidance and input it needs to make a responsible and informed decision."

The main location of the meeting was First Baptist Church, Pomona, California, from which the meeting was chaired by Region President, Brian Scrivens. Connecting to the main site by telephone, amplified through public address systems were satellite sites in San Diego and San Luis Obispo in California, Phoenix and Polacca in Arizona, Las Vegas, Nevada, and Honolulu, Hawaii.

[Please see the article below for my impressions of the meeting as an eye-witness.]

Friday, April 28, 2006

"His Barking Dog" Reduced to Depressed Stupor Over Tomorrow's "Painful Necessity" by PSW; After the Vote Will VF Finally Hear?

“When a member of a dysfunctional family pulls away, it gives the rest of the system a shock. The dysfunctional elements of the family will blame the one who is healthy enough to say enough is enough. But for others it is the opportunity to admit that things are not right. And that is the first step toward real reconciliation” (Dr. Art Jaggard)

Tomorrow the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest will assemble in the best baptistic fashion to vote. Their plebiscite will express the sense of hundreds of congregations as to whether belonging to the dysfunctional family called ABCUSA should be continued. The determination by the delegates will come after individual congregations met in dozens of church business sessions to discuss and to discern God’s will for their own futures.

Outcomes varied; some were unanimous such as mega church Pomona, electing to withdraw from the ABC; some were split, such as historic FBC Pasadena going two to one in favor of remaining with the ABCUSA.

Contrary to some blogs and message board postings, nobody has been celebrating, high-fiving, or taking this thing lightly. Most of us view withdrawal as a grievous necessity. For me, it feels like a death in the family, the hurt over a prodigal child, and a divorce (I’m guessing here) all rolled up into one excruciatingly painful loss.

Was there some other way? Could we have managed to make the statement to Valley Forge in a still definitive, yet less hurtful, manner? Arm chair analysts (me included) will debate the wisdom of the PSW board’s approach for years. But, at this point in our history, and yes, I still consider it “our” history, withdrawal would seem to be a tragic, yet necessary, action.

465 years ago TODAY, the magisterial reformer, John Calvin, wrote to the Queen of Navarre the words that became the motto for this blog: "A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God's truth is attacked and yet would remain silent." (April 28, 1545).

Regardless of the final vote tomorrow, the churches of the Pacific Southwest, under the capable leadership of Dr. Dale V. Salico, are attempting to respond to an ongoing diminution of the Word of God at the hands of our leaders in Valley Forge. Some of them have been active in their denial of God’s truth; others such as Dr. Roy Medley have been merely complicit in tolerating what ought not be tolerated. Either way, enough is enough.

As Jaggard said: “When a member of a dysfunctional family pulls away, it gives the rest of the system a shock. The dysfunctional elements of the family will blame the one who is healthy enough to say enough is enough. But for others it is the opportunity to admit that things are not right. And that is the first step toward real reconciliation.”

[His Barking Dog yelps like a wounded pup today, barking with a soulful complaint of deep loss. Yet, it still is independent of the actions, policies, and persons in charge of the PSW and all other entities within it]

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Dr. Art "One of the Smart Guys" Jaggard's Final Installment

This represents the third and final installment of the Epistle of Art. "His Barking Dog" is honored to be able to reprint the ruminations of Dr. Jaggard, a very sharp and wise observer of life in the ABC. You can reach him at the following address:

When my part of this exercise began, I promised to make a case for emphasizing small autonomous groups of churches and Christians in biblical sacrificial mission.

We have been speaking of ABC as if it is a closed system. A closed system is immune to the effects of the world around them. A system that is affected by outside influences is called an open system. The larger a system is, the more it can seem like a closed system. But ABC simply is not that large. A hugely larger system of western culture plays a tremendous role in our direction. We are very much open. Which is how we get the influence of sexuality based groups setting our agenda.

I do not have space to unpack it here, but Western Civilization is transforming, and it is doing it fast. So ABC is going to be impacted in ways that we cannot easily foresee.

However just knowing that much gives us some important clues on how we can build the Kingdom.

In times of stress, small adaptable groups can thrive. In times of stability, large powerful groups thrive. We are moving from large and powerful to small and adaptable. If ever there was a time for Associations, now is it.

One of the reasons why I predict that the Regional Exec table will thrive is because Regions of 35 to 400, can function far more successfully in a changing culture than the dinosaurs of denomination can. The Brontosaurus was huge and magnificent. Those furry little adaptable mammals hardly amounted to anything. But the Brontosaurus is dead. I am not suggesting that we kill anything. But we need to transform our way of thinking from large groups of people coming, to small groups of people going.

Among other things this will change the way we fund our family. Right now the preferred model is to give it all to the top in UM and let it trickle down. Our future depends on finding ways to give much closer to the center of mission, the local church. Fund the mission there and let the excess percolate up. In terms of the Kingdom it will be much more successful. It just won't grow any giant organizations, so if that is important to you, stick with UM.

So do we measure ourselves by how many we can get to come? Or by how many go out to live sacrificial lives of mission. I recommend that we go in the Name of the Lord. That is the true meaning of American Baptist. Right now we have the idea that the true meaning of American Baptist is that we have a relationship to Valley Forge. All of us, beaconchurches and Valley Forge, need to change our mental model. Our problem isn't Valley Forge, and VF's problem isn't PSW, CCN and beacon. Our problem is in being faithful sacrifices on a personal level.

In the Name of the Lord,
Art Jaggard

["His Barking Dog" proudly quotes those smarter than himself but is still not connected to any official position or person in the PSW]

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

More Dr. Art "Carnac" Jaggard Predictions on the Shape of the ABCUSA to Come

Yesterday, "His Barking Dog" published the prognostications of seasoned church consultant/author Dr. Art Jaggard with his permission. Today it is my privilege to continue posting some of his predictions about the shape of the ABC in the years to come. Some have objected to the exercise on principle, believing that projections are unreliable at best and sinful at worst.

Here is Dr. Jaggard's rationale for engaging in this kind of thinking:

Prediction is possible only in the very short run and on occasion in the long run. For instance, I can tell you by looking at the weather map that in about 20 minutes it is going to rain. But ask me what the weather will be like in two weeks. No one has a clue. On the other hand, much farther down the road in about 6 or 8 months I predict it will snow.

These are two very different kinds of predictions. The first is based on systems already set in motion that have a causal effect on what happens next. Because we understand the causal effect, (I drop an egg [I cause it to fall {I cause a mess on the floor}]) we can predict what happens in the very short run.

The second prediction is based on wave theory. Weather comes in waves. Hot in the summer, cold in the winter. When we understand the waves we can make predictions based on recurring events. I predict that next year Sunday attendance at your church will be less the Sunday after Easter than it was on Easter. It's that sort of thing.

What we are missing is the middle ground. I predict I'll have lunch at the corner restaurant today. I predict that eventually I will die. What happens in between is a lot less certain. Unless of course God tells us (which is not what is taking place in my 'predictions' about ABC).

In the book Mustard Seed and McWorld, Tom Sine warns us that everyone in the secular world is trying to 'read the tea leaves' to prepare for 'what happens next'. Only in the religious world do people think that is unnecessary. By developing scenarios and building a plan the secular world prepares itself for what is coming and is able on occasion to ride the wave of change instead of being swamped by it.

Well folks, as far as ABC is concerned, surfs up.

Now, for today's posting, Dr. Jaggard moves to consider other aspects of the ABC of the future . . .

