Monday, August 21, 2006

A New Day for Baptists in the Southwest? YES!!!

Sitting at Gate 24 in the Honolulu airport waiting for a red eye flight back to Los Angeles and a round of management meetings tomorrow morning offers a bit of leisure to reflect on the fascinating and blessed weekend now just concluding in Hawaii.

The reason for my three day marathon was to chair an ordination council meeting in Hawaii and to attend an installation of a pastor at one of the most vigorous African American congregations in Transformation Ministries (aka ABCPSW). In order to save TM some money, I elected to skip a car rental and stay in an economy B&B. This meant lots of schlepping around with Dr. and Mrs. Salico.

During the past year, maintaining the integrity of my disclaimers, contacts with Salico have been kept to a bare minimum. I did not want him to be tarred unjustly with an excessively wide brush by those who believed (erroneously) His Barking Dog got its information from him. The necessities of transportation also put me in a lunch setting with the leaders of one of our Hawaii congregations, where it was my privilege to listen to Dale explain his vision for Transformation Ministries.

Oh my, what a difference a year makes! Dale has always been quite positive in his discussions regarding the denomination. But conversations with pastors are not always so upbeat. Yet, on Saturday not ONE word of criticism of ABC was uttered by Dr. Salico or others at the table. Such talk seemed as irrelevant as it was passe. His entire pitch for nearly an hour consisted in unfolding a bold and forward looking strategy for creating 21st Century ministries worthy of the Gospel. For the first time in my Baptist life, I found myself truly excited about the prospects of ministry in our Baptist fellowship and eager to be part of the action in some personal way.

In place of the painful wrangling of the past decades, the new word is one of joyful affirmation: YES!

Yes, we will create only such structures as are necessary for facilitating ministry in our new century. Gone will be meetings for the sake of meetings, and outworn modalities of managing ministries and running things through a cumbersome bureaucracy.

Yes, anyone in TM ordained by the ABC now will be automatically recognized by TM if their church affiliates with it. And, for those keeping a dual alignment with ABC, they have the option of considering themselves as holding an ABC recognized ordination or a TM recognized ordination.

Yes, we will receive four offerings each year. One will go to world relief (possibly through the NAE partnership recently entered into), one will focus on resourcing congregations and work in Transformation Ministries, one will deal with foreign missions, and one will create a ministers relief fund to replace the promised loss of non-contractual benefits by MMBB.

Yes, we are already providing for the endorsement of military chaplains, again through the NAE.

Yes, we are looking at ways to support Asian, African, Hispanic, and Native American ministries at home and abroad. Multi-ethnic works thrive in the southwest. If anything, TM will be able to be even more intentional in its support of these efforts following withdrawal from ABC.

Yes, we will continue to partner with the Board of International Ministries of the ABC. But, our foreign efforts will include sponsorship and partnerships in parts of the world now unserved by BIM. Congregations will have even more options and encouragement to act in ways consistent with their own values and priorities.

Yes, we will provide services to congregations in leadership development (e.g., L3 program), professional congregational assessment at a fraction of the cost of outside consultants, and not one but two tracks in stewardship education.

Yes, we will take our stand for the Gospel in the broad tradition of Protestant orthodoxy and Baptist distinctives. We will not be as narrow as the stereotype of cultural fundamentalists or as broad as the “anything goes” latitudinarianism of the mainline churches.

Frankly, the analyst in me had feared that southwest conservatives would find little ground for agreement once the identified “issue” of Valley Forge was gone. But, being part of an ordination council for a good and Godly young man on Saturday, participating in an installation with a vital congregation this afternoon where nearly 800 folks had heard the Gospel proclaimed this morning, and hearing Dr. Salico’s passion for new structures worthy of the Gospel left me excited and optimistic about the future of Transformation Ministries.

There will be many obstacles in the path of Transformation Ministries as it carves out its unique niche in the southwest. But, one thing is for sure: nobody cares about the fight with the ABC any longer. That is past history. Our corporate energies are focused on the future of God’s tomorrow and his provision for dynamic new opportunities today. If I were to sum up this weekend in one word, it would be “YES!” Soli deo Gloria!

[His Barking Dog did follow Dr. Salico around this weekend, catching a few crumbs from his table. However, the opinions contained herein were not cleared, vetted, or approved by him or ANYone in Transformation Ministries. Like some of the other dogs running in the rain along the windward side beach this morning, I’m simply yipping and yapping with delight at what God has done while playing in the surf.]


baptistlikeme said...

"For the first time in my Baptist life, I found myself truly excited about the prospects of ministry in our Baptist fellowship and eager to be part of the action in some personal way."

I don't mean to be snarky, but if this is true, how have you spent/justified your Baptist life up to now? What about your work with the Baptist affiliated retirement home, or the work your wife does as an associate pastor? Neither of these ministries have excited you or made you eager in some personal way?

I hope for good things for TM, but I find the whole "we've finally got it right and are finally free to do ministry" thing a little much. I've heard and read similar kinds of praises being leaped on CCN, and I'd hate to think anyone is under any kind of illusion that any organization (even a loose one) can ever be very far away from falling into self-service, self-importance or a host of other follies. No matter where or how we're affiliated, we all need to maintain a watchful eye.

I'm glad you're able to say "yes, yes, yes." I'd add also "for now, for now, for now."

Best of luck and blessings.

Dennis E. McFadden said...

Dear "Snarky,"

You read me too literally. Much as Jesus said that compared to one's natural love for family, following him involves "hating" your mother and your father . . ., my excitement for what may yet be in TM is MUCH greater than that during three decades of ministry in the ABCUSA.

From my middler seminarians conference in Green Lake in '76 onward, I have experienced significant cognitive dissonance about the latitudinarianism of the ABC on issues of biblical authority. My three pastoral experiences (one lasting more than a decade as sr. pastor in a large multiple staff church) before coming to Atherton have been richly rewarding. And, remember, I have also served on a number of national committees (decade on Ministers Senate; several years on Ministerial Leadership Commission, four on the Executive Committee, chair of the Western Ministerial Leadership Commission, etc.). However, the constant fussing over boundaries in the ABC has never been comfortable nor (seemingly) productive.

Being liberated from that problem set to work on a different array of issues, yet with the promise of greater spiritual productivity, is frankly exhilarating.

Will TM represent a panacea? No way! But, would I rather deal with those problems in place of membership in a "believe whatever you want as long as you send money" mainline denomination? You bet!