Tuesday, May 30, 2006

One Great Hour Of Sharing To Provide $25, 000 In Initial Relief Assistance To Victims Of Yog

From "Jayne, Andy" <Ajayne@ABC-USA.org>Date Tue, 30 May 2006 20:43:53 -0400

The World Relief Office of the American Baptist Churches USA has released a grant of $25,000 for immediate relief to victims of the recent Yogyakarta earthquake on the Indonesian island of Java.

The death toll from the earthquake, which struck Indonesia on Saturday, May 27, 2006, now stands at 5,137 as recently quoted by officials. Church World Service Indonesia reports that some 1,700 persons are injured and more than 13,000 houses are damaged. The earthquake measured at 6.3 in magnitude on the Richter Scale.

In all, more than 200,000 people are homeless according to government reports; many of them in and near the ancient city of Yogyakarta.

Baptist World Aid (BWAid), the Union of Indonesian Baptist Churches, and Church World Service responded immediately to the needs of the hundreds of thousands of victims of this most recent tragedy. One Great Hour of Sharing funds will assist the relief efforts of all three of these relief agencies.

BWAid and Hungarian Baptist Aid (HBAid) immediately sent two "Rescue 24" teams in the affected area. Rescue 24 immediately offered search and rescue, medical, and mass feeding teams to local authorities who accepted the medical assistance. One team is working in the Bethesda Hospital in Yogyakarta and the other in Bantul and surrounding areas. The teams will provide medical assistance and also help to assess needs and possible ways for Baptists to be involved in later stages of humanitarian relief and rehabilitation.

One of the teams sent was from Nias Island, Indonesia where they had been carrying out post tsunami work with the Convention of Indonesian Baptist Churches. An Indonesian doctor from the Convention of Indonesian Baptist Churches traveled with them, arriving in the area on Sunday evening. The other team was dispatched by HBAid from Budapest, Hungary late Saturday, arriving in Indonesia on Sunday. The medical team, consisting of 6 doctors, paramedics, and half a metric ton of equipment, were joined by two Singaporean paramedics and have been working together with local Indonesian Baptists.

Leaders within the Union of Baptist Churches of Indonesia have been coordinating the response and have already distributed emergency tents, meal packs, and food. In addition, Anugrah Baptist Church is being set up as an operation center, and Prambanan Baptist Church as a medical clinic.

Baptist groups have gained relief experience in work they have done following the December 2004 Tsunami. They have also been assisting those who have recently been evacuated from the path of the Merapi volcano.

With local staff throughout Indonesia, Church World Service responded almost immediately following the earthquake, sending an initial supply of nearly 3,000 bottles of water and blankets to Bethesda Hospital in Yogyakarta, which is receiving many of the injured. Church World Service has distributed water and food rations to 500 households in four sub-districts of Bantul: Kretek, Parangtritis, Tambang Dipuro, and Pundong. Two tons of family tents, Health Kits, and CWS Blankets were sent yesterday, and 11 more tons of emergency supplies will follow later this week.

Church World Service is projecting that their relief work will continue in this area for at least one year.

"The people of Indonesia have suffered greatly from recent natural disasters," said World Relief Officer, Lisa Rothenberger. "Within the past 18 months, they have been victims of the tsunami, the eruption of the Mount Merapi volcano, and now this devastating earthquake. There is little doubt that relief will be needed for at least the next twelve months. Even as we pray for the victims of this earthquake, please also pray for the relief workers, as many have worked tirelessly on relief and rehabilitation activities since the tsunami of December 2004."

American Baptists wishing to support Indonesian earthquake relief efforts can do so through their church's monthly report of mission support, designating contributions "OGHS-Indonesian Earthquake." For online contributions, go to the Give Now option available on either www.abc-usa.org or www.abcusamissions.org.

Andrew C. Jayne American Baptist Churches, USA Mission Resource Development http://www.abc-usa.org/

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Ecclesiastical Shoot Out Over Upcoming Federal Marriage Amendment Vote by the U.S. Senate

What cause could draw together a coalition comprised of all eight U.S. Catholic cardinals, as well as officials of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Church of God in Christ, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, and the National Association of Evangelicals? Here is a hint: it is also opposed by a broad coalition of mainstream religious voices in America who “come from many faith traditions including United Methodists, Reform Judaism, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Unitarian Universalists, United Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ and American Baptists.”

Give up? The Religious Coalition for Marriage released a statement signed by 50 national religious leaders expressing support for the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA), slated for a vote on June 6 in the United States Senate. The group includes all of the U.S. based Roman Catholic cardinals, Southern Baptist officials, Orthodox Jews, LDS Mormons, and the leadership of the National Association of Evangelicals.

As Dr. Richard Land of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention observes, this alliance of faith groups is "truly an historic coalition." He notes that this is the first time these churches, religious leaders, and institutions have coordinated their efforts on this scale.

Land says this has happened because a constitutional amendment is needed to preserve marriage from "radical activists acting through activist courts." These activists who are pushing to legalize marriage between homosexuals are, he asserts, "determined to reinterpret this fundamental institution in novel ways and against the will of the American people."

On the other side are arrayed an impressive number of progressive mainline leaders, calling themselves Clergy for Fairness, agreed on the proposition that, a broad coalition of mainstream religious voices in America must defend religious liberty and speak out against what they view as the discriminatory FMA.

The group of about 30 moderate and liberal Christian and Jewish clergy appeared in a Capitol Hill press conference May 22 to announce a petition and postcard drive to convince senators to vote down the so-called "Marriage Protection Amendment."

"This debate is not about the Bible. It is not about homosexuality per se. It is about basic human rights," said Paul Simmons, a Baptist ethicist and professor at the University of Louisville Medical School in Kentucky, who moderated the press conference.

At the time of this writing 1,787 clergy and other religious leaders had already signed a petition opposing the amendment, S.J. Res. 1. The petition, addressed to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), argues that faith communities should oppose an attempt to restrict the civil rights of one minority group.

"We are concerned that the Marriage Protection Amendment would mark the first time in history that an amendment to the Constitution would restrict the civil rights of an entire group of Americans," the petition says. "Misusing our nation's most cherished document for this purpose would tarnish our proud tradition of expanding citizens' rights by constitutional amendment, a tradition long supported by America’s faith communities."

