Tuesday, August 08, 2006

On Not Becoming Custodians of the Status Quo

Reactions to my last post have been predicable. Much of what follows comes from one of my comments appended to that posting, now pushed forward as a separate contribution. Last week a friend of mine "tipped" me off to a discussion about His Barking Dog and your blogger being pilloried in another forum. This surprised me, since the people on that forum have always prided themselves as a point of netiquette and ethics not to discuss people by name that are not part of their conversation. And, some of the writers on that forum have bragged in the past about not reading this blog. The controversial nature of the column, however, drew their ire as well as their evident misunderstanding. Since this issue touches on so many points of Baptist life, a wider discussion may be warranted.

First, confidentiality remains an important value. However, the people bound to observe it strictly would be those who freely give their word to do so explicitly or implicitly (e.g., members of a search committee, a clergy member hearing a penitent, counseling, etc.). In the social compact that exists between the secret teller and the secret hearer, one’s word and personal integrity do matter. Members of a search committee have every right to bind themselves to secrecy and to require it of their members. A breach of that confidentiality certainly applies to the committee member and sometimes to the one who receives an intentioned “leak” of information from that person bound by their word. It is only with great difficulty that I can see how it applies to second and third tellings of information, particularly when the recipient of the information freely informs his source of just how it will end up in a blog after receiving such information in an unsolicited telephone call.

But, secondly, and more importantly for the point of my post, the “who” of the finalists matters very little to me. That is why names were not mentioned. I fully realize how easily a third hand piece of information may stand at variance with the truth. Furthermore, it would complicate the work of the search committee to have its candidates discussed openly. My intention was not to "out" the names but to offer observations on the dangers inherent in the field.

My point was to suggest that merely selecting a “good” candidate will not be “good enough” this time for the Board of International Ministries. Obviously an appropriate choice should have a rapport with our missionary force, possess the sound management and administrative skills needed to run a several million dollar enterprise, be blessed with visionary leadership gifts, and possess an ability to communicate easily and effectively with the congregations.

At this time in American Baptist history, however, more will be required and should be expected. In order to avoid the debacle of another conservative region withdrawing from the Covenant of Relationships, the person selected MUST be able to reassure the evangelical wing of the denomination. Indeed, if the new BIM executive is to be more than a placeholder in the denominational calculations, he/she should be able to handle the political world of Valley Forge and its corporate culture.

Despite the hand wringing by some of our Baptist brethren, my purpose in the blog was to give ADVANCE WARNING to leadership that this represents a signal opportunity to do better than merely filling a post with a qualified candidate for BIM. In the words of my prior blog, failure to heed this warning may have disastrous effects. Respecting my own evaluations of the names surfacing so far:

"They will be, at best, custodians of the status quo and hapless bystanders to further denominational decline. All of them are fine Christian servants with great track records of ministry; nevertheless, I fear that none of them should be selected to lead BIM at this critical juncture."

The key words were "at this critical juncture." The crisis of the moment calls for more than a typical, average, or even better than average choice. The job entails more than leading a program board. Any of the people being considered could probably complete that task honorably. Rather, the critical responsibility will be to reassure restless evangelicals to remain in the denomination. And, judged by that exigent need, none of the names leaked so far meet the stringency of that standard.

[His Barking Dog always barks, but seldom bites, but engages in both behaviors without any connection to official persons, places, powers, or potentates. In this case, my information did NOT come from a member of the search committee directly. And, curiously, all the names except one were on my own list of likely finalists for the post.]


Italian-Swamp-Yankee said...

Sounds like some folks are worked up in a lather. What you said is what I read from your post.

Ethics only apply to Evangelicals because only Evangelicals have a Biblical mandate and a spiritual call to truth and morals. Theo-left has only situation ethics. That's the dirty little secret kept among them. “What's best for the cause is what should be done”. They have sacrificed biblical authority for un-tethered church autonomy and soul liberty. As far as ethics go, autonomous churches and liberated souls will be sacrificed in order to protect their biblical rebellion--that's the irony. Don't believe me? Keep pulling this Patrick Henry stuff and you will see situation ethics at its finest. What ethics means for you and how ethics applies toward the radical-left are 2 different things.