Yesterday I wrote about what happens to the formal system. And really from the point of view of about 2000 churches the news is pretty good. They will reset at a more streamlined organization and have a pretty happy time, at least for the next several years.

But the family is made up of around 6000 churches. What happens to the other 4000? Good news again!

HappyKine wrote:

Strong and large healthy churches continue to leave the denomination. The ABCPSW is leaving and it is one of the healthiest regions. I think that each region will do its own thing and eventually the stronger regions who "get it" will do some collaboration. I think that Cornerstone has hope for those who want to move on with their lives and particular those healthy churches who want to get busy doing kingdom work.

And HappyKine is on to something.

About half of those 4000 churches are peripheral to the family now. Many are dually aligned, some are ABC in name only (having effectively left, but never bothering to trouble the denomination with their departure), and some churches are so marginal that the 8 or 10 people in them do not participate much anyway.

But that still leaves 2000 vital, growing, moderately healthy churches. They are not just going to disappear. How will they organize?

Some are going to join other denominations. Most are going to recapture the Region that they are now in. Over the next year the Regions will begin to see a sense of cohesion within themselves. PSW is nearing that point now. There are some churches that will stay with Valley Forge. But be sure that the Region is setting its own direction in accordance with the majority of the churches there.

While they will do it differently than PSW, other Regions are experiencing the same resurgence. In mid-America for instance, the leader of the Region is a pastor, not the executive minister. That Region has begun to take steps to bring their organization back together. Some Regions, like Genesee Rochester already have that sense of cohesion. They know what they are about. (And it is not the same as the emerging MidAmerica)

So I observe:

1. Regions with Staff that betray the mission of the churches are going through a difficult time. Those Regions are beginning the process of removing inappropriate leadership and getting leadership that is not disloyal to the mission of the churches.

2. Regions with leadership who (As HappyKine points out) "get it" are developing a sense of autonomy. They are increasingly focused on mission.

3. Though there will be some who leave those Regions, most churches are content to say, "I don't care what someone 2000 miles away does, "This" is who we are. I'm proud of my Region."

4. The Regional Execs who are giving good leadership are beginning to 'feel their power'.

5. The Evangelical mission is gaining strength, not dissipating it.

6. When ego is not involved, there is a terrific coming together that is taking place in the Kingdom of God.

So here are my predictions for the family:

Nov. 2006 the Regional execs that signed the document that gave us the term implosion will begin to set dates for implementing the Leader's table. Roy Medley will not have a place at the table. CCN may if it can gain the leaders trust. It will have to move fast to pull this off. PSW will play a vital role at this table.

By spring of 2007, most Regions will have a sense of unity, one way or another. The minority voices will no longer run the Regions (if they do now). That means that there will still be some churches in some Regions that have more loyalty to Valley Forge, than to the more local and more accountable Region, but their voices will be muted. The internal conflict in the Regions will largely be resolved. Four Regions not currently on board will be admitted to the table. This brings the number of Regions at the table up to 16, representing 60% of the denomination.

November of 2007 Green Lake will sponsor a "Super Table" with Conservative, General, some Cooperating, and a few Southern Baptists.

June 2008 Green Lake will host "Alive in the Lord". Attendance will be 2500 people. John Maxwell and Franklin Graham will be the keynoters, though a host of other presenters will be there as well.

In 2009 during the biennial the Leader's table will announce the mission explosion, sending missionaries from every church (redefining what it means to be church) into lost America and beyond.

In 2010 the New Life goals will be exceeded by the churches represented in the Leader's Table. The Leader's Table will move in much the same direction that CBF did in trying to not create a new denomination. They will briefly discuss calling themselves Beacon Churches and settle on the name Beacon Cornerstone.

In 2010, the leader's table will sponsor a pastors retreat 'Won in the Lord". It will be held in Chicago and will have 1200 in attendance.

By 2040 there will be over 10,000 churches associated with the Leader's Table. They will develop a rigid formal organization and begin to lose sight of their mission as they preserve the gains that God blessed them with in the first four decades of the century.

Art Jaggard

Thank you, Dr. Jaggard, for a VERY insightful and provocative set of predictions based on your analysis of ABC life. We will all be looking to see how closely your words come to the eventual outcomes.

[His Barking Dog howls at the moon, quotes other thinkers, and trys to provide perspective on the ABC. But the bark should never be confused with the authoritative sounds of the official persons in the PSW]

Monday, April 24, 2006

Dr. Art Jaggard Makes Predictions About Shape of the Future ABCUSA

The following comments by Dr. Art Jaggard, long time area minister and author of several books, took the form of an informal message board posting this morning. The points are reprinted for the benefit of readers of His Barking Dog with permission by Dr. Jaggard. He has indicated that more predictions will be forthcoming.

I observe several things.

1. Our current formal system is losing energy. UM is down and will continue to be down because the system cannot (not will not) adress the systems failure that drives UM down.

2. The Office of the General Secretary (OGS) will not simply vanish.

3. National Ministries and M&M have resources to sustain themselves at some level without input from the ABC family.

4. The current formal system will be supported by a large portion of the ABC family (I would estimate 2000 churches). (Which of course leaves 2000 churches separating from the current formal system. I think this is consistant with what we see in the UM giving pattern.)

So what happens to the formal system? And what happens to the informal system?

This year, the people who drive the General Board realize the crisis is unavoidable. They will committ to saving the OGS. By November 2006 plans to shelter OGS in National Ministries will be 'talked out'. M&M will consider funding a portion of the expense. This will be billed as streamlining, a more faithful way to do more with less, better stewardship of the family resources in an age of postChristian giving patterns,

By 2007, the biennial will be seen as a rallying point for the streamlined organization. The energy we absorb from CBF (Our biennial and their annual take place at the same place and time) will be used to demonstrate that something good is going on. We will hear that there is a fresh breeze of the Holy Spirit. It will be the largest gathering of Baptists that our folks will have seen in a long time.

And that will scare some of them, as CBF could swallow ABC whole. Those who are committed to preserving the old ABC system, after surrendering so much will be wary of giving it away to CBF. Those who are not scared will dually align.

In 2008 a Pastor's meeting 'Alive in the Lord' will be hosted by National Ministries with add ons from what is left of the Minister's Council, (which has since merged with the Commission on Ministry), and the office of the General Secretary. It will be followed by the one meeting of the ABC Board, which will be a merged board of National Ministries and the General Board. Plans to incorporate the IM board will be discussed if IM is not independent, (and I don't think they will be).

Alive in the Lord will attract 400 people. It will be hailed as proof that the streamlined organization is a success. The spectacular (he really is) Rev. Dr. Peter Gomes will be the keynote speaker. The 2000 churches that are still connected to the 'denomination' will say, "Things have never been better. It is a shame that 4000 churches decided they didn't want to be family, but we are better off in the long run with people who will be faithful."