Since the list of 1,787 names has not been released, it would be impossible to know how many American Baptists have publicly joined in the condemnation of the FMA. However, American Baptists are evidently directly involved in the Clergy for Fairness effort, including those aligned with the Alliance of Baptists. Two years ago the Alliance of Baptists took a stand, stating:

As Christians and as Baptists, we particularly lament the denigration of our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender sisters and brothers in this debate by those who claim to speak for God. We affirm that the Alliance of Baptists supports the rights of all citizens to full marriage equality, and we affirm anew that the Alliance will “create places of refuge and renewal for those who are ignored by the church.”

This Statement of Concern was adopted at the Annual Meeting of the Alliance of Baptists meeting at First Baptist Church in Dayton, Ohio. (April 17, 2004)

It should be an interesting couple of weeks!

To read both sides of the debate:

[His Barking Dog opines on various cultural and theological issues and trends as an INDIVIDUAL voice; please do not confuse this blog with ANY entity or organization]

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

What is the New Name for the PSW? What Does That Mean?

The following explanation just came out from the office in Covina. It not only announces the change in name but explains the reasons for it.

ABCPSW to Become Transformation Ministries

The American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest will become Transformation Ministries: “a movement of Baptist churches committed to change their worlds for Christ.” Following the decision of the ABCPSW Board of Directors to withdraw from the Covenant of Relationships of the American Baptist Churches USA, the Region’s Board of Directors announced the new name on May 11.

“The name Transformation Ministries focuses on what we are, rather than where we operate,” said Dr. Dale Salico, the ministry’s Executive Minister. “The congregations of Transformation Ministries are committed to bring hope to individuals, families, communities and the world. That hope is found through faith in Jesus Christ. Through the love and power of God, people of all ages, cultures and races can find God’s purpose and meaning for their lives.”

The name, Transformation Ministries, reveals the commitment of the leaders of this ministry to deep change. “As we turn to Christ in faith,” Dr. Salico explained, “we begin a journey toward becoming the men, women, young people, and churches God wants us to become. Many people think of the church as a static institution. Christ never intended His church to become fossilized. He commissioned His followers to proclaim His life-changing power and love in the world through our words and our actions. Christians do not think they are perfect or that they have all the answers. Christians are people who are finding answers together in the Bible, and learning together what it means to live in the strength of the Lord.”

Transformation Ministries is the rebirth of a movement of churches that traces its roots to 1869, when the Los Angeles Baptist Convention was formed. In 1895 it became the Southern California Baptist Convention, and in 1970, the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest. The convictions and core values of Transformation Ministries remain true to its heritage: historic Christianity grounded in the authority of the Bible as the Word of God. This mission movement that brought the Gospel to the West in the 1800’s, today proclaims Christ’s life-changing message to the rich smorgasbord of cultures of the Pacific southwest and world.

[His Barking Dog learned AGAIN today that some of you do not understand that my writings are totally, completely, positively, negatively, entirely, UNofficial and NOT speaking for ANY entity or authority ANYwhere. This dog howls at the moon solo and acapella. However, if my favorite rocker Bob Dylan (who turns 65 TODAY) wants to join me, he is more than welcome]

Monday, May 22, 2006

Former Fuller Prof Pens Volume Supporting the "Welcoming" Position on Human Sexuality

It is not every day that one of your former professors pens a book so outrageous and so polar opposite to one's own views. Sadly, the recent publication of Jack Rogers' Jesus, the Bible, And Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church (John Knox Westminster, 2006), comes to us as just such a book. Notice a recent press release involving Rogers and dealing with the upcoming debate in the United States Senate regarding the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment.

...WHAT: Media conference call by national religious voices calling for fair-minded religious leaders to begin immediate action in opposition of the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment vote the week of June 5...

* Reverend Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, Ph.D., president of the Chicago Theological Seminary.
* Rev. Dr. James Alexander Forbes, fifth senior minister of The Riverside Church. Forbes is the first African American to serve as senior minister of this 2,400-person congregation associated with the American Baptist Churches and the United Churches of Christ. Before being called to Riverside's pulpit, Dr. Forbes served from 1976 - 1985 as the Brown and Sockman Associate Professor of Preaching at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.
* Dr. Jack Rogers, professor of theology emeritus at San Francisco Theological Seminary and moderator of the 213th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
* Dr. Scott Haldeman, assistant professor of worship at Chicago Theological Seminary. He is the author of "American Racism and the Promise of Pentecost."...

BACKGROUND: At the Conservative Political Action Conference on Feb. 10, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) announced that the Senate would vote on a Federal Marriage Amendment during the week of June 5. The proposed discriminatory amendment would, for the first time, change the U.S. Constitution to treat one group of Americans differently from others.

A broad-based coalition of religious leaders will issue an immediate call to colleagues among clergy leaders of the church to speak out now against this discriminatory amendment.

These religious voices will call attention to the fact that the Congressional leadership is seeking to divert the attention away from the hard issues that Americans face at this moment. They will speak about how this diversion shows a troubling lack of moral leadership.

Jack Rogers was one of my professors at Fuller where he taught Philosophical Theology for about 17 years. He was famous then for his book, Confessions of a Conservative Evangelical, which might have been better titled Confessions of a Former Conservative Evangelical and later for his several books attacking inerrancy. Interestingly, both he and R.C. Sproul did their doctoral studies under G.C. Berkouwer!!! Fascinating fork in the road, heh?

Now he has come out with a new book, Jesus, the Bible, And Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church, showing the maturity of his scholarship on the trajectory he began decades ago. After he began his challenges to the authority of Scripture, he found a way to support other controversial positions regarding the Bible. Rogers' scholarship has been subjected to strong rejoinders by several evangelical scholars who have challenged both his historiography and his revisionism regarding post-Reformation history. Finally, he has found a way to endorse the "Welcoming" position, as described on the Amazon.com web site:

"In a powerful new book, evangelical theologian and former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Jack Rogers argues unequivocally for equal rights in the church and in society for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Throughout history, he observes, Christianity has moved towards ever greater openness and inclusiveness. Today's church is led by many of those who were once cast out: people of color, women, and divorced and remarried people.

He argues that when we interpret the Bible through the lens of Jesus' redemptive life and ministry, we see that the church is called to grant equal rights to all people.

Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality describes Rogers' own change of mind and heart on the issue; charts the church's well-documented history of using biblical passages to oppress marginalized groups; argues for a Christ-centered reading of Scripture; debunks oft-repeated stereotypes about gays and lesbians; and concludes with ideas for how the church can heal itself and move forward again.