I read the post as you stated. I'm just glad you are so theologically confident. That's how I want to be when I get big. Sometimes you get to a stage in your life when politics matter less and truth matter more. God gave you a good brain to synthesize mounds of information. For goodness sakes, keep synthesizing. It takes most of us a week to do what you do in a month.

Keep the faith,
ISY and A. Fan

Italian-Swamp-Yankee said...

Correction: What you do in 10 minutes takes me a week.
(meant something like that)

Italian-Swamp-Yankee said...

Back to your main issue, why is it so important the ABC not only have a qualified candidate but also sounds like your advocating a traditional nominee?
Do you believe an evangelical candidate would be a sign to biblically driven churches (can't believe I have to use that phrase instead of just churches) that the ABC cares for their feelings or is there more to it? How important is this role to the denomination and why would a competent, traditional candidate make a big difference?
Also, what would be the affect of a qualified liberal candidate to the whole?

New book to write: BIM Execs for Dummies.

Dennis E. McFadden said...


Thanks for the kudos (I think). What you wrote in a few minutes took me a lot longer to figure out ;)

Half my education was in management, organizational behavior, and the like. I cannot help myself from "tinkering" with policy matters. Even though my region is leaving the ABC, my heart for the whole inclines me to give what I consider good and sound strategic advice to VF.

Will they listen? Of course not, especially not coming from me! (You should read some of the e-mail GEC members send each other roundly condemning me by name!). Wisdom is only received by the wise. Sometimes telling the truth (cf. the OT instance of Absalom and the advice by Ahithophel and Hushai), will only serve to convince a fool to do the opposite. But, my conscience will be clear that in the moment of crisis, my advice was correct whether anyone listens or not.

IFF leadership wants the ABC to have a chance to retain the conservative regions, they should hire an outspoken evangelical to "balance" some of the others in VF. Will they do this? Of course not! Considering the names being discussed, they will hire a competent person with most of the skills needed for the job (some are better at administration, others at PR). However, NONE of them have what it takes (IMHO) to reassure the evangelicals and induce them to stay in the fold.

jesuit spy said...

What is an "Italian Swamp Yankee"?

Does it cheer for the Evil Empire Baseball team?

And where does it live?

Inquiring minds want to know!

Italian-Swamp-Yankee said...

Italian Swamp Yankees
Good question. I forgot this term may be foreign to foreigners. I did a google search on “Swamp Yankee”. Found little help but here's my 2 cents.

A SY is a backwood's New Englander who claims pre-1776 English heritage. In simple terms, "He's a Northern Redneck". The swamp part has oodles of stories over the years. Family have told me the puritanical protestants never drank, but in the 18th century, liquor was introduced and the Yankees would hoot and howl in the swamps all night unable to handle their whisky. There is talk too about Yankees fighting with Native American in the swamps. Also I have heard when the mills left west, those left behind were called Swamp Yankees. Regardless, Swamp Yankees have a reputation of being stubborn, simple, cheap, and terse.
There was a commercial years ago with an elderly man from Maine telling a lost couple, “Yah cant geht-theyah from heeyuh” (You can’t get there from here)—he is the stereotype.
Now the Italian part: don’t ask me how a nice Italian Catholic girl like mama met my dad. The difference for us Italian Swamp Yankee kids was we would say, “Yah cant geht-theyah from heeyuh—fuhget-about-it”. We would still work in the textile mills but be the local union representatives. The Yankee side chopped firewood; the Italian side whacked it.
Oh, the NY Yankee thing—nothing to do with Swamp Yankees—all are diehard Red Sox fans. Italian New Englanders often really do go for the Yankees because of the Italian Americans who played during the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. All those players had "O's" and "A's" on the end of their last names.

JS: I always love your Icons—Groucho and Curly.
Sorry BD for the diatribe. It is nice to stepback from religion for a moment.


Italian-Swamp-Yankee said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dennis E. McFadden said...

You guys are too much! A mixed up former sortof Jesuit with a preference for Marx brothers avatars and a New England version of a backwoods yahoo writing comments to the blog posted by California white trash. Yikes! If the three of us ever got together in the same room, surely it would justify a teleological suspension of the ethical.