Wednesday, September 06, 2006

One Step Closer to Schism or an Amicable Separation Over Mission?

One Step Closer to Schism or an Amicable Separation Over Mission?

For those living in the land of denial and harboring thoughts of an eventual reconciliation between factions in the ABC, a sobering reminder was published, dated September 1, under the signatures of Dr. Alonso Cooper, Dr. Joe DeRoulhac, Rev. Jose Guerro, and Rev. Jim Kilinsky. Flying the banner of the Association of American Baptists in the Southwest, the new group will have its organizational meeting on September 30 in my town of Alhambra, CA. Already they are anticipating their first annual meeting to be held in May of next year.

The tone of the letter resembles very much the pen and voice of the good and Godly Dr. DeRoulhac. Never mentioning the former ABCPSW by name, the writers speak of the diverse ways in which faithfulness to God’s call may be interpreted. “For some, holding fast will mean departing from the Covenant of Relationships that supports the mission enterprises of the American Baptist Churches, USA. For others, it will mean committing anew to this historic mission and building those relationships that will empower us as stewards of this continuing global witness and ministry.”

His Barking Dog can only pause to praise the Lord for the high road being taken by both the leadership of Transformation Ministries (formerly ABCPSW) and the Association of American Baptists in the Southwest. Neither group has descended to name calling, bitter acrimony, or trading charges in anger. Seemingly well schooled in the ugly lessons of past denominational separations in the last century (e.g., GARB, and CBA), they appear intent on being about what they are for and not what they are against. Both groups seem mission focused and intent on staking out their niche in the realm of moving forward with the cause of Jesus Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria!

[His Barking Dog chases denominational cars and sniffs theological strangers, much to the embarrassment of his master. Please do not attribute my behavior to anyone or any entity in Southern California. I was brought up better, but it is "just my nature."]


Italian-Swamp-Yankee said...


I read the sentimental letters beckoning churches to stay from leaders and friends of the new PSW Association. The message is the same—“we are better together than we are separate”. Rev. Roberts appeals to all of the senses including memories of food, spiritual times, recalling difficult exoduses from the past, a warning that some clergy’s families could suffer personally through some retirement adjustments, and one of the worst prophetic warnings—ending up homogeneous like the Garbs, CBA’s, and the worst name call in ABC history, “A Southern Baptist!” (some ABC’ers would rather be called jerks, idiots, and fools). He alluded to a fear that TM (new PSW) would end up a homogeneous group just like those “other” people and miss out on all the wonderful, diverse Koom-bi-ya-experince around the ABC campfire.

Question: Is the PSW exodus like CBA and Garb’s or are there some differences?

I am for a peaceful, amicable split. I believe the transformation group and the affirming groups can part with love; I see no sin in it. I believe too the moderate churches can be dually aligned based on these 2 new denominations’ willingness. I say give the affirming crowd many of the toys. The transforming people are secure in their tithing, reproduction, missional giving zeal, and vision. They will be just fine. If they don’t, both crowds will lose and the middle will suffer.

pelagius said...

I wish I had read the letter, but being a midwesterner, I get left out of lots of things.

Let's face it: denominations split. That's just what people do when they get together in groups. There's nothing to say that it cannot be healthy. Given that some Southern Baptists have openly provided funding and leadership for the current controversy, I don't see how that can be construed as too insulting to be compared with them. Even this page has a link to a blog by a Southern Baptist (Al Moehler) who once publicly said that "Jesus is no more important than Joshua in interpreting the scriptures," and referred to the cherished Baptist doctrine of soul competency as "an acid that eats away at the heart of true religion." If that's the way this movement wants to go, fine. It's a natural progression that occurs in Christan groups over time. If they want to be revisionists and pretend that the folks that formed TM have never said or done mean-spirited things about the people that they're breaking away from, that's fine, too.

At the end of the day, we all know that denominationalism is on its way out. That's not just an American Baptist thing. A lot of new expressions of Christian cooperation are going to come into being over the next decade. Instead of lamenting the "loss" of something, why not celebrate the fact that, despite differences, Jesus' work can change form, when needed and continue to more forward. Isn't this all supposed to be about reaching the world for Christ? As Tom Bandy says, "The only thing that matters is the Gospel. Everything else is just tactics."

Amill-Presup said...

Italian Swamp Yankee,

Not only would I say that the exodus is not at all different from the CBA and GARBC, but having attended a CBA church for some time earlier in life and having graduated from a GARB seminary, I'd say there is no reason why the more extreme separatist schism-minded congregations in the ABC couldn't just pick either the CBA or the GARBC with which to affiliate and save themselves the headache of forming something new.

Dennis E. McFadden said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dennis E. McFadden said...


Why didn't you say you were a recovering fundamentalist (CBA, GARBC)? Now everything is clear! As a matter of fact, the people leading the "schism" in PSW would never fit within the confines of a fundamentalist congregation. Most of them graduated from Fuller or Gordon, not a GARBC school. They have had little taste for counting angels on the heads of pins but do care passionately about orthodox Christianity. It was only when Dr. Medley rejected Dr. Salico's incrementalist offer that the PSW gang decided they had no choice but to leave.

Frankly, some of us wonder if it might have been a more strategically wise choice to throw it back at VF and say, "No, we will withdraw from the Budget Covenant, but you will have to take us to the GB to expel us from the ABC if that is what you want."

Our leadership evidently believed that while that course was PR clever, it was disingenuous. If Roy, speaking as the executive of the ABC, tells us that it is "all or nothing," we should accept his word and act with integrity.