Thursday, August 10, 2006

ABC Progressive Reacts to Dr. Medley's "Call" Saying it Would Require Turning "My Back on Christ"

This month's Associational, the e-newsletter from the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, departed from the usual format of that communication piece. This time, fifteen letters of response to Dr. Medley's "A Call for American Baptists to Live Lives of High Moral and Ethical Responsibility," dated July 17, were reprinted. Most of them were respectfully worded, logically argued, and passionate appeals to Dr. Medley to clarify or retract his perplexing (to them anyhow) statement on sexual integrity and denominational diversity.

Perhaps none of the responses, however, carry as much internal institutional weight as that penned by Dr. Allan Newton, ABC executive minister and host of the Rochester Summit process. Answering the question poised by many in the blogosphere, "Why now?," he surmises as follows:

My sense is that this is a response to pressure from the more conservative elements of our ABCUSA family. This letter came without any forewarning to Regional Executives which has been the established pattern of recent years. It is as much a surprise for me as it is for most of you. My intuition about the reason is confirmed by the quick and vocal delight being expressed by my more conservative brothers.

Dr. Newton leads one of the most progressive regions in the ABC. His efforts to advocate for the AWAB cause, shelter AWAB churches from less hospitable regions (e.g., Granville, Ohio, a congregation that recently called a lesbian pastor, Rev. Dr. Kathy Fuson Hurt who comes to Ohio with her partner Jean) and shepherd the Rochester Summit have been notable for their courage and staunch advocacy.

Dr. Newton fully identifies with the cause to such an extent as to personalize it: "This is the first time I find the line in the sand drawn in such a way that there is no room for me and so many like me. There have been many other pastors and denominational leaders who have been drawing lines of exclusion but this is the first time such words have come from the mouth of the General Secretary."

Lest anyone doubt the theological and ethical resolve by those on the left, hear carefully the words of Dr. Newton when he equates disaffirming the GLBT cause with turning his back on Christ!

"I have shared with Roy that I cannot honor his call. To honor this call would be to turn my back on Christ which is something I will not do for any person. In my early years of youth I experienced such a profound affirmation of me, "just as I am" with all my faults and sins, that I cannot be anything but affirming of my GLBT brothers and sisters; to all my sisters and brothers. Jesus convinced me at an early age that my charge and mission was to love and not judge. It became clear to me that it was not up to me to determine who is inside or outside of the family of God. That was God's work. My response to that is THANK GOD! God put me in charge of my life and not that of my sisters and brothers. It has been my understanding that as a Christian I am to follow Jesus and the example he has set for me has been one of radical love and radical inclusion. I confess, I did not come to this place I stand easily without strain and struggle. Nor did I join this path toward affirmation of my own volition. I had to be convinced and God has been very convincing."

Clearly the notion of "radical discipleship" articulated by Dr. Medley more than a year ago at the Denver biennial has been fused with notions of "radical love and radical inclusion" for the cause of GLBT persons. And, as AWAB continues reporting increases in their ranks as additional congregations affiliate with them, Dr. Medley will face enormous pressure from both the left and the right to clarify exactly what he meant by his July 17 "Call."

Is this what Medley means when he says, "radical discipleship"? And, if not, what does he intend to do about it?

[His Barking Dog finds plenty of raw meat in the trashcans out back of the ABC. However, please do not conclude that it was given to me by anyone official or that it reflects any kind of official position by anyone in Southern California.]


Italian-Swamp-Yankee said...

Actually, this guy is right. With the tone of the Gen Sec and with the uneasy environment with growing welcoming and transforming churches, the climate is to constricting for the WA folks. The best thing to do is split in love. Roy is so loving and pastoral; I think everyone agrees on that. He would probably be the best one in the denomination to help broker that kind of deal. The so-called middle would have to figure out if they are more affirming or more transforming. If they can't choose, maybe they can be dually aligned.
Am I crazy?

baptistlikeme said...

