Tuesday, December 05, 2006

ABC Insider Stinnett Weighs in on ABC Reorganization Efforts

Executive Minister Dr. Dwight Stinnett, posted an incredibly insightful piece on the current state of ABC reorganization efforts on his blog today (http://abcviewsfrommiddle.blogspot.com/). While pessimistic in tone, it represents one of the most candid pieces I have ever read by an ABC insider. Here is just one small sample from a very long blog . . .

Our present structure is one designed for impasse, inaction and frustration. The program boards (International Ministries and National Ministries) are tied to the General Board in a Gordian knot that neither can unilaterally cut. The General Board is specifically charged to “give general oversight and direction for the life and mission of the denomination,” and to “set policy in the areas of program functions, planning, coordination and evaluation.” The General Secretary (as the chief employee of the General Board) is “responsible for implementing all General Board policy decisions and for coordinating the implementation of American Baptist Policy Statements and Resolutions.” But there is no authority by which the General Board (or the General Secretary) may in fact implement those functions, goals, policies, etc., with regard to the program boards.

Stinnett goes on to draw the following conclusions about the trajectory of reorganization efforts in the ABCUSA . . .

While a single board is both my heart’s desire and my best organizational perspective, it seems very doubtful that we will go that way. It seems more likely to me that we will find ways to get farther apart and have even less mutual responsibility—so we can stop irritating one another. There is potent energy from both the Left and the Right driving this. The price we will pay is that we will be able to do even less together and our common identity will be even more diluted. I also predict that this “solution” will prove unsatisfying. At some point (certainly after I am gone) there will be another effort to “unify” us. I hope it works. If not, we will dissipate and spin apart into complete irrelevance.

Stinnett seems on target in his analysis. The pressure from those on both the right and the left will result (most likely) in some compromise designed to "find ways to get farther apart and have even less mutual responsibility--so we can stop irritating one another." And, my organizational behavior training leads me to believe he is also correct in his prediction that such a "solution" will prove "unsatisfying."

We face a major crisis in authority. From whence do we derive our authority? Does the text of the Bible (as the written Word of God) mean what it SAYS and say what it means (after being interpreted contextually, historically, and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit) OR is the Bible but one element of consideration to be weighed along with a variety of other factors such as current sociological fads, psychological theories, current trends and mores in our own secular society, etc.?

Those who elect to temporize the Bible in light of society's current predilections stand at odds with those who insist on viewing the Bible as God's revealed voice with a transculturally relevant message. Dwight is correct. A solution that just finds ways to keep the two views far enough apart so as not to keep "irritating one another" will prove about as satisfying as a marriage lived out in two separate houses. Ultimately a truly substantial ground for common confession must be found or the whole thing will dissolve into irrelevance.

My point of quibble with Dr. Stinnett relates to his prediction that we have as much time as he evidently anticipates (i.e., "certainly after I'm gone") for the organization to get its collective act together. With Transformation Ministries already gone and significant mission giving congregations dropping out on a regular basis, do you really think that any solution that cannot even be voted on until 2009 (at the earliest) will come soon enough to staunch the flow of ecclesiastical blood?

[His Barking Dog, back from his daughter's wedding and the second of three receptions, does not intend to get into a barking game with ABC loyalists. However, Dr. Stinnett's provocative piece was too important to ignore. While these observations are my own opinions ONLY, still unrelated to my domestic masters in the southwest, Dr. Stinnett's blog is MUST reading for those interested in Baptist polity.]

1 comment:

kneeler said...

A very important paragraph of Dr Stinnett's article was "It is clear as day to me that any restructuring proposal must respond to the new financial reality (read"significantly reduced operating program and staff costs for the General Board") and at the same time address the underlying causes of the changed financial picture, i.e. the division over homosexuality." What hope is there of that happening? I see very little because of the general atmosphere of denial at the national level. Part of this is seen in some putting the blame forf the financial crisis on the new Budget Covenant.