A fascinating combination of personal narrative, theology, and church history, this book is essential reading for all concerned with the future of the church and the health of the nation.

"This is an extraordinary book, arguably the best to appear in the long, drawn-out debates within churches over homosexuality," says J. Philip Wogaman, former senior minister at Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C.

"Rogers book will be useful to people of ALL mainline denomination..." says the Right Reverend V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire. "For those who truly wish to know what the Bible does and does not say, this is a real find."

That the former senior minister of Foundry United Methodist in D.C. and gay bishop Gene Robinson endorse the book just about says it all, doesn't it? Watching the slide of so many leaders of evangelicalism into Scripture-denying forms of revisionism breaks my heart, especially when many of them were former professors of mine!

Tonight I was listening to another one of Berkouwer's former students, R.C. Sproul, speak on the importance of sola scriptura, the formal principle of the Reformation. May we recover the great "solas" of the Reformation in the face of a church increasingly in sync with our culture in asking the original question: "Has God really said?"

Sunday, May 21, 2006

AWAB's Ken Pennings Expresses "Sense of Peace" Over PSW Withdrawal from ABCUSA

This blog has reported on the comments from various southwest Baptists and those in Valley Forge. But, what does the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists think about the vote? Early news articles cited a "neutral" position by AWAB. However, a recent piece in the United Church News expresses a more definitive position.

The Rev. Ken Pennings, executive director of the Wisconsin-based Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, said he felt a "sense of peace" about the Pacific Southwest decision because it allows the region and remaining denominational members "to move on in directions we feel are consistent with our own faith and testimony."

Rather than viewing it as an omen for other faith groups, he said it is an "inevitable" part of a process that can lead to more inclusion of gays and lesbians in church life.

"There'll be people who feel they must cut themselves off from people with whom they disagree rather than build bridges toward them," he said.


Saturday, May 20, 2006

First Impressions: "The Da Vinci Code" Corrects Some Howlers, Softens A Few Arguments, and Pushes a More Post-Modern Message Than the Book

I saw The Da Vinci Code last night.

First impressions . . .

In an attempt to be overly literal and faithful to the book, Howard has bought into the idea that long sections of the movie must be filled with exposition rather than action. Those expecting the movie to flow like the page-turner that was the book will be disappointed. Evidently in an attempt to placate SOME of the Christian objections, numbers of the historical errors are eliminated (e.g. speaking of the loan word "koinonos" in the Gnostic Nag Hammadi Coptic library as an "Aramaic" word for spouse; claiming that the Dead Sea Scrolls relate to Christ; alleging that the Nicean "vote" on the "deity of Christ" was a "close one at that" when only 2 of the 318 delegates refused to sign the anti-Arian creed; the reduction of the number of women "murdered" by the church as witches from several millions to 50,000).

A few details in the story line are changed to fit the format of a movie (e.g., compression in the museum scene and in the concluding chapel sequence); others are altered to flow better (e.g., the relationship between the Opus Dei bishop and the Vatican).

However, my biggest surprise came in the strange shift near the end of the movie. Brown may be guilty of a lot of things, but faking belief in his neo-pagan, neo-Gnostic twaddle is not one of them. Throughout the novel, the reader gets the idea that the author truly believes in his "divine feminine," "Holy Blood, Holy Grail," Constantinian conspiracy theories. This impression gets enforced by the first word of the book: Fact.

But, at the hands of Ron Howard, the result becomes more-or-less a post-modern morality tale. Whether or not you truly believe that Sophie is the heir of Jesus Christ or not is not so much a matter of empirical historical truth as bald existential decision. As Langdon tells Sophie in the movie: "Maybe it's all true. Maybe the human is the divine. All that matters is what you believe." As she dangles her foot on top of a pond proving that this daughter of Jesus cannot walk on water, she speculates that maybe she will be better at the "water into wine" part. Truth means whatever it means to you and, who knows, it could be true for you.

The neo-pagan verities and Christianity-challenging certainties of The Da Vinci Code novel seem to dissolve into a relativistic soup in the movie. Yes, you get the idea that the church is against women, full of murdering zealots, really into ascetic masochism, and predicated on a pack of lies. Yes, you hear that Jesus married Mary of Magdala and sired a daughter, Sarah. But, you try to follow the dialogue between Langdon and Sophie near the end. Sheesh! Talk about fuzzy!

Brown's hard-edged propaganda for the Elaine Pagels school of biblical revisionism becomes more like a typical Hollywood exhibition of relativism and radical doubt. In place of the worship of the divine feminine and exaltation of neo-pagan Gnostic notions, we have the genial Hanks speculating about unknowable religious beliefs and advising Sophie that whatever you believe is OK. "Maybe human is divine," he opines cluelessly.

Amazingly, our current culture can swallow the whopper that Jesus was never believed to be divine until a Roman emperor imposed it. However, while Jesus is merely mortal, Mary Magdalene is divine and worthy of our worship. The movie ends with its own version of a blasphemous reversal of Philippians 2 as even a skeptical Harvard professor finally bows his knee at the tomb of Mary, offering his worship and adoration (?).

Bottom line: the historical howlers are often expunged; the recognition that people do differ on these theories is introduced (principally through Hanks' Langdon); yet, the heresy remains in tact, including the ultimate lie that while Jesus is only human, Mary is divine. However, the possibility of doing genuine mischief with the minds and hearts of the unconvinced has been softened slightly in this somewhat plodding adaptation of Brown's novel.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Consolidation That Isn't . . . Yet -- Valley Forge Still Needs a Fall Meeting Before Rolling Out the New Streamlined Model of a Less Costly GB

A prior blog reported that Valley Forge decided to reduce to one the number of meetings of the General Board for reasons of financial constraints. However, I was not clear in reporting that this change will not take place until next year. A member of the General Executive Council (GEC) offered the following explanation as to the reason for the delay in implementation.

Evidently, National Ministries decided that it needed to have a board meeting this fall and slated one in the Orlando area. International Ministries separately determined that it would need a fall meeting, possibly to act on a recommendation for a new Executive Director. And, the OGS realized that it was facing the requirement for a first reading on certain items, prior to next summer's GB meeting.

So, bottom line: there will be a meeting in Florida after all. In the report to members of the General Board from Dr. Lloyd Hamblin, Budget Review Officer for the denomination, he explains the reasons for the proposed change to one meeting annually in future years as follows:

The GBEC made this determination at the first meeting of the new biennium, held March 5-7, 2006, when the financial results for 2005 were available.

