Friday, October 13, 2006

Baptist Blogger Proposes Strategy for ABC Engagement

For some time I have been aware of the excellent blog by Dr. LewK (http://drlewkblog.blogspot.com/). His analysis, printed under the provocative title, "If We (Evangelicals) Stay," offers the beginnings of an action plan for evangelical engagement in a mainline denomination. See what you think . . .

There are still many evangelicals who don’t want to withdrawal from ABC. They still believe that there is a possibility for reformation. I don’t think so because for decades evangelicals have been (and I think still are) unwilling to do the things necessary to bring about reform, and without such willingness and follow through the options are only two: 1. Go 2. Stay.

If true reformation, renewal, or revival is to come to ABC, evangelicals need to be willing not only to post their 95 thesis on the internet, but be willing to act in concert in ways that will be excoriated by our liberal brothers and friends in places of power within the current structure.

The current denominational by-laws and rules are designed to keep evangelicals from gaining a majority in positions that can vote to bring change, while insuring that a liberal majority is almost always in ascendancy (since way back in 1968 I’ve been voting against the changes in denominational structure that have allowed this situation to occur).

With the design and layout of ABCUSA structures favoring the control of liberal leadership and blocking the resurgence of a majority evangelicalism at decision making levels, baptist evangelicals who have anything other than fantasy hopes for a return to biblical authority, need to take a new course.

If reformation is possible, it can come if (and it is a big “if”)evangelicals are willing to become “inside outsiders.” ABC evangelicals need to put their ministries and monies outside of denomination structures. For example: Evangelicals ought to form an independent version of BNM. Call it “Alternative North American Ministries in the churches of the ABC,” or some such nom de plume indicating it’s connected to the autonomous churches, but not with the denomination. Through it, commission evangelical missionaries under the direction of evangelical churches. Raise their mission support from the evangelical churches, and expend it outside of ABCUSA checkbooks. Over time it will grow to be the dominant national ministry group connected to ABC local churches.

Evangelicals should form a national Evangelical Pastors Council as an alternative to the Ministers’ Council that exists at this time. This new council would be open to evangelical pastors (youth workers and other ministry personnel) who are willing to sign, preach, and live by a biblical statement of faith. This would provide evangelical pastors (and through them their churches) a continuous voice to raise evangelical concerns to current denomination leadership representing the many evangelical pastors (“All for one, one for all.”), and help allieviate the leaning some churches have towards leaving the denomination.

Evangelicals, if they remain in ABC, need to keep the mission monies flowing, but not through United Mission. All giving that any evangelical churches do should be targeted and “specified” (SPC line on “Monthly Report Of Missions Support” form) to evangelical missionaries, ministries, and good works, that will carry on the good ABC Missions has done in the past, but in the exclusive context of a biblical message of salvation through Christ, and reform for individuals and society. Evangelicals need to be willing to begin a new unit, region, association, or committee whenever they find that an ABCUSA configuration does not represent evangelical thought and positions, and in the event there is intransigence to change in the national leadership’s approach to biblical ministry these alternatives could form the basis of an entirely new body of Baptist churches. posted by DrK

[His Barking Dog admits that it is probably too late for Baptists in the southwest. Transformation Ministires has already begun to establish completely separate structures from the ABC. However, for Baptists elsewhere in the denomination, Dr. K's proposal may gain traction. As always, my yips and yaps running behind Dr. Medley's ecclesiastical limo should not be blamed on any of my good masters at any entities in the southwest. They have already rolled up the Judson Press newspaper and are ready to say "bad dog, bad dog!" for my latest chasing of denominational cars.]

10 comments:

Ron Johnson said...

DrLewk has some great ideas but having served on the GB and GBEC for serveral years in the recent past I don't think Roy and company are going to lift one finger to encourage the change of the governance docs to allow change in how people gain seats on the GB and the GBEC.

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

Support for your view, Ron, can be seen in the most recent (and reportedly contentious) GEC meeting. One EM supposedly paced back and forth yelling about how he was sick and tired of "bowing down" at the feet of the evangelicals. Note that the people drafted to write the structural poroposal are insiders, including Medley, Wright-Riggins, Trulson, and Woods.

baptistlikeme said...

there are, of course, different kinds of insiders...including regional ones. of course you knew I was going to say that...=)

baptistlikeme said...

Dr. LewK's blog doesn't seem to allow comments, so I'll ask some questions here.

LewK said:

"With the design and layout of ABCUSA structures favoring the control of liberal leadership and blocking the resurgence of a majority evangelicalism at decision making levels, baptist evangelicals who have anything other than fantasy hopes for a return to biblical authority, need to take a new course."

If there is not a majority of evangelicals in the denomination at large as LewK suggests, we shouldn't expect them to have a majority in leadership levels at national, should we, even with all other things equal? That might be the point, but this lack of evangelical ascendancy would happen even with bylaws that some might think are more fair.

Also (and more to the point, how is LewK defining "evangelical"? He mentions that truly evangelical Baptist ministries in his model would be dedicated to "the exclusive context of a biblical message of salvation through Christ, and reform for individuals and society." Many people that conservative evangelicals might label as "liberal" would also affirm these broad, general terms. Indeed, there certainly are bonafide evangelicals who aren't convinced of the conservative positions on hermeneutics, political issues and so on. Simply wedding the termms "conservative" and "biblical" doesn't help clarify these nuances.

Must evangelical always mean conservative? Certainly it should always mean orthodox, kerygmatic, missional, justice seeking and so on. Who gets to define these terms, though? If you're a Baptist, you have to give that up to what the Spirit is speaking in the context of community. I don't know how creating alternative communities and structures of more conservative or liberal shades will help with that.