In 2009 we will share another biennial with CBF. However CBF is gaining energy, not losing it. It operates like a Low pressure system to our High pressure system (Think tropical storms). However a good number of people and churches will be dually aligned and the event will be another 'success'

In 2010 we will celebrate "One in the Lord". Again attendance will be high. The head of National Ministries will have secured his place as the head. He will negotiate a place in the combined CBF, ABC fellowship as Daniel Vestal gets ready to retire. Ultimately however it will be clear that the two organizations cannot survive together. (Never mind that the family might be able to.) So ABC will pull away. The event from 09 will be the last one the two groups plan together.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

How Does "Incompatible with Biblical Teaching" Connect with "Spiritual Oasis" and "Resounding Success"? It Doesn't in a Christian Denomination

From "Jayne, Andy"
Date Wed, 19 Apr 2006 15:03:06 -0400
Wait On The Lord: A Success In Progress

VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS)-The Wait On The Lord Conference in Orlando, FL is still in progress but is already being heralded as a resounding success. Heralded as a "Spiritual Oasis" by ABCUSA General Secretary, Roy Medley, the conference is designed for ministers and lay ministers to foster Christian spiritual formation and rejuvenation . . .

Reading the ABC press release, one would think that this year’s “Wait on the Lord Conference” in Orlando represents a new Pentecost come upon American Baptists. Even before it concludes, the ABNS has dubbed it a “resounding success” and "a success in progress." With 275 attendees and as many as 100 of them representing Valley Forge staffers (if the numbers from the previous conference pencil out similarly this year), Dr. Roy Medley describes it as a “Spiritual Oasis.”

But who are the people being held up as models for ministry in the ABCUSA? The keynoter, Dr. John Kinney, pastors Ebenezer Baptist Church in Beaversdam, VA. In addition to his reputation as a distinguished systematic theologian, Dr. Kinney has been claimed by the Center for Gay and Lesbian Studies in Religion and Ministry as leading one of the “African American Welcoming Churches” in the country (

Bible study leader, Dr. Jaime Clark-Soles, Assistant Professor of New Testament at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, holds ABC ordination and serves as “Scholar in Residence” at the multiply affiliated City Church of Dallas ( City Church boasts of its “welcoming” stance on its Web site. In explaining how "everyone is valued and accepted," they post a link to A Letter to Louise, "A Biblical Affirmation of Homosexuality" (

So, let’s get this straight (no pun intended). The ABCUSA has declared that the practice of homosexuality is “incompatible with biblical teaching.” So, when we assemble our pastoral leaders from regions all across the denomination to “Wait on the Lord,” we bring in a keynote speaker and Bible study leader who serve on staff in churches committed to the proposition that homosexuality is to be welcomed and affirmed? Does anyone else see a problem with this picture?

I wonder why the right keeps saying that the national leadership tilts left? Could it be due to breathlessly enthusiastic complicity with the agenda of the AWAB movement if not open advocacy of its position?

"Spirituality" exists in virtually all religious traditions, most of them outside of Christianity. A group does not need to be orthodox for the participants to have a moment of "spiritual ecstasy," even an "oasis" experience. For a "welcoming" crowd it must have been nearly a love fest. His Barking Dog is caught in the literalistic rut of believing that "incompatible with biblical teaching" does not go with "resounding success" and "spiritual oasis," at least not in a Christian denomination. Silly me.

[His Barking Dog is weary of chasing ABC denominational cars but continues to do so without any connection to entities and official positions of the PSW]

CRCDS Historian Nails the ABC Crisis in a Loss of Associational Power and a National Body "Too Large to Be an Effectively Deliberative Body"

Few Baptist historians have had as much influence as Dr. Winthrop Still Hudson. With CRDS connections, he hardly qualifies as a flaming fundamentalist. But notice how appropriate his observations are to our current denominational crisis. Thanks to my dear friend and Baptist historian extraordinaire, Dr. Howard Stewart, for the quote.

"Thus the machinations of a small group of men have left us a two-fold legacy--one organizational and the other ideological. The organizational disorder among Baptists of the North is most apparent at the national level where it has thus far defied all attempts to make the national structure and efficient and responsible instrument of the churches. A more serious consequence has been the bypassing of the local Association, which is the most important unit in the whole denominational structure.

All significant functions of the Associations have been taken away, and they have been left to eke out a bootless existence. Equally serious has been the abandonment of the proposal to extend the associational principle through the state conventions to the national convention. This has meant on the one hand, that most of the churches have been effectively disfranchised; on the other hand, it has meant that the national convention has been too large to be an effectively deliberative body."

[His Barking Dog thanks Dr. Howard Stewart again for the quote. He may possibly be the last real Baptist in the ABC!]

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

"A Vision for the Future of the ABCUSA National Shared Table " - Draft Proposal Being Circulated

Several ABC executive ministers have been reporting to their pastors discussions about a "shared table," a "common table" and the like. This concept was discussed among executives at the recent General Executive Council meetings. Today Durable Data's Glenn Layne printed the letter from Dr. David Carrico where he revealed that the West Virginia region will seek a General Board Resolution to Parts II and III of the Indiana/Kentucky petition. He also alluded to “A Vision for the Future of the ABCUSA National Shared Table.” What is the "shared table" concept? His Barking Dog has been given a copy today which I am posting for your information and discussion.

In response to the November 2005 GEC vote by consensus to begin a discussion on changes to our current covenantal system, a group of REMC colleagues have been discussing on an informal basis ideas about structural changes which might be enacted to ensure a vital, vibrant future for ABCUSA. This vision is intended to encourage and focus our conversation in the days ahead.

As loyal American Baptist Executive Ministers, we see our denomination imploding – and do not want to see it happen. The current covenantal system is broken and appears to be unable to resolve issues that come before us. Our current financial situation – one of declining support for United Mission – is an expression of how local churches feel about the state of the national body
and the mission priorities they wish to fund. Giving trends indicate increasing designated giving toward regional work and special projects, and away from UM.

We continue to believe that we have a common mission as American Baptists. ABCUSA mission agencies and trans-regional expressions of ABC life have significant and special value to the extent they advance mission in partnership with local churches and ABC regions. In an age of radically changing structures, we feel the need to propose and create new organizational models for our common witness, where meaningful ministry-related decisions can be made. We sincerely hope that people of good will across theological spectrums will be able to embrace this vision; it is intended to include, and not exclude.

These new models should emerge in response to certain key principles:

a. We need to move toward organizational de-centralization. Both societal trends and denominational realities require that we move toward a more decentralized structure. The current representational system (OGS/GB/NEC/GEC/REMC) is not being supported by local church giving patterns.

b. We need to strengthen regional identity as a key ABC representational entity. The regions are parallel ministries, which come together at a national table of conversation and consultation, for common mission. We need to set free our ABCUSA mission agencies, AROs and Caucuses to advance their mission in the 21st Century, without the encumbrance of outdated bureaucratic complexities.

c. We need to maintain and strengthen a balanced commitment to and application of basic Baptist principles, which we all affirm and cherish. We wish to preserve the best of ABC polity and history as we face the future with faith. Nothing in this proposed vision is intended to weaken our historic Baptist distinctives, but rather to strengthen our ability to express them in our common life and witness.

d. The National Table needs to be transformed from a legislative/policy entity to a consultative venue in which regional partners coordinate and consult with one another on common mission endeavors. We wish to affirm the autonomy of the local church and regions to follow Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. We do not wish to continue a process of fighting over resolutions and statements of concern. We also wish to emphasize the historic Baptist commitment to the associational principle, in which we act responsibly in order to strengthen the life of all the partners within our fellowship. We seek a way to minimize future divisiveness.

e. We are all absolutely committed to our heritage of racial, ethnic and cultural inclusiveness. We recognize that we have not always live out this commitment as a denominational family, and we believe it is essential for the integrity of our common witness that we do so more faithfully in the future. In accordance with these 5 principles, we propose the following vision of a new ABCUSA National Table. It is an outline, intended to be a pro-active and creative entreaty to all of our ABC constituency. Please consider it with an open heart and mind!