Why was the decision made to move to one General Board meeting per year?

• The funding available for the Representative Process will not support more than one meeting per year.
• In an era when United Mission has decreased markedly and the trends are still heading downward, the funding necessary for two meetings per year is highly unlikely.
• The renegotiated Common Budget Covenant, which was implemented in 2004, moved 10% of United Mission from national to regional organizations to better support local congregations.
• Although the General Board determined in 2005 to try to raise additional funding for the Representative Process through individual and church giving, this effort fell short and did not make up for the loss in income.
• The one-time grant of $50,000 provided by the Budget Review Committee for General Board expenses in 2005 will not be repeated in 2006 and beyond.
• The General Board has no reserve funds and must operate balanced.

One of the questions raised by the decision as well as the need to mount a fall meeting relates to questions of effectiveness and efficiency. Again, Lloyd Hamblin raises the point himself in his report:

Can a Board that meets only once a year be effective, or does this mean that staff will take on more responsibility?

Decisions that are reserved to the Board will still be made by the Board. In some instances, the Executive Committee will act on behalf of the Board, and thus preserve the appropriate boundaries between Board responsibilities and staff responsibilities.

Lloyd is a good and honorable man. But, his answer strays into the spin zone on this one. Obviously decisions requiring board approval will still be made by the board. However, it will be almost impossible (from an organizational management perspective) to avoid "delegating" to staff even more de facto powers and latitude for action.

Generally, the more frequently a board meets, the greater the tendency to micro-manage staff; the less frequently it meets, the greater the tendency to be a "staff run" operation. Since the left already "owns" the bureaucracy (or at least has a very long term lease on it), expect this to translate into a continuation of the left's dominance of ABC programs as well as a greater staff role in decision making. A further consequence will be a correspondingly reduced role for the board which will then tend to become more of a rubber stamp.

In light of the decision to meet less frequently, the GB would be well advised to move to more of a policy governance model (e.g., John Carver). This would allow the board to become the policy makers in fact while preserving the legitimate authority of the staff to act without undue delay. Several ABC affiliated organizations have found the Carver model to be an attractive way of dealing with balancing of authority and accountability between board and staff.

Realistically, Hamblin also addresses the possibility that revenues may continue their present downward trend.

What will happen if the General Board still cannot operate within the revenue available to it? What’s next?

Bylaws can be changed upon recommendation of the General Board to the Biennial, which determines Bylaw changes.

The value of representation is an extremely high value for the denomination. In fact, the General Board cannot have less than one meeting per year without changes to its Bylaws. Only the Biennial, upon recommendation by the General Board, can make such a change. There is no intent to reduce the General Board meetings beyond one per year.

Should any further reductions in spending be required, then the General Board will look at its options and make determinations.

"Should any further reductions in spending be required . . ."??? Until the ABCUSA comes to grip with its own sense of identity, its core values, and the nature of its non-negotiable beliefs, expect further reductions in spending to be the order of the day.

[His Barking Dog sniffs around the ABCUSA garbage cans for scraps of information but still claims no presence at the tables of any decision makers, powers, or entities within the area of Transformation Ministries (formerly ABCPSW).

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Transformation Ministries (formerly ABCPSW) Leadership Reports on What Is "Next"

Report from the leadership of Transformation Ministries (formerly known as ABCPSW)

May 15, 2006

Dear Pastor or Church Leader,

This letter contains important information for your church and our mission together in the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest. Please take the time to read this important communication.

1. On May 11, 2006, the Board of Directors of the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest (ABCPSW) voted to withdraw from the Covenant of Relationships of the American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA). The Board's vote was unanimous. In order to complete the necessary legal and governance actions required, November 1, 2006, will be the effective date of withdrawal.

* The membership of local churches in the ABCUSA is not effected by this decision. Only a vote by your congregation can change your membership in ABCUSA. In order for the PSW to complete necessary legal and governance actions we ask that your church take no action on your membership in ABCUSA until November 1 or later.

2. On May 12, 2006 the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest became:

Transformation Ministries
a movement of Baptist churches committed to change their worlds for Christ.

The name Transformation Ministries focuses on what we are, rather than where we operate. Our churches are committed to bring hope to individuals, families, communities and the world. That hope is found through faith in Jesus Christ. Through the love and power of God, people of all ages, cultures and races can find God’s purpose and meaning for their lives.

* Your church is now a member of Transformation Ministries. Technically, we are the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest, doing business as Transformation Ministries.
* Transformation Ministries will continue to provide the excellent resources to strengthen churches to change their worlds for Christ that the ABCPSW has provided in the past.
* Exciting new ventures in mission together are beginning! We will be communicating with you about these in the next few days.

3. With this communication you will find a bulletin insert announcing Transformation Ministries.

* Please include the Transformation Ministries insert in your weekly bulletin and/or newsletter to inform your congregation.

4. The vote by delegates from the churches of the ABCPSW on April 29, 2006 gave a clear mandate to the ABCPSW’s Board of Directors.

* 1,125 (84%) delegates voted in favor of withdrawal, while 209 delegates (16%) voted against it.

* Of the 250 churches eligible to vote, 152 (61%) participated. 12 non-voting churches informed us that they also favored withdrawal from the ABCUSA Covenant, but were unable to vote for various reasons. Another 56 of the non-voting congregations have not been active in the PSW for many years.

* This means that of 194 churches that were both eligible to vote and involved in the PSW, 78% participated. That makes the 84% majority favoring withdrawal a clear mandate.

5. Please remember Transformation Ministries in your mission giving. The big decision is behind us now. Let’s work together to rebirth this movement of Baptist churches committed to change their worlds for Christ. As in the past, we are as strong as your support.

6. Don’t miss:
Extreme Makeover: Church Edition.
Transformation Ministries Annual Conference
October 19-21, First Baptist Church, Alhambra
Keynote Speaker: Ken Hutcherson
Senior Pastor Antioch Bible Church in the greater Seattle area
Former linebacker for Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks

May God bless your ministry and our ministry together in the days and years ahead. Let’s get on with the business of changing our worlds for Christ!