We don't have a Pope to define these terms for us. Listening to the Spirit together means, I think, staying together.

Jerry Graham said...

Several comments I feel compelled to make. First, I agree that we need to define what "conservative" and "evangelical" means. In some places I've seen people labeled conservative and in others I've seen the same people called liberal. Needs defined as to what is meant. Second, I think the suggestion is that there is a majority who would hold to a coserv/evan position on the topics plaguing the denomination. Third, if some in our denomination are intent on teaching unscriptural things (i.e. the affirmation of homosexuality) then I for one would have to say that they are not listening to the Spirit of God (because the Spirit does not contradict Scripture). How can we listen to the Spirit together if some are not listening in the first place? If this is the case then I believe we are called to discipline which would then call for repentance and if not received, would call for removal of churches teaching falsehood from fellowship, which comes back to the point that either way we do not have fellowship with W&A churches. Which also brings us back to defining what the falshoods are. Case in point- see Paul in Acts chapter 15. Paul goes back to the APostles to get a decision made on a subject that Paul himself could have rendered a decision about easily. He follows the course of leadership in the church and relays the decision to the churches. It is true, we have no pope. However, it does not mean that we do not have leaders called to spritually parent our ABC family. Just because we are baptists I don't believe we are called to give up submission to biblical leadership. I believe God tests us in these ways as he is even testing us to see if we allow sin to continue in this denomination. I believe we are at a critical point in our life together. Where will we turn? The future will be interesting

Ron Johnson said...

My past and current evaluation of the GB is that the middle 60% of the members really don't fully appreciate the "real" issues of the ABC. Many are well meaning laypersons who are most likely moderates and who will usually take the road of the GBEC and the Gen. Secy. and other Exec's of National and IM. So in some respects even changing the goverance docs would not mean real change.

baptistlikeme said...

Hi Jerry,

I'd agree: being Baptist doesn't mean giving up submission to biblical leadership. Quite the opposite. The problem, though, again, is one of hermeneutics. How do we define biblical leadership?

There are sincere Christians who believe the Bible says very different things. Some of these people are "liberal," and some are probably "liberal" just for the sake of being "liberal." I'd bet, though, that bandwangon liberals are in the minority on this and other issues. One step all of us (conservative, liberal, or otherwise) need to take in this process is recognizing that the convictions held by those with whom disagree aren't coming out of thin air or from a desire to be provactive, recalcitrant or willfully affirming of sin. Compelling arguments on both sides of this issue can be made by people truly interested in seeking the mind of Christ.

Putting the homosexual issue aside, in certain places the Bible rather straightforwardly says that women shouldn't speak in church or teach men. In many other places, women function as key leaders (the Gospels are one place where this happens, but there are many others) and one woman, Junia, is praised as an apostle in the Book of Romans. We don't hear much talk about churches leaving the ABC over these disagreements these days, although other Baptists groups don't ordain women.

I understand that this isn't a perfect analogy; while the leadership roles of women are highlighted in Scripture, nowhere does the Bible seem to affirm homosexual relationships. Neither am I ready to do so. I am ready and willing, however, to say that being faithful to scripture means fully engaging it. A surface reading gives us some patriarchial pictures; a faithful reading affirms the roles of women. Likewise, we should be able to be open to consider the hermeneutics of those with whom we disagree on the homosexual question. In the current climate, I don't feel that many center to right people feel allowed to do that. Simply calling "liberal" views unbiblical without really engaging them (I'm not accusing anyone of that, I'm just lobbying against it) isn't enough. I won't use this space to begin a discussion about biblical criticism, but I will say that I know some very faithful Christians on all sides of these issues who understand these things differently than I do.

I very much value chances to interact like this. May the good spirit of these conversations continue on the various blogs and in our churches.

Dennis E. McFadden said...

BLM,

I echo your comment about the value of our interactions. I prize dialog with those with whom I disagree more than agreement with like minded allies.

Besides making some of my readers want to "puke" occasionally, this is a good venue for discussion.

You are correct that hermeneutical disagreements do not automatically put some in the faithful camp and consign others to the company of the faithless. However, differences in interpretation DO get in the way of being part of the same organization. I went to a seminary populated mostly with presbyterians and have NO doubts about the sincerity of their Christianity.

However, I would never join a Presbyterian church or try to practice pastoral ministry in that setting. Despite the wide range of concordances, it would not be worth fighting and fussing all the time over the secondary issue of baptism.

Similarly, it would seem that our interpretational disagreements in the ABC DO imply the possible need for separate organizations.

Jerry Graham said...

BLM,

I agree that we need dialogue. In the case of the example you referred to about women in ministry, my own opinions aside, I would diferrentiate this form the homosexuality issue. Reason? I don't see a clear cut thou shalt not. In other words it's not sin (ooohh, I hear my inbox filling up as I write this). I can live with differing opinions on this. I do believe there is a deeper truth that is "spot on" about this subject but different understandings doesn't effect our life with our Lord. However, in the case of homosexuality there is a clearly defined sin. This, my opinion applied, is something we must not have fellowship with. We must, however, continue dialogue with those who are W & A. But welcoming and affirming sin is in my opinion devaluing why Christ was put on the cross in the first place. I believe we can define those issues that directly effect (or affect I can never remember which one) our faith as they did in Acts 15. Jesus said he did not come to bring peace but a sword. As hard as it is I believe the truth will divide us.

Disclaimer: my apologies to my lovely wife who is STILL trying to teach me the difference between affect and effect and accept and except. Sorry.