1. The Formation of a De-centralized and Leaner Shared Table: In place of the currently stressed multi-level representational system GS/GB/NEC/GEC/REMC), we propose the creation of a new “Shared Table” composed of Regional Executive Ministers, who will come together nationally for significant events and occasions, for purposes such as worship, celebration, the proclamation of the Gospel, and the strengthening of congregational life and mission. The focus of the Shared Table in consultative, not governance. Administratively, the “Center” is lessened to a few select and necessary activities (shared support services, ecumenical relationships, coordinating gatherings). The Shared Table will elect its officers. The Table sill call a Secretary with very limited responsibilities, and responsible to it. She/he may represent the family in ceremonial and ecumenical affairs. The purpose of the Shared Table is to promote cooperation in mission, and to share wisdom and regional needs/stories.

2. The Embracing of Increased Local Church and Regional Autonomy: Local churches hold regional membership, which can be geographical, or affinity based – the local church decides where it affiliates (it can still also be disciplined by an association and/or region). Regions determine standards for admitting and dismissing churches, ordination standards and reciprocity.

3. ABCUSA Belongs to its People: Biennial meetings (or variations, like virtual meetings) would serve as custodians of the ABCUSA constitution and by-laws. This is where ultimately lay people and local church pastors retain ownership of ABCUSA. The National Table’s Secretary could also have her/his call affirmed by the Biennial gathering.

4. Promoting a More Nimble and Flexible ABC Missional Network: National Boards, AROs, Caucuses form their own independent Boards, which for their own benefit would no doubt be composed of ABC stakeholders from across the regions. Members of the ABC Missional Network would be invited to share with the Table in order to foster communication and cooperative mission. They could partner with individual regions or churches for a variety of mission endeavors.

5. In order to promote unity and an ongoing sense of American Baptist identity, we propose the adoption of the following list of Shared Values:

1. Jesus Christ is the Head of Our Shared Table!

2. Reformational, Anabaptist and English Baptist Roots

3. American Baptist Heritage

4. Continuing Commitment to ABC ethnic and cultural diversity

5. The Current “We are American Baptists” (2005)
These Shared Values characterize, we believe, the deeply held convictions of the vast majority of lay people, pastors, churches and regions in our American Baptist family. When we gather at the national common table, partners will live out, abide by and respect the values, norms and rules of the Shared Table. For the sake of the whole, they would not send to the National Table people who do not subscribe to these values.

6. As American Baptists, we will engage the culture – both prophetically and pastorally – primarily through our host of local churches. Regions may issue joint statements, if they wish, but they shall not be construed as speaking for all American Baptists. If statements are made in the name of the entire Fellowship at the Shared Table level, the threshold for acceptance should be very high.

7. Funding Mission in a De-centralized ABCUSA: The Table Partners will raise the funds for the Table, if the Endowment gained through the sale of the Valley Forge
property cannot cover all expenses. United Mission would be replaced by a system in which each of the current partners to the Covenant (Regions/National Ministries/International Ministries/Other ABC partners) would be represented. Churches could give directly to ABC Network Partners or through their regional offices. The fundamental principle is this: churches choose how much to give to whom. Each partner is set free to do fund raising, in cooperation with others, as they feel is best.

[His Barking Dog received this draft on Tuesday. It had been circulating around the country among executive ministers and others. Although I published it after receiving it from a pastor, the principal author of the piece indicated to me that the Lancaster Vision statement is now public.]

Today Marks Anniversary of Luther's Defense at the Diet of Worms - "My Conscience is Captive to the Word of God" (1521)

Luther arrived in Worms on April 16, 1521 to appear before an Imperial Diet. Asked to recant his writings on April 17, Luther requested a day to consider and to pray. On April 18 485 years ago the authorities challenged him again, demanding his recantation. What Luther said (more or less) was . . .

Since then Your Majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.

Praise God for the courage of Luther nearly 500 years ago! May our consciences continue to be held captive to the Word of God!

Monday, April 17, 2006

A Pundit's Barking and Chasing After Wrong-Way Denominational Automobiles

Last week several important folks in the ABC accused this blogger of trafficking in deception and half truths, glorying in division and discord, manufacturing quotations out of whole cloth, preferring anonymous and dubious sources, and even misunderstanding the distinction between offering factual reports and spewing forth vitriolic opinions. Someone even suggested that there might be a way to call me to account for my release of information regarding recent ABC meetings.

For the benefit of my readers, His Barking Dog does not pretend to be a newspaper, nor its editor a journalist. I am a pundit, a purveyor of opinions, a commentator on things of church and culture from a strongly perspectival standpoint. My role is not to report the news but to reflect upon newsworthy items. The only "news" you will discover in these blogs comes because others have withheld information, managed the "story," or worked hard to "spin" the truth into unrecognizable forms. Even my reprinting of "news" pieces is done for the purposes of disseminating the accounts more widely or, more typically, in order to provide the background for my own comments. Otherwise, virtually everything contained herein consists of things already written about elsewhere for which I am providing commentary and perspective from my own point of view.

Generally those who hold back information do so for the highest of motives. They see themselves as "protecting" people from unnecessary details; as giving ideas time to be "worked out" between principals before releasing the finished decisions to the public; as protecting the necessary confidentiality of work product so that participants will feel free to share openly without fear of premature disclosure; as exercising leadership's responsibility to lead and not to become a mere echo of the will of the people. However, I do not see these commentaries in His Barking Dog as either a toxic addition to the political life of the denomination, nor something intended to poison the discourse. My sincere desire remains the same as it was when we began last year: "to present news, commentary, and opinion from an Evangelical and Baptist perspective."

Last week Dr. Dwight Stinnett, executive minister of a Midwest regional judicatory in the ABC and co-author of the moderate blog, ABC Views from the Middle (, provided an excellent and very thoughtful piece highlighting the work by Thomas Oden, Turning Around the Mainline. In it, Stinnett cites with apparent approval, Oden's plea to engage and discipline errant denominations rather than disengaging and defecting from them. "Confessing Christians seek to maintain the unity of the church through discipline, not through division," Stinnett quotes approvingly.

One demurs from Oden's wisdom only with reluctance. How can a Christian interested in the unity of the body object to a plea for discipline over division? What the use of Oden misses, however, comes from the history of this issue in the ABCUSA, if not in other mainline denominations. As an American Baptist now for more than half a century, the issue of traditional orthodoxy vs. revisionist versions of Christianity has been with us for as long as I can remember.

The Green Lake Seminarians' Conference in 1976, for example, revealed in as stark terms as possible how utterly divided our visions were for the church, the faith, and the denomination. At that time cooperative conservatives insisted that they wanted to remain engaged in the larger body and to reform it from within. But, even then, we told ourselves that if the denomination changed its view of Jesus Christ or tolerated/embraced some manifestly unbiblical position such as the ordination of homosexuals separation would become the sad but necessary response.

The direction of the denomination since that time has only shown how utterly impossible renewal efforts would be in the ABCUSA. Read widely enough in the writings of the Roger Williams Fellowship, the now defunct ABE message board, or the executives of the more progressive and more traditional regions and you will see why the problem has become so intractable.