Dale V. Salico, Executive Minister
Brian Scrivens, President

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Dr. Medley to Reaffirm Vision; General Board Slated to Do Business as Usual in June Meeting

The General Secretary will share his vision for where God is leading American Baptists in the future at the June meetings of the General Board, according to board members. Medley will be focusing on the "challenges ahead with our work in the Key Ministry Areas of Church Planting, Healthy Missional Congregations, Leadership, Radical Discipleship, and Youth as we live out our yearning to be Centered in Christ."

According to members of the General Board, the agenda for the upcoming GB meeting of the ABCUSA looks like "business as usual" with the typical reports and a long litany of changes in standing rules. One change in the rules, for example, would clarify the relationship of congregations to the ABCUSA during a time when their regional “home” withdraws from the denomination (Standing Rule 5.1.2). There will also be a time to explain to the full board why declining finances have led to the decision to reduce GB board meetings to one per year in place of the former two. A couple of additional items drew my interest.

How is the ABCUSA responding to the PSW plebiscite of April 29 and board vote of May 11? According to members of the GB, they will be tackling the subject as ONE of twelve agenda items being considered in a two hour time frame on Thursday, June 22. The following describes the way in which the board will process the matter.

ABCPSW and Other Region Concerns A. Roy Medley
Table Group Responses

At its November 2005 meeting, and by request of the General Board Executive Committee, the General Board spent time in table group discussion, focusing on three points addressed in Dale Salico's November report to the Board in regard to "What would it take on the part of the ABCUSA to cause the ABCPSW Board of Directors to reconsider its action?" The compilation of responses from the table groups was presented to the General Board Executive Committee at its March 3-4, 2006 meeting, and is coming to the General Board for review at this meeting.


PSW churches participated in an advisory vote on April 29 and the PSW Board of Directors met in a decision-making meeting on May 11. A number of efforts have been made by the General Secretary and others on behalf of the denomination. We will hear updates during this time on the agenda.

Pastoral Response

Our General Secretary will lead us in a time of reflection and prayer.

Those from California will also take note of the presentation on Radical Discipleship, being led by Dr. Glen H. Stassen of Fuller Seminary that same Thursday evening. Stassen, a member of the FBC of Pasadena, belongs to a congregation intending to remain with the ABCUSA.

Focus on Radical Discipleship Glen H. Stassen

American Baptists understand that radical discipleship demands lifelong commitment to the pursuit of Christian discipleship; a commitment that is made evident by the nurturing of authentic relationships, spiritual vitality, and our engagement in hands-on ministry. Among American Baptists a commitment to personal radical discipleship is an essential first step along the road of living for Jesus.

Dr. Glen H. Stassen, life-long American Baptist, and Lewis B. Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics Chair at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA, will help frame the Key Ministry Area of Radical Discipleship. Dr. Stassen earned a Ph.D. from Duke University, a B.D. from Union Theological Seminary, and a B.A. from the University of Virginia. He is author of, among other works, “Living the Sermon on the Mount” and co-author of “Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context.”

Table Group and Plenary Discussion

The General Board will meet in table group discussion and plenary reflection as a followup to Dr. Stassen’s presentation. We will conclude discussion with a time of prayer around the tables.

[His Barking Dog yips and yaps about all things ABC. My barking, however, has no connection to any entity or organization within the Pacific Southwest; just barking on my own, I guess]

Monday, May 15, 2006

Green Lake Positions Itself for Post-Denominational Future; Kingdom Focus Trumps Denominational Parochialism

Today, American Baptist News Service's Andy Jayne posted a press release detailing the Green Lake Conference Center Site Development Master Plan. (Mon, 15 May 2006 10:48:10 -0400 http://www.abc-usa.org/).

Like most press releases from official organs, this one was long on sound bites and short on analysis. Already Dr. Glenn Layne (Durable Data, http://www.durabledata.blogspot.com/) has weighed in with a preliminary explanation of the decisions.

"'The times, they are a-changin'. . . as we see the new direction Green Lake is going. Line this up with the ABC of the West becoming Growing Healthy Churches. Anyone see a post-denominational pattern here? The PSW ("Transformation Ministries") declaration of independance is only a small part of the pattern."

Lest anyone think that Dr. Layne has overinterpreted the data, be aware that Green Lake has been moving steadily toward a post-denominational future for some time. They have already gone beyond an excluusively "Baptist" identity and the board has oriented itself toward conceiving of its mission as follows: "GLCC is committed to partnering with congregations as they seek to be vital, vibrant, healthy missional churches engaging their communities with the Good News of Jesus Christ in the new millennium."

Under the leadership of Ken Giacolleto, Green Lake has partnered with several denominations and parachurch organizations in areas of training church planters and pioneering new models for fund development. Additionally, the organizational meeting for the Great Commission Network almost two years ago was hosted at GLCC and involved significant input from executive staff of the conference center in addition to several executive ministers, ABC affiliated organizational presidents, and leading pastors.

Along with most 21st Century organizations, GLCC has seen the future clearly. Restricting one's field of vision to traditional denominational affiliation alone will likely result in a series of negative organizational consequences tracing to such cultural myopia.

Many of our ABC affiliated educational institutions have been distancing themselves from the ABC over the past decades for reasons of "academic freedom." Church sponsored schools have typically shifted leftward in their departures from their host denominations. It should not be entirely unexpected that other organizations might tact rightward for reasons at least as legitimate. As Green Lake prepares to impact the next generation for Jesus Christ, it does so with a Kingdom vision larger than the constraits of any denominational parochialism.

[His Barking Dog proudly hails from the newly independent movement of Baptists known as Transformation Ministries (formerly the ABCPSW) but still barks only for himself]

Friday, May 12, 2006

"God's Heart is Broken" by PSW Decision Declares Dr. Medley; Wishes PSW Well as It Leaves


VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS)—The Board of Directors of the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest (ABCPSW) voted at a meeting on May 11, 2006 to withdraw from the Covenant of Relationships and Agreements with the American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA).

"PSW had been moving in this direction for some time over theological differences, " said Dr. A. Roy Medley, general secretary of ABCUSA. "God's heart is broken when sisters and brothers in Christ divide over matters of scriptural interpretation. We pray God's blessing on PSW as they go their way from the ABC family." Medley added that "this parting of the ways will not diminish our passion, commitment and undaunted spirit to move forward in mission and ministry."

I always wonder when church leaders baldly declare the Lord's opposition to separation over issues of scriptural interpretation. Surely Dr. Medley does not believe what he writes? If divison over matters of biblical interpretation breaks God's heart, does not that imply that we ought to undo all such organizational heartaches? And, if so, why does Dr. Medley devote so much time to defending "Baptist" polity anyhow?

