Thursday, June 22, 2006

What is the Relationship Between the ABC and the Alliance Anyway?

Last month a denominational official suggested that there are virtually no ties between the ABCUSA and the Alliance of Baptists. Not only do they not engage in joint projects, but there are no conversations between the leaders of the two groups. Readers may wonder how I could have missed the point so dramatically. Well, read some selections from Dr. Stan Hastey's "State of the Alliance" address a couple of months ago and you will see the basis for my conclusions that our ABC leadership and that of the Alliance may be closer than some suggest. This is not to argue that Valley Forge staff do not attempt to live within the constraints of the '92 Resolution on human sexuality. However, the ties linking the two groups are probably much closer than advertised.

Stan Hastey’s “State of the Alliance” Address An Annual Report to the Alliance of Baptists, By Stan Hastey, Executive Director, Birmingham, Alabama, April 22, 2006 (my boldings and selections from a much longer document).

Perhaps it will surprise you to hear how American Baptist the Alliance is becoming. Of 117 congregations currently affiliated with the Alliance, 51 are ABC/USA churches as well. Most of the new churches in the Alliance over the past three or four years have ties, historic and present, to ABC/USA. . . .

Later this morning in the report of our Nominating Committee, you will be presented with dramatic new evidence of the increasingly vital role American Baptists are playing in the Alliance. Both Jim Hopkins of Oakland, California, and Kristy Pullen of Reston, Virginia (but until recently of Pennsylvania), have spent their entire careers in ministry in the context of American Baptist life. Their nominations as president and vice president, respectively, speak to the evolution of the Alliance from a predominantly regional movement across the Bible belt into a truly national body of Baptists. This is not meant to sound grandiose, because we all know that within the vast sea of Baptists in this country our ship is small. But it is a seaworthy vessel nonetheless, one that has navigated some tricky and even treacherous waters but is now moving out toward horizons yet unknown to us

. . . On the vessel known as Alliance, we are traveling companions as well of lesbians and gays and bisexual and transgender persons. Some say of us that we doomed ourselves to perpetual smallness the day in 1995 we received and affirmed our ground-breaking statement on sexual orientation. It is true that we delimited our numerical growth by becoming a movement that welcomes and affirms those of same-sex orientation. But I sense we’ve about gotten over worrying about it. I’ll even go so far as to say that we’re beginning to ride a rising tide of acceptance of those of minority sexual orientations that some day will take us to the higher ground of genuine equality. This doesn’t mean there aren’t yet storms to weather out there, especially by those victimized for doing nothing more than reflecting openly the image of God stamped on them. To you, the Alliance says, “We are on the journey with you, all the day long and all the way through.”

. . . As for our friends of the American Baptist Churches in the USA . . . we continue to maintain open lines of communication and engage in mutually beneficial joint projects. Among these is Baptist Builders, an on-the-ground effort based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for relief to African American churches devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. This effort is being co-sponsored by PNBC, ABC/USA, CBF, the District of Columbia Baptist Convention, and the Alliance. All these other bodies are putting significant amounts of money into the project, yet have insisted the Alliance be included at the table. They recognize that many of our churches are affiliated with one or more of them as well and want us to be part of this specifically targeted effort to make a difference in south Louisiana.

In addition, I must mention the special affection toward the Alliance demonstrated by Roy Medley, the still-new General Secretary of the American Baptist Churches in the USA, who made a point of inviting me to his installation three years ago and repeatedly has expressed his appreciation for the Alliance.

[His Barking Dog continues an independent course of commentary and editorial observations unfettered by connections to any organization, entity, gang, or jazzercize class anywhere in California. ]

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