Perhaps only a full-court press with a sustained political campaign like that undertaken by SBC leaders such as Patterson and Pressler could possibly effect such a seismic change at this point; and that is the one strategy nearly universally rejected by almost every responsible person on the right (including me!). Even IF it could work, conservatives typically have little interest in running the bureaucracy of the ABCUSA.

Following the recent GEC meetings, conservatives were reported as feeling a mixture of emotions. But, near to the surface for many was the sense of being weary, worn out, and disappointed by a process that appears endless and shows few signs of eventual success. The willingness by Cheryl Wade (Associate General Secretary and Treasurer) to speak so candidly of the financial difficulties was an encouraging sign. But nobody reported much forward movement toward conjointly working on a solution to the underlying problems facing us.

The unilateral decision by the PSW to proceed to withdrawal (if affirmed later this month and in May by the board) will leave the conservatives within the ABC without some of their most able and effective voices. While the PSW decision may be affirmed for other reasons, both strategic and tactical arguments have been mounted, it must be admitted that the likely impact upon remaining evangelicals will be deleterious and harmful to the cause.

Evangelical executives are described as ranging from "fit to be tied" to cautiously willing to "hang in there" for the "long haul" in what might be described as a fragile process of denominational change. Truly, they have embraced Oden's notion of "discipline" over "division." However, after so long a time, can anyone blame some, like PSW's Salico, for deciding that the project simply cannot be accomplished? While Oden correctly advises that "No one corrects a family by leaving it," what if the family has no interest in being corrected?

Ultimately the question remains: can this union be salvaged? And, what will we have if compromises can be cobbled together to create some kind of continuing organization? Most likely we will have an institutionally unstable Rube Goldberg like creation. We will be left with structures and processes that only further exacerbate the divisions that we find so distracting and enervating.

Quite simply, we were called to pursue mission with passion. Since our competing visions differ so markedly, should we not admit the fact honestly and move on with the most amicable organizational separation possible? We need to be free of acrimony, recriminations, and the fruits of bitterness.

Instead, let us purpose to bless our sisters and brothers in their unique sense of calling and go our separate ways in a spirit of cooperation. When Paul and Barnabas could not reach resolution on a personnel matter, the issue of taking John Mark with them on another missionary journey (Acts 15:36-39), Luke records that their disagreement degenerated into such sharpness that he called it a paroxusmos (cf. English "paroxysm"). Let us at least do better than this!

The cheerful, yet weary, words of executives on both the left and the right cannot be faulted for their abundance of Christian hope. Hope is after all, a Christian virtue. But there is a difference between hope grounded in the reality of Christ and his resurrection, and mere "whistling past the graveyard" wishful thinking.

In 1964 Walt Disney unveiled his Carousel of Progress at the World's Fair in New York. Walt partnered with General Electric to create an attraction highlighting the advances of progress in America and the optimistic prospects for the future. He commissioned the Sherman Brothers (responsible for the incessantly cheerful "It's a Small World") to create the theme music. Their "It's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" sounds more like the press release from the American Baptist News Service regarding the recent General Executive Council (GEC) meetings than it does any recognizably Christian hope or eschatology.

There's a great, big, beautiful tomorrow
Shining at the end of every day
There's a great, big, beautiful tomorrow
And tomorrow's just a dream away

Man has a dream and that's the start
He follows his dream with mind and heart
And when it becomes a reality
It's a dream come true for you and me

So there's a great, big, beautiful tomorrow
Shining at the end of every day
There's a great, big, beautiful tomorrow
Just a dream away

[His Barking Dog, an exercise in evangelical Baptist punditry, claims no connection to (or authorization from) official entities. I merely opine as an exercise of my "soul liberty." Can I get an "amen" for that one?]

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

JANUARY 28, 1855,

Beloved, our Savior Jesus Christ finished the great work of making us what we are, by his ascension into heaven. If he had not risen up on high and led captivity captive, his death would have been insufficient. He “died for our sins,” but he “rose again for our justification.”

The resurrection of our Savior, in his majesty when he burst the bonds of death, was to us the assurance that God had accepted his sacrifice; and his ascension up on high, was but as a type and a figure of the real and actual ascension of all his saints, when he shall come in the clouds of judgment, and shall call all his people to him.

Mark the man-God, as he goes upward towards heaven,
behold his triumphal march through the skies, whilst stars sing his praises, and planets dance in solemn order; behold him traverse the unknown fields of ether till he arrives at the throne of God in the seventh heaven. Then hear him say to his Father, “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do, behold me and the children thou hast given me; I have fought a good
fight, I have finished my course, I have done all, I have accomplished every type; I have finished every part of the covenant; there is not one iota I have left unfulfilled, or one tittle that is left out; all is done.” And hark, how they sing before the throne of God when thus he speaks: “Thou hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.”

Thus have I briefly spoken upon the dear Redeemer’s doings. Poor lips cannot speak better, faint heart will not rise up to the height of this great argument. Oh! that these lips had language eloquent and lofty, that they might speak more of the wondrous doings of our Redeemer!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Playing with Words, Fighting Words, and Badges of Honor

Few words in the English lexicon are as capable of inspiring strong, visceral reactions as the term "fundamentalism." Abused and misused by just about everybody -- progressives, evangelicals, and "fundamentalists" -- the word bears closer scrutiny.

If we are to use the term “fundamentalism” with any kind of denotative meaning, we should consider it in its historical expression. As a movement arising during and following WWI, it sought to reaffirm orthodox Protestantism and to “defend it militantly against the challenges of liberal theology, German higher criticism, Darwinism, and other isms regarded as harmful to American Christianity” (“Fundamentalism” in Elwell’s Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 1984).

Fundamentalism can be chronicled in its four historical phases:

1920s – Fundamentalism identified the core doctrines of the faith and sought to expel enemies of orthodox Protestantism from the ranks of the churches. The 12 volume series, The Fundamentals was provided to hundreds of thousands of Christian workers. It articulated the faith clearly, fairly, and with respect for its opponents. Quickly the core narrowed to five doctrines: the inerrancy of Scripture, the virgin birth of Christ, the substitutionary atonement of Christ, Christ's bodily resurrection, and the historicity of the miracles (later replaced by the second coming by the premillennialists).

Late 1920s to the Early 1940s - By 1926 or so, those who were militant for the fundamentals had failed to expel the modernists from any denomination. Moreover, they also lost the battle against evolutionism. It was during the 1030s that the term began to refer to only one party among those who believed in the traditional fundamentals. This period was characterized by a “literal interpretation of the Bible" and the call to express one’s purity in organizational separation from liberals. “Thus, the term 'fundamentalist' came to refer largely to orthodox Protestants outside the large northern denominations, whether in the newly established denominations, in the southern churches, or in the many independent churches across the land.”

Early 1940s to the 1970s - The period began with a gradual division into two camps: those who accepted the term as a badge of honor and those who saw the term as “undesirable, having connotations of [being] divisive, intolerant, anti-intellectual, unconcerned with social problems, even foolish. This second group wished to regain fellowship with the orthodox Protestants who still constituted the vast majority of the clergy and people in the large northern denominations.”

Late 1970s and the 1980s - The fundamentalists became associated with national prominence as “offering an answer for what many regarded as a supreme social, economic, moral, and religious crisis in America. They identified a new and more pervasive enemy, secular humanism, which they believed was responsible for eroding churches, schools, universities, the government, and above all families. They fought all enemies which they considered to be offspring of secular humanism - evolutionism, political and theological liberalism, loose personal morality, sexual perversion, socialism, communism, and any lessening of the absolute, inerrant authority of the Bible.” This phase exalted names like Falwell, LaHaye, Lindsey, and Robertson.