Isn't it a matter of "scriptural interpretation" that causes us to have a Valley Forge headquarters instead of simply joining with the Presbyterians, Methodists, or Lutherans? If all such organizational distinctions are hurtful to the Lord and, therefore, ipso facto, wrong, let us encourage Dr. Medley to move with all dispatch to propose union with all professing Christians, regardless of their various "interpretations" of the Bible (including the LDS).

Perhaps we should immediately discard Baptist distinctives in favor of organizational union that would presumably go a long way toward mending the broken heart of God. Matters such as "soul liberty" would become not only insignificant differences of "interpretation," but irrelevant once we unite with all professing Christians and accept the role of the Holy Father in Rome.

And, if differences of scriptural understanding and core beliefs are not sufficient grounds for separation, what on earth would be? Indeed, every ecumenical council of the early church involved delineating differences "in scriptural interpretation." Dr. Medley's words resonate on the rhetorical and affective levels but prove meaningless when subjected to analysis.

["His Barking Dog" takes some differences of interpretation as justifiable grounds for organizational separation even though I still have no authority to speak for the hierarchy of the new Transformation Ministries (aka ABCPSW)]

Thursday, May 11, 2006

ABCPSW Withdraws from American Baptist Churches USA in Unanimous Vote by Regional Board

On May 11, 2006, the Board of Directors of the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest voted to withdraw from the Covenant of Relationships of the American Baptist Churches USA effective November 1, 2006. The Board's vote was unanimous.

On April 29, 2006 delegates from the churches of the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest voted on the recommendation of the Board of Directors to withdraw from the Covenant of Relationships and Agreements of the American Baptist Churches USA; voting Yes: 1,125 delegates, Voting No: 209 delegates.

The Board of Directors called for this vote to provide the Board with guidance and input needed to make a responsible and informed decision on withdrawing from the Covenant of Relationships with the American Baptist Churches USA.

In order to complete the necessary legal and governance actions required, November 1, 2006 will be the effective date of withdrawal.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Karl Barth - Basel's Gift to the Church

May 10, 1886 - December 10, 1968
"Jesus does not give recipies that show the way to God as other teachers of religion do. He is himself the way."
“It is always the case that when the Christian looks back, he is looking at the forgiveness of sins.”
“In the Church of Jesus Christ there can and should be no non-theologians”
“Men have never been good, they are not good and they never will be good”
“Man can certainly keep on lying... but he cannot make truth falsehood. He can certainly rebel... but he can accomplish nothing which abolishes the choice of God.”
“All sin has its being and origin in the fact that man wants to be his own judge. And in wanting to be that, and thinking and acting accordingly, he and his whole world is in conflict with God. It is an unreconciled world, and therefore a suffering world, a world given up to destruction.”
“It may be that when the angels go about their task praising God, they play only Bach. I am sure, however, that when they are together en famille they play Mozart.”

Basel is a wonderful city. However, among its many excellencies, I count the gift of Karl Barth to be one of the best! Today we celebrate the 120th anniversary of his birth. Put on a little Mozart and celebrate!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Reactions to PSW Vote: "Fascinating Time to Be An American Baptist!"

In the "what does the rest of the denomination think of the PSW vote" category, the following unedited (except for my highlighting) comments came from the web site of The American Baptist Churches of Massachusetts (http://www.tabcom.org/). They were written by TABCOM Executive Minister, Tony Pappas, and posted 4/20/06.

I have just returned from the General Executive Council of ABCUSA. This group is composed of the Executive Ministers of all the regions and the top people from the various boards at Valley Forge. The last two meetings of this group (or the REMC) have been spiritually painful. This one-praise the Lord-went fine. Thank you for your prayers on this. This is a fascinating time to be an American Baptist! Pacific Southwest is continuing their process of disconnecting. A proposal has come forth to effect a restructuring of the administration of ABCUSA that would make it simpler and more consultative. Having watched the General Board in action for two sessions, there may be some merit on this concept!

Perhaps being free of the PSW will yield positive results for the larger body. Besides the odd juxtaposition of the announcement of PSW's action, it is most interesting that an executive minister of one of the most progressive regions shows an interest in the merit of radical restructuring. Continuing to watch this progress will be, as Dr. Pappas says, "fascinating."

[His Barking Dog remains "fascinated" with watching the ABC as an observer only, without even trying to speak for the officialdom of PSW]

Monday, May 08, 2006

Parsing the PSW Plebiscite; No Hanging Chads Here

Valley Forge has made much of the fact, cited in the second sentence of their press release, that "just over 50% of the member churches registered to participate in the vote." Here are the facts, as presented by a PSW board member in a message to Dr. Roy Medley:

PSW states in promotional pieces that it has about 300 churches. Since you know about 150 churches voted is understandable that your press release stated "just over 50% of the member churches registered to participate in the vote." The accurate facts are as follows. About 250 churches were actually eligible to vote. We have churches that are affiliated and cannot vote on matters pertaining to ABCUSA, a number of churches in a "mission status or new church plants" and others who were not eligible to vote for other reasons.

There were 98 others who were eligible but didn't vote. Of these several didn't make the deadline to register to vote. Two of our largest churches were in the middle of major capital fund drives and did not want to as one pastor said "rock the boat in that process. We are aware of about 12 of these 98 churches that did not vote for various reasons but have clearly communicated (some in writing) that they do support the PSW's Board's recommendation.

Of these 98 there are about 56 that have been inactive for several years or more. Inactive meaning no involvement in association or region activities and have not given ONE CENT to ABCUSA or PSW.

So, what does "just over 50% of the member churches registered to participate in the vote" mean when American Baptist News Service says it?

It means that ONLY 98 eligible congregations failed to vote. Of these, 12 communicated their support for the PSW position. Of the 86 remaining, 56 "have been inactive for several years . . . and have not given ONE CENT to ABCUSA or PSW."

So where does that leave us? There were only 30 active churches (with either PSW or ABCUSA) eligible to participate that did not bother to express their opinion one way or the other. Some may have sat out the vote in protest. In addition to the 16% vote to reamain with the ABCUSA, there are another 30 active congregations from which The Association of American Baptists in the Pacific Southwest may solicit support. Since, some congregations in every region bear only a mild connection to the national body, particularly in California, "active" only indicates some measure of financial involvement. Good luck fashioning a viable region out of these 30 and the dissenting congregations.

