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]

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