(Source: Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Copyright © 1984 by Baker Books..)

It seems to me that most people who use the term in a derogatory manner conjure up cultural memories of divisive, intolerant, anti-intellectual rubes, those unconcerned with social problems, a refusal to embrace a holistic message, taking on the sense of even foolishness itself. Since the mid-1990s the word has picked up an even more toxic connotation: Islamo-terrorism and Jihadist radicalism. And, for those who are ex-pats from the SBC, the negativity of the word is colored even more darkly with tales of a carefully orchestrated political take-over by a faction within the SBC (although the conservatives in the SBC would consider it a re-taking of the denomination from a faithless minority).

When used by the left, the word becomes invective, almost always a term of derision and evocative of the collection of unsavory images mentioned in the previous paragraph. Honestly, it is not “playing fair” to plaster the designation on one’s opponents since it virtually always carries semantic and psychological meanings that prove more prejudicial than probative. The same objection may be lodged, although to a far less significant degree, for the term “liberal” when used by the right against those on the left.

In my own dialogues with friends on the left, I prefer to refer to them as progressives and myself as a traditionalist or conservative. None of those words have become so freighted with baggage as to become automatic “hot button” triggers.

However, in the final analysis, if “fundamentalist” may be defined in the sense of the 1920s, I would proudly embrace the term as a badge of honor. Why would I want to reject the inerrancy of Scripture, the virgin birth of Christ, the substitutionary atonement, Christ's bodily resurrection, and the second coming? Indeed, these expressions of historic Christianity allow for a fairly wide ecumenism, bringing together traditionalists in all major denominations and traditions: An Anglican such as John R.W. Stott, a Reformed R.C. Sproul, a Baptist like Albert Mohler, and the Pentecostal Jack Hayford could all embrace the doctrinal distinctives of "fundamentalism" sans the connotations of pugnacious divisiveness, anti-intellectual bigotry, and fear of diversity.

[His Barking Dog barks like an evangelical and tries to stay as close to his master as a fundamentalist)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

"Consider his words. Consideer his actions. Remember that he is Lord and you are his servant"

John Chrysostom the Bishop of Constantinople who was noted for his orthodoxy, his eloquence and his attacks on Christian laxity in high places offers up some of the most meaningful reflections contemplating the derision of our Lord on the cross.

O cross most abominable, most execrable! Did not God rescue the prophets from their dangers? Did God not save the righteous? Why not him? What could equal this folly? The coming of dangers upon the prophets and saints did not injure their honor before God. But what happened to this incomparable person? By what he said and what he did he offended all our expectations to the utmost. He was forever correcting beforehand our assumptions about him. Even when all these ignominies were said and done, they could not prevail, even at that time. The thief who had lived depraved in such great wickedness, who had spent his whole life in murders and house breakings, when these things had been said, only then confessed him. When he made mention of his kingdom, the people bewailed him. These things that were done seemed to testify the contrary in the eyes of many who knew nothing of the mystery of God’s dispensations. Jesus was weak and of no ostensible power; nevertheless truth prevailed even by the contrary evidences.

So hearing all these things, let us arm ourselves against all temptations to anger and outrage. Should you perceive in your heart a swelling of pride, seal your breast against it. Set your hopes only upon the cross. Call to mind the humbling things that were then taking place. Then you will cast out as dust all rage by the recollection of the things that were done to him.

Consider his words. Consider his actions. Remember that he is Lord and you are his servant. Remember that he is suffering for you, and for you individually. You may be suffering only on your own behalf. He is suffering on behalf of all by whom he had been crucified. You may be suffering in the presence of a few. He suffers in the sight of the whole city and of the whole people of the covenant, both of strangers and those of the holy land, to all of whom he spoke merciful words.

Even his disciples forsook him. This was most distressing to him. Those who previously paid him mind suddenly deserted him. Meanwhile his enemies and foes, having captured him and put him on a cross, insulted him, reviled him, mocked him, derided him and scoffed at him. See the Jews and soldiers rejecting him from below. See how he was set between two thieves on either side, and even the thieves insulted him and upbraided him. (The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 87.2.7).

[Simonetti, M. (2002). Matthew 14-28. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture NT 1b. (Page 289). Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.]

Who Watches the Watchers When They Go Over the Top? - Watchdog "His Barking Dog" Eats Crow

Eating crow is never tasty, particularly when it comes as a response to hurting good people. After reading the “over the top” press release from the ABNS regarding last week’s General Executive Council meetings, my sense of irritation overcame what should have been my restraint and good sense. In response to the outlandish rhetoric from Valley Forge, I cited the comments of two GEC members who had communicated with me. Their words were informal, personal, and casual in tone and should not have been used by me to balance the official statement.

My blog has evidently made it to the “powers that be” within the ABCUSA and frantic efforts are reportedly underway to “out” the sources of the quotations. Emails have been circulated among GEC members and several executive ministers have reportedly weighed in, all with something negative to say about my judgment in publishing the quotations or challenging my veracity. Some have even suggested that there may be some doubt as to whether the citations were even genuine at all.

I hereby apologize to those who have provided me with insights, context, and perspective regarding all things ABC. In the future I pledge to treat casual banter and informal conversation as private rather than using it as counterpoint to official statements and press releases, regardless of the provocation.

As to the accuracy of the quotations, however, readers should know that I do have proof of the veracity of my reporting, regardless of my poor judgment in using it. And, as to the substance of the meeting, after action reports point to a greater seriousness about the depth of the problems facing the denomination at this time. In reports from Cheryl Wade and in open discussions, it looks as if a greater soberness to the difficulty and greater openness to the need for thorough discussion in the future were present in the sessions. These trends bode well for meetings to take place later this spring and during the summer.

[His Barking Dog barks, growls, and sometimes chases cars without any connection to the powers or authorities within any entity in the PSW. Sometimes the barking becomes a nuisance and irritates the wrong people. Sorry!]

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Dr. Raymond Jennings, Veteran ABCUSA Staffer Passes Away

VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS)-Dr. Raymond Jennings, a staff member of the American Baptist Churches' Office of Communication from 1981-1990, died April 4, in the presence of his family. He was 82.

Jennings served as a reporter and analyst for The American Baptist Magazine and as editor and writer for INPUT, a newsletter for clergy.

From 1948 to 1959, he and his wife, Irene, were American Baptist missionaries in Japan, where he served as chaplain and professor at Kanto Gakuin University in Yokahama. After returning to the United States, Jennings held pastorates in Ottawa, Kan.; Berkeley, Calif.; Syracuse, N.Y.; and Washington, D.C.

"Ray had a deep understanding of and love for American Baptist ministry and mission," said Laura Alden, associate executive director of Publishing and Judson Press publisher, and a former colleague in the Office of Communication. "He was a huge part of American Baptist life for many years, as a pastor, missionary and storyteller. He covered events both as a journalist and as a pastor."

A memorial service is planned tentatively for early May. Jennings is survived by his wife, Irene, and four children. Condolences may be sent to her at 401 Santa Clara Avenue #105, Oakland, CA 94610.