[His Barking Dog is better at barking than counting; still my counts do not speak for the official position of the PSW, even when quoting a board member]

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Maybe Valley Forge Should Hire Bishop Spong as a Consultant; Straight Talk Exprress Keeps Rolling On

A friend recently drew my attention to a quote attributed to the ever-quotable Bishop Spong. He supposedly said: "So I’d rather see the church split. I have no desire to be a part of a homophobic church.” His words struck me as an epiphany.

While the ABC left continues to frame the issue as one between Jesus-like, broad-minded, tolerant "radical disciples" (to use the often quoted term from Dr. Medley's biennial address last summer) vs. a bunch of narrow-minded, mean-spirited, small-souled (again referencing another of Medley's terms) fundamentalists, the truth is far more complex. I have observed NUMEROUS ABC leaders and writers utter sentiments identical with Bishop Spong's with one exception. The ABC-left appears absolutely phobic against using the word "split." The verbal legerdemain can be hilarious at times. But, at bottom, the spirit is the same.

Some of my General Executive Council sources (GEC = all the Executive Ministers + the top leadership in Valley Forge) have told me that they perceive VF's reaction to the PSW vote as one of "good riddance." Several have told me that the Pacific Southwest is simply not on their radar screens any longer.

At heart, if you honestly see the issue as one between the Jesus people who are tolerant and committed to "radical discipleship" vs. the bigots, Spong's statement makes LOTS of sense. During the past decade, the enervating effects of this debate have stymied progress on a number of fronts. Who can blame them for wanting to be rid of their tormentors? However, part of the left's core beliefs includes an exaltation of dialogue and diversity. While they can't wait to be rid of us, they cannot bring themselves to say so without appearing to violate their own code; hence, the phobia about the word "split."

Some on the left have chastised me by saying that VF has bent over backwards to accommodate PSW and to virtually beg them to remain in the fold. Some say this in anger that the region has rebuffed these persistent efforts; orthers in anxiety that the national body might yield important ground on key affirmations of Baptist identity or important diversity. This is formally true. However, it overlooks the fact that it more or less resembles the adulterous or drug-addicted or compulsive gambler who begs his wife not to leave him but will take no steps toward changing his wayward ways. Certainly VF wants EVERYONE to stay in the "family," everyone admits that truth. The problem, however, relates to the fact that the national body is unwilling to change. The ABC-left holds an ideological commitment to "tolerance" as it defines it. They cannot take a stand on human sexuality and enforce it -- regardless of polity constraints -- without violating their own core values.

So in the final analysis, it all comes down to a Bishop Spong-like statement. They honestly believe it would be better to be rid of us rather than to live with us. They just cannot bring themselves to say it as honestly as Spong does.

[His Barking Dog may sound like a junk yard dog at times; but my junkyard has nothing to do with the authorities on the other side of the tracks in PSW leadership]

Friday, May 05, 2006

What If The Left Wrote the Bible? TGIF Parody Piece

Floating around the net are some quotes, the full article of which I have been unable to find, attributed to the May 2006 issue of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity http://www.touchstonemag.com/
As a teaser, strictly for your amusement and enjoyment, take a look at some of the lines from the parody, Liberal Protestant Version of the Bible.

"Blessed are the relevant, for they shall worship in their own way.... blessed are the private, for they have refused to subject their motivations to the Church's discourse..."

"You shall have no other gods before me -- I am no more or less worthy a god than any of them." (Exodus 20:3)

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, affirming them in the name of the Creator and of the Redeemer and of the Sustainer." (Matthew 28:19)

"So Jesus called them and spoke to them in parables: "How can Satan drive out Satan? It's not like he's real, or anything." (Mark 3:23)

"For whoever is ashamed of me and my words is to be commended for his tolerance and sensitivity to others." (Luke 9:26)

"In the beginning was a Word of affirmation." (John 1: 1a)

"On hearing this, the disciples said: 'this is a hard saying- who can accept it?' Aware that His disciples were troubled, Jesus said "I sense that this has offended your sensibilities.' So He apologized and took it all back." (John 6:60-61)

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they might have an ethically respectable lifestyle -- and be full of it." (John 10:10)

"I am a way to master many truths about your life." (John 14:6)

"'What is Truth'? Pilate asked. What do you think it is?'" Jesus asked. (John 18:38)

"And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive moral autonomy." (John 20:22)

"For all have tried their hardest and fallen short of their best potential." (Romans 3:23)

"Because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, you have attained reason, and can engage in dialogue." (Revelation 3:16)

[No disclaimer necessary, this time]

Thursday, May 04, 2006

What Would Justify an Ecclesiastical "Do Over" by PSW?

What would prevent the PSW board from voting to withdraw on May 11 or would allow for a return to the “fold” of the American Baptist family?

This question is posed in somewhat different words by my friend and blogging twin, Dr. Glenn Layne, of Durable Data fame. Glenn observes:

The sky did not fall over southern California this week, nor over Arizona nor Vegas nor over the isles of Hawaii. The delegates of the PSW voted to exit the ABCUSA and the Wrath of God did not burst forth in eschatological fury.The reality is we don't need Valley Forge. Neither does Maine (the ABC thereof) or Michigan or Ohio or West Virginia or, well, a lot of places.There was a time when American Baptists--back when they were called Northern Baptists--did just fine without a National Headquarters or even a General Secretary. What we needed to do cooperatively we did through mission societies (now falsely labeled "program boards").And we could do that again. We don't need a Valley Forge. Events of the last few years show that not only don't we need a Valley Forge--Valley Forge is the problem.

Glenn opines, “I still consider myself an American Baptist. The window for reform is open briefly.”

What would it take for reform to effect the transformation necessary to “undo” the PSW vote? What would allow for a kind of ecclesiastical mulligan or “do over” with respect to the movement toward separation and withdrawal?

Certainly one move would immediately receive the virtually unanimous support of thinking people on the right: living by the 1992 resolution on human sexuality. No, not engaging in witch hunts, heresy safaris or looking for heterodoxy under every doily. Just promoting a mainstream traditionalist view as reflected by speakers in venues such as the biennial, Wait on the Lord, ABC programs and the like. There will always be people inhabiting the extreme right and left. Listen to them, allow them to be Baptists, i.e., “wrong,” but do not bend over backwards to accommodate their points of view.

