Saturday, October 14, 2006

Restructuring the ABC from the Grassroots Up

A blue ribbon committee (including Drs. Medley, Woods, Wright-Riggins, and Trulson) has been tasked with taking the disparate proposals for ABC restructuring and cobble them into a single plan. But, now comes news that another region, the ABC of Ohio in this instance, just this weekend narrowly adopted rule changes to permit congregations to affiliate with the region and not the ABCUSA. This follows a similar move a couple of weeks ago in Indiana-Kentucky. Readers may remember that Transformation Ministries, then the ABCPSW, adopted this same kind of proposal a few years ago. What should we make of this grassroots approach to altering ABC relationships?

Leadership typically represents these by-laws changes as a pressure valve to allow dissonance within the system without forcing withdrawal from the "family" entirely. In reality, however, this kind of loosening of the ties that bind us in covenantal relationships with the national body often presages a more dramatic break from the denomination as a whole. In Transformation Ministries (aka ABCPSW), for example, rather than functioning as a pressure valve, the long term outcome was a complete withdrawal.

Here the analogy of marital discord might prove illuminating. The single greatest predictor of divorce is whether the couple elects to separate first as a "cooling off" strategy. Having survived the initial step toward complete separation, couples seem more likely to take the next step. Similarly, a region willing to strategize, codify, and vote on such provisions places itself significantly closer to a final decision to leave the ABC.

Will Indiana-Kentucky and Ohio follow the example of the southwest? We will know in a few years. Perhaps restructuring from the bottom up will eventually prove more significant than any plans that originate in the GEC.

[His Barking Dog jumped up to grab this news tidbit about the Ohio vote from colleague Dr. Art Jaggard. The analysis, however, should be blamed on my junk yard dog genes and not on any of my southwest masters].


baptistlikeme said...

Evening, Dennis.

I just posted about this myself. I am hesitating to call these moves "grass roots" because I don't know the extent to which regional laity have been calling for this kind of thing. Indeed, they have approved it, but you know how I feel about regional gatekeepers and massagers of information. Folks on the ground for the most part trust their regional leaders, but, as was the case with PVA and Lancaster, EMs had no "ground up" or grassroots mandate to make the proposals and agreements they did. At least not in my neck of the woods.


Dennis E. McFadden said...

In TM, the idea of two types of affiliation came as a proposal by region staff to find a work-around acceptable to the congregation indicating a desire to leave the region out of dissatisfaction with national. PSW staff suggested the idea and the church liked it so the region adopted it.

So, do you count it as grassroots because the cry for an option came from a congregation, or top-down because the solution was proposed by staff?

Allan Copenhaver said...

The WVBC has had this option for sometime...most churches have been "all or nothing", but if I understood our EM correctly at our regional working group meeting, there are currently 40 (about 10%) churches that are a part of the WVBC, but not ABC-USA.