I can never remember reading anything Ray Jennings ever wrote without becoming angry. Whether spinning a story or holding forth on a topic, he was everything I did not like about the ABCUSA. Ray hailed from the left, too far left. But, he was a brother in Christ with a passion for Jesus. His trademark sermon, "Kissing Frogs," was often preached and never the same. One time, his preaching notes ended like this:

Ignorance and apathy ARE problems. The world needs more Frog Kissers: People who care about others. "So what is the task of Christians? To kiss frogs, of course."

There is struggle in Christian ranks today. A deep division. I see two very different kinds of Christians: (1) those who see faith as a creed and their mission as enforcing conformity, and (2) those who see faith as a commitment and their task as setting people free to realize their God-given potential and purpose. The first group sees themselves as "defenders of the faith." The second group see themselves as companions and pilgrims and on the journey of faith. They're frog kissers!

The world needs more frog kissers ...

Despite my profound disagreements with Dr. Jennings, including his typology for the right and the left cited above, we are poorer because he is gone. RIP passionate pastor-professor-preacher-pundit! Godspeed to your heavenly reward.

For more information on the ever controversial Dr. Jennings, cf.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Valley Forge Meetings Given Radically Differing Interpretations: Beatific Moment or Barnyard Manure? What do YOU see?

A previous post reported on the facts of the work done by the General Executive Council of the ABCUSA (GEC) last week in their annual meeting. Today Andrew C. Jayne of the American Baptist Churches, USA Mission Resource Development staff offered a report and an interpretation of the events which included:

“The General Executive Council (GEC) meeting of the American Baptist Churches USA took significant steps in attempting to position the mission and ministry of ABCUSA for the 21st Century . . . For the GEC . . . their meeting was touched with a God-moment as new light began to emerge from the distant horizon. A new day seems to be dawning as a new vision is birthing around the Focus Statement: American Baptist Churches are Healthy Missional Churches that Nurture Devoted Disciples of Jesus Christ who Live Their Lives in Mission and Ministry for the Healing of the World through the Love of Christ. This Statement grew out of Seek It! and the Seven Key Ministry Areas of Radical Discipleship, Healthy Missional Churches, Leadership, Church Planting, Youth, Stewardship and Mutual Faithfulness.”

Clearly this optimistic and even visionary view, while probably representative of the majority sentiment, does not capture the opinions of all participants. In addition to a number of Valley Forge staffers, the GEC includes all of the regional Executive Ministers and several program people from each of the national boards. A couple of reactions to the recent GEC meetings by insiders (outside the Pacific Southwest) highlighted some issues and reinforced other concerns.

One GEC member commented on the direction of the denomination by saying:

“All this comes at a time in my life when I thought it was impossible for Valley Forge to pile it any higher. The other thing you have to factor into all the statistics is that the loyalty which is extremely low is coming from people over 65 who are in basically dysfunctional churches. If they were to poll let's say Victorville or Colton or any other "ABC" church with life the answers would have been, "ABC, what is ABC? Aren't they like 7-11's in Honolulu?"

Another GEC member observed:

“It IS astounding how they can spin this crap. How does that Christmas joke about the overly optimistic kid getting boxed up horse crap for Christmas go? Something about the Dad saying, "Yea, he's such an optimist I can give him crap for Christmas and he believes he's actually getting a pony?" Okay, based on these press reports I'm looking for the pony in this denomination. Instead, I'm only finding asses . . . most of the ABC local churches don't give a hoot about the denomination. They've already written it off. What else explains the precipitous fall of UM?”

As the days unfold, we will watch with interest which version most accurately captures the reality of the denomination in this time of change. Are these forward leaning moments of divine appointment and unusual blessing or do they smell of the disintegration and decay of a dying institution? Clearly Dr. Medley believes his vision of "radical discipleship" provides an ample platform for all of us to stand as well as a compelling vision for the future of the denomination.

[His Barking Dog only reports what he sniffs out back behind the kitchen of the ABC. My blogs are unrelated to any staff or official positions in the PSW]

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Early Reports from the ABC General Executive Council Annual Meeting: "We Are Broken, But We Are Going to Fix It"

Early reports emanating from the annual meeting of the General Executive Council (GEC) of the ABCUSA tell of presentations by two high level consultants, David A. Roozen (a sociologist and Director of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research) and Tricia S. Jones (a Ph.D. in Communication who specializes in conflict process negotiation, mediation theory, and organizational conflict and dispute system design). Tricia Jones seemed to sum up the drift of the event with her words: “We are broken, but we are going to fix it” and “We will stop self-sabotaging and project hope.”

GEC members heard from Dr. Jones, the communications specialist, in areas of denominational conflict and dispute resolution. Using her technique of distinguishing issues that are “urgent” from those that are “not urgent,” she cross-referenced these with a process that requires “together” vs. those which might better employ “separate” efforts. In other words, some problems are better talked out in a group while others are more appropriate for non-plenary work towards solutions.

Jones' aim was to facilitate the group as they attempt to move toward the goal of the description of American Baptist Churches that . . .
* Are Healthy Missional Churches
* That Nurture Devoted Disciples of Jesus Christ
* Who Live their Lives
* In Mission and Ministry
* for the Healing of the World
* through the Love of God

Dr. Jones led the group in looking at those aspects of the ABCUSA that the group valued and identified as critical to retain and those elements which were viewed as obstructions to our common life. Brainstorming and break-out experiences were intended to prepare for the continuing discussion in the May Summit and the September meeting.

GEC members tell of Dr. Roozen’s presentation as raising several red flags regarding ABC institutional life. When looking at key indicators among Protestants such as responses to questions regarding “changed worship,” “high expression of denominational heritage,” “had a serious conflict in the last five years,” and “no problem finding lay leaders,” ABC numbers fall quite close to the norm among all Protestants, except for the heritage item. Whereas 61% of American Protestants identify with a “high expression of denominational heritage,” that number falls to a perilously low 38% among American Baptists.

Roozen spoke of the level of stress and unsettledness varying considerably among Protestants. Those retaining stronger identities report “annoying but manageable” levels of discomfort. Those, however, suffering from weaker identities see the conflict as “perplexing and paralyzing.” In and of itself, this would be a worrisome sign. Coupled with his prediction that future trends portend a continuing fault line for issues of gender and sexuality compounds the problem for American Baptists.

Dr. Roozen’s presentation was a masterpiece of modern sociological analysis. His “bottom line” involved several points for consideration by ABC leaders. While mission is important, planners need to build an explicit recognition of localistic and personal subjective predispositions into all major initiatives. Clergy are central to tying history, identity, and ministry together. Second only to the importance of pastors are the structures of the regional judicatory. National staff should see the regions as their primary “client.” Further, according to Roozen, the national staff need to enhance their personal relationships with regional and local people. In place of adversarial decision making, the denomination should adopt more “spiritual” and soft “discernment approaches.” Finally, Roozen recommended giving priority to clergy training, support and supervision and hiring “story-tellers” to help connect ABC history and identity with real live experiences of our constituency.

In other words this expert told our national leadership that people like what they like and smart leaders will give everyone a little "something." Pastors are the gate keepers for denominational identity and they should be given better training, support, and supervision by the denomination if the ABC wants their assistance in promoting the denomination. The regions are the 800 lb. gorillas in the room and must be treated like the primary client of the national staff. The Valley Forge folk should put on their best “Dale Carnegie” face and do more relating to regional and local “folks.” Rather than voting on everything employing a win-lose political model, we should use more “fuzzy” spiritual discernment approaches. And, we need to find some Garrison Keillor types to hire who can make us laugh and make us cry, and make us yearn for our ABC family (e.g., Bob Roberts has often filled this role superbly).