OK, enough quixotic fantasizing. Several leaders in Valley Forge have already rejected that option as impossible within the constraints of our polity. What else could produce a reason for PSW to return to the ABC “fold” and reverse the course we almost certainly seem to be on at the present time?

A second scenario would allow for widespread buy in – both by traditionalists and progressives. If we moved to a pre-1907 structure, without “program boards” or Rube Goldberg 1970s era organizational structures (thanks to SCODS and SCORE), much of the danger building in the pressure cooker we call Valley Forge would be relieved.

It is not an accident that many on both the left and right agree on one thing, as Glenn put it: “Valley Forge is the problem.” Now that rumor has it that the headquarters building may be up for sale, what a wonderful time to re-invent ourselves without the infrastructure once intended to fill that magnificent edifice.

We could radically decentralize our structure, opting for more of a network of Baptist associations. Hey, that holds considerable claim to historical precedence! Ask Howard Stewart about the genius of the association in Baptist life and how our Harvey Everett inspired restructuring has nearly eradicated much of the genius of Baptist polity.

Such a change would be difficult to sell to people in Valley Forge. After all, those in the Office of the General Secretary earn their salaries as full-time mechanics and tinkerers, virtual engineers of the ecclesiastical machine. But, facing the first signs of system wide failure and breakdown, wiser heads in the Regional Executive Ministers Council—those strange creatures forced to mediate between the pastors and people in the pews and the powers that be in King of Prussia—might be persuaded that the only alternative would be implosion.

My frequently uttered maxim, “where you stand has a lot to do with where you sit,” might be revised to note that when the seat where you sit gets hot enough, even the most recalcitrant bureaucrat will change seats. Perhaps it is time for pastors and congregations to help some of the other regional Executive Ministers to feel how hot their seats really are.

If that happens, who knows, maybe even PSW will see the value of remaining American Baptists.

[His Barking Dog sits in a parachurch ministry and stands OUTSIDE the realm of officialdom in the PSW; my views are unconnected to anyone in any chain of command]

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

ABCUSA Jumps to Provide Mechanism for Continuing Funding Post May 11

In the "Don't Let Any Grass Grow Under Your Feet" Category . . .

PSW pastors received a letter this week, dated May 1, from Cheryl Wade, Associate General Secretary and Treasurer, ABCUSA, indicating ways PSW congregations may continue to support the ABCUSA , including channeling funds through the ABCLA where Dr. Samuel Chetti is Executive Minister. The letter was written so that congregations would have instructions "should the Board of Directors of the Region vote on May 11 to withdraw from the Covenant of Relationships with American Baptist Churches USA."

The letter not only answers the question, "Can local churches continue to give to the wider ABC mission?" but does so with "The resounding answer is yes!" Rev. Wade even indicates that since the ABCLA is a UM region, the 65% will be forwarded to the NEW American Baptist association currently forming.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Local Press Quotes Competing Sides in PSW Dispute

The Press-Enterprise, a local newspaper in the Inland Empire area of the PSW, went beyond the press release and cited pastors representing both sides of the debate.

Baptists could break away over homosexual issues
SPLIT: Delegates from across the region vote to withdraw from the national denomination.

10:00 PM PDT on Monday, May 1, 2006
By BETTYE WELLS MILLERThe Press-Enterprise

American Baptist pastors in the Inland area said Monday they are sad that disagreements over homosexuality and authority of scripture likely will result in the Pacific Southwest Region's withdrawal from American Baptist Churches in the USA.

Delegates from almost 300 churches in Southern California, Arizona, Nevada and Hawaii voted 1,125 to 209 on Saturday to back the regional board's proposal to withdraw from the denomination. The board will decide May 11 whether to split from the denomination, which is headquartered in Valley Forge, Penn.

First Baptist Church of Redlands will remain affiliated with the denomination, said the Rev. Joe DeRoulhac, senior pastor.

"We feel like the mission to which God has called us nationally and globally is greater than the differences between us," he said by phone.

"We believe as Baptists we are at our best when we work together where there is agreement and bless one another where we disagree. "

American Baptist churches are independent and autonomous, responsible for articulating their own doctrine.

The denomination has about 1.5 million members in 5,800 churches in the United States.

If the region votes to sever ties, individual churches may keep their affiliation with the denomination, local pastors said.

Riverside's First Baptist Church previously decided to withdraw from the denomination if the regional board votes to split, said the Rev. Joe Lutz, senior pastor.

"This is a culmination of the tension within our denomination for the last 20 years," said Lutz, an American Baptist pastor for 25 years. "The big issue basically is acceptance of biblical authority. ... The headline issue is homosexuality."

Lutz said his congregation, a diverse group of about 350 regular attendees, believes that the denomination's leaders have not taken seriously member concerns about the authority of scripture.

"As a church, we're not trying to persecute the gay community; we're not arguing against their civil rights," he said. "Our desire is that they would find the love of Christ and that Christ would come into their lives and help them."

DeRoulhac said the divisiveness of the culture is influencing churches.

"You look at the larger culture, and the culture is dividing," he said. "We talk about red and blue states now. You can talk about red and blue churches."

Lutz disagreed.

"This is a biblical issue," he said.

"We want to try as best we can to live by what we believe scripture teaches."

Some black churches are concerned that a conservative political agency may be driving move to separate, said the Rev. Paul Munford, pastor of New Joy Baptist Church in Riverside.

"Black churches are concerned that the legacy of American Baptist commitment to abolishing slavery not be forgotten because the church was there when others were not," Munford said by phone.

The denomination does not endorse homosexuality, he said.

"We preach the Bible. We are a Bible-based, Bible-believing church," he said. "We are not compromising on the issue of homosexuality. We are not going to throw out anybody in the church who is a homosexual. We don't agree with their activity."

The Rev. Dale V. Salico, executive minister of the Pacific Southwest Region, did not return a call seeking comment Monday afternoon.

A written statement on the region's Web site noted that the board of directors recommended withdrawal from the denomination last year because of "deep differences of theological convictions and values" between the region and the denomination.

In a statement on the denomination's Web site, the Rev. A. Roy Medley, general secretary, alluded to numerous splits among Baptist denominations of varying kinds throughout American history.

"Though not uncommon in Baptist life, such actions grieve the heart of God and our Lord Jesus Christ," he wrote.

Reach Bettye Wells Miller at (951) 368-9547 or