I've been lurking on this and other blogs on and off today and I'm starting to see some sentiment on this issue change for the better. I was all set to post this in response to some of the more negative reactions to Dr. Medley's statement I saw coming from conservative quarters:

"Shouldn't right-leaning American Baptists embrace Biblical Authority on this issue and take Dr. Medley's new statement as an opportunity for reconciliation?"

I answer this in the affirmative; I hope others will, too.

Dennis E. McFadden said...

Dear Baptistlikeme:

So far, most of the most negative comments on Dr. Medley's "Call" have come from our sisters and brothers on the left. He has been denounced, attacked, had his motives questioned, and been told that to follow him would require (as an Executive Minister said) turning one's back on following Jesus.

In my experience, the EMs in the conservative regions would grasp at just about ANY straw to find a path to reconciliation. None of them want to withdraw from the ABC (including the much maligned Dale Salico who acted with extreme reluctance). Frankly, I don't see the conservatives as the "problem" on this issue. Our friends on the left are the ones who are angry over the "Call."

But, Baptistlikeme, tell me honestly: Do you really expect Dr. Medley to implement action steps in accord with his statement? I fear that he has only angered the left without doing (as opposed to merely saying) anything to reassure the right.

IFF he means what he said enough to act on it, those on the right would be delighted to seek reconciliation.

Thanks for your comment.

Jerry Graham said...

Since this is the first time I have written on your blog I must say hello first. Second I must agree with your assesment above. Words are easy to give, action is a whole different arena. There is a classic statement on another blog that refers to the scene in "Braveheart" where Mel Gibson's character gives a rousing speech and another man speaks up and in essence says "great speech, now what?". That too is what I ask... now what. The response from Gibson's character: "I'm going to pick a fight". For me the response is similar "I'm going to take action". We need action.

Bills Blog said...

"Shouldn't right-leaning American Baptists embrace Biblical Authority on this issue and take Dr. Medley's new statement as an opportunity for reconciliation?"

Sorry but I say the answers no. A leopard does not change their spots. Its absolutely astonishing to me that so many are just now waking up to the demise of the ABC. ABE warned us for 12 years that this stuff was going on. Its astounding to me that its because of the homosexual issue that has brought this to a head. Totally missed the mark. The denominational so called conservatives should have been up in arms years ago over the fact that we (ABC) have given sooo sooo little to the Great Commission. National ministries impotency on biblical matters and substituting a social gospel and BIM's anemic attempt a doing what they call superior intellectual mission work (how many people have our missionaries led to Christ or how many have they trained to lead others to Christ and if so how many have they led to Christ). Roy did what he did because he was pressured to do so. BUT I can't believe that his response solves the problems. The conservatives blew it. They never answered the call. What has happened is what we deserve. But please don't try and wave an olive branch here. The ship is sinking.

Amill-Presup said...


Oh no... Where'd Dennis go?

Dennis E. McFadden said...

Dear Amill-presup,

My eldest son and his family were in town (he was the main speaker at a camp in California last week and spent a few days with the fam afterwards) and my third child (missionary daughter and her husband-to-be) joined us. So the nine of us were showing California to our future son-in-law(first time visitor). They return to the midwest tomorrow. Since all 12 of us will not be together until Christmas, this is as close as we will get to a full family gathering.

Having family around (including two grandsons) does get in the way of my blogging. Actually, AP, I was simply trying to avoid presenting you with another moment of disgorging regurgitatation at my "gleeful" attitude toward denominational decline :)

I miss you too. Thanks for writing! As my governator would say: "Ahl be baack."

Amill-Presup said...

>Actually, AP, I was simply trying
>to avoid presenting you with
>another moment of disgorging
>regurgitatation at my "gleeful"
>attitude toward denominational
>decline :)

Good grief, he's never gonna let that one slide!

Hope you enjoy your family time!


JR said...

I think Jerry Graham's post speaks to where a LOT of ABC pastors and laity are.