So, what do we make of this high level utilization of expert presentation and facilitation? I, for one, thought that this is what we paid Valley Forge staff to be doing all along. But, as tensions rise within the organization in various regions (e.g., PSW), these are some of the seminal issues which must be addressed by any organization professing: “We are broken, but we are going to fix it” and “We will stop self-sabotaging and project hope.”

[His Barking Dog admits to a "wonkish" addiction to organizational behavior topics like this one. Just like the old Lay's potato chip ad, "bet you can't eat just one." However, my wonk taste does not imply that I know anything. Passion for organizational conversation bears no relationship to the PSW position or policy makers.]

Thursday, April 06, 2006

PSW Congregations Beginning to Direct Delegates Regarding April 29 Withdrawal Meeting

Here are the advisory votes being taken by PSW congregations that have come to me so far. If anyone knows of any other counts, please pass them along. Names are arranged alphabetically, by city.

Alhambra - 99% to support PSW withdrawal (approx. 350 avg. weekly attendance)
North Park - 78% to support PSW withdrawal (approx. 100 avg. weekly attendance)
Pasadena - 2 to 1 to remain with the ABCUSA (approx. 200 avg. weekly attendance?)
Pomona - 100% to support PSW withdrawal (approx. 3,000 avg. weekly attendance)
San Diego - 63% to support PSW withdrawal (approx. 200 avg. weekly attendance)
Sun City West - 96.6% to support PSW withdrawal
Temple City - 85% to support PSW withdrawal (approximately 300 avg. weekly attendance
Torrance - 94% to support PSW withdrawal (approximately 400 avg. weekly attendance)

Congregations indicating recommendation (vote tallies not available to His Barking Dog). Please note that the following names come from a source in the San Diego area and have not been verified by me. Also, note that they are all San Diego congregations (probably the strongest geographic area of the PSW supportive of continued ABCUSA membership):

Recommending support for PSW withdrawal:
East Village Community Church
La Jolla 1st Baptist
Trinity Baptist

Those recommending remaining in the ABCUSA:
National City 1st Baptist (aka One in Christ)
Bostonia 1st Baptist

University Ave.

Different congregations are utilizing varying approaches to sending delegates to the regional meeting. Some are using a "winner take all" approach with all delegates instructed to cast their ballots on April 29 in one direction (e.g., Pasadena). Others are sending delegates pledged to vote proportionate to the congregational outcome (e.g., San Diego, Temple City).

Of the names of congregations forwarded to me, only one of the churches reported to be in favor of continued ABCUSA membership average more than 100 attenders on a Sunday (i.e., Pasadena). Conversely, all of the larger churches and many middle sized and smaller congregations known so far are in favor of the PSW recommendation to withdraw. How this will translate into votes on April 29 remains to be seen.

One of the more interesting aspects of the advisory vote on the 29th will be the turn-out and the reasons for it. Obviously strong partisans on both sides are highly vested in "making their vote count." However, a significant number--who knows how many?--of churches are relatively uninvolved in the issue, region, or ABC and care little about registering their opinion. One pastor reports that he "doesn't like Salico" but that he "doesn't like" the ABCUSA either. He suspects that he will probably "do nothing." Another told me that he does not want to raise the issue with his congregation at all, lest they challenge his leadership for staying in the ABC so long. Additionally some, representing both sides of the divide, may stay away on the belief that the issue is already a "done deal." Counting votes on April 29 will involve more than adding up "yes" and "no" ballots; it will also require "weighing" the returns in order to "discern the body."

[His Barking Dog still needs both hands and feet to count to ten. I am not to be confused with anyone official, semi-official, or pontifical with authority in the PSW]

ABCUSA Officials Gather to Answer the Question: "What Does it Mean to be a Denomination in This Day?"

What is happening in the national corridors of power as the PSW continues the countdown for a meeting on withdrawal from the ABCUSA later this month? Last night the General Executive Council (GEC) of the ABCUSA began its annual spring meetings which are scheduled to run until Sunday.

At the November gathering, several members raised concerns about the future of denominationalism in general and the ABC in particular. Some of the participants requested a “mediation event” where all of the diverse and disparate issues could be put onto the table.

The actual wording read: “Building upon its action in the spring of 2005, the GEC has observed a confluence of events that are symptomatic of a need for a comprehensive reevaluation of the very character of what it means to be a denomination in this day and that we accordingly resolve to put in place a process to review the Covenant of Relationships to include a review of our values, structure, decision-making processes that would form the basis of a new relationship together.”

Last evening, the GEC reportedly took an initial step at following up on the requested mediation. Out of an agenda for the sessions running from April 5 – 9, GEC members began working on the problem under the facilitation of Ms. Trish Jones. Due to a prior engagement by Ms. Jones who is leaving this afternoon, only a few hours will be devoted to this potentially life-and-death issue facing the ABC.

All of this follows on the heels of a specially called meeting last month near Chicago at the often used Techny Towers conference center. Originally established as a seminary for the Society of the Divine Word (Societas Verbi Divini, SVD), Techny Towers now serves as an ecumenical center for religious, social, educational, service and other nonprofit organizations.

Roy is said to have called the execs together to reconnect with them, promote the Seek It! vision statement, push the key ministry areas that have been defined in order to flesh out the Vision Statement, and discuss "how do we move forward from here?" Considerable time was given in break out groups discussing that last question, "How do we move forward?" Reports filtering out of the meetings spoke of leader “fatigue” and “more of the same.”

Knowledgeable sources report that the PSW has apparently dropped off the “radar screen” of the national leadership. Some believe that Valley Forge has already washed its hands of the PSW due to the absence of significant high level discussions regarding the possible PSW departure.

Meanwhile, some progressive and conservative executives continue working to find a way to restructure the ABC before an implosion takes place. While rumors circulate about proposals being advanced by various regions and sub-groups within the GEC hailing from both left and right, no idea has gained general acceptance or support. And, as long as national leadership continues looking at the ABC through a perverse magnifying glass that declares us to be the most "rapidly growing mainline denomination" with a compelling vision for ministry, little change can be expected. One can only hope that the shock of the PSW action, once it has taken place, will provide a much needed wake-up call for the rest of the slumbering regions.

[His Barking Dog reports, analyzes, and opines on issues in the ABC from an independent standpoint. I'm as likely to speak for PSW as Benny Hinn is to become pope]

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Definitive Story of Billy Graham on DVD - Truly This Man is God's Ambassador

Last year I visited the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College. One of the high points was getting behind the pulpit Billy used in so many of his major campaigns. Even standing in that historic spot overwhelmed me with the weight of history and the significance of this very unique servant of the Lord.

Since 1947 83 million people have attended a venue where they heard Billy Graham preach. If you want to know why, purchase a copy of the new video, "Billy Graham: God's Ambassador." Hosted by veteran interviewer David Frost and containing bonus materials such as a crusade sermon from Portland (OR), a message from son Franklin Graham, and an interview with David Frost, this is the best 2 hours I have spent in a very long time. With old pictures, vintage film clips, interviews with various persons (including several Presidents), and Frost's intelligent narration, it skillfully tells the story of "Billy Graham's extraordinary life and ministry." Quite simply, if this doesn't inspire you, humble you, and make you cry, you have no heart.

Produced by 20th Century Fox, it retails for $19 but I picked one up at Costco for less than $13.