Friday, January 26, 2007

ABC’s Reid Trulson: Do-the-Math Pragmatist or Out-of-the-Box Visionary?

Two moves by newly installed Executive Director of the Board of International Ministries of the ABCUSA bode well for continued relationship between the congregations of the former ABCPSW and the international missions arm of the ABCUSA. Dr. Reid Trulson has agreed to participate with an all-star cast of missionaries at a church in So. Cal. AND he has inked a partnership agreement with Transformation Ministries even more favorable than one negotiated under his predecessor’s tenure.

On Mark 17 and 18, the Judson Baptist Church in San Bernardino (CA) will host “The Call,” a missions conference featuring Reid Trulson, Walt White, Mike Mann, Matt and Lori Mann, Kristina Gutierrez, Dr. Bill Clemmer, and Ray and Adalia Schellinger. The presence of Trulson at such a missions event in the southwest and the presence of so many longstanding ABC missionaries speak volumes about the prospects for continued partnership.

Such hints of on-going collaboration are further strengthened by the generous agreement concluded between BIM and Transformation Ministries. Ultimately, it gave TM more than they had hopped for and certainly a much broader ground for future involvement than had been offered just a few months ago.

A remaining sticking point will be the appointment of TM candidates as BIM missionaries. But even this, however, can be overcome if TM affiliates with the Baptist World Alliance.

Observers on both the left and right will divide over hailing or hating these new moves. Is Trulson a “do-the-math” pragmatist who recognizes the historic role by the congregations of the former PSW in supporting BIM ? Or, is he an “out-of-the-box” visionary who sees the changing paradigms in missions funding and shrewdly elects to position his organization on the cutting edge of the future?

The jury will remain out on the question for a while longer. However, His Barking Dog cannot help but admire the style of the newly installed leader of BIM.

[His Barking Dog tries to avoid making too many comments on the ABC these days, not wanting to become like the yippers and yappers who left the SBC decades ago but still seem preoccupied with internal SBC politics. This move, however, relates to churches in my existing organization and their choice to relate to the ABC so comments, albeit from my own perspective ALONE, seem appropriate]

Friday, January 12, 2007

Carter, Clinton Join to Reshape Baptist Image; Will it Work?

"Baptists from across North America will convene in Atlanta early next year to emphasize their compassion rather than the racial, theological and social conflict that has divided them for decades." What should we make of this announced convocation, led by former President Jimmy Carter with a “cheerleading” boost from former President Bill Clinton?

Some on the left were quick to hail the announced gathering, expected to draw upwards of 20,000 Baptists. Even Dr. A. Roy Medley, General Secretary of the ABCUSA, placed the assembly in the context of denominational splintering:

“There is a cry for healing,” said Medley. Baptists coming together could encourage American Baptists soured by their denomination’s fragmentation over homosexuality, Medley said.

“For a lot of our young people, they are very disenchanted at the church breaking apart and splintering,” Medley continued. “This is a chance for us to reach out to them and say this ideal of love that Christ has given us is something that we really want to be operative in the life of the church as well. And that can help us bridge differences that are genuine differences.”

Southern Baptist leaders were generally quick to jump to the opposite conclusion. In an editorial in Baptist Press, the SBC's communications arm, seminary dean Russell Moore called the Carter-Clinton effort "voodoo ecumenism."

"The unity of which news reports speak is a unity based on social action and ethical engagement," said Moore, theology dean of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. "Even apart from questions of [Clinton's] personal ethics and about the long-ago debates over alleged high crimes and misdemeanors, what about the official social agenda of the former president? This is, after all, a man who vetoed legislation protecting unborn infants from partial-birth abortion, and then blamed his abortion-rights ideology on what he says he learned from his former pastor at a Little Rock Southern Baptist congregation."

SBC blogger Jerry Grace was even more direct. "To be consistent, I despise both of these men," Grace wrote Jan. 11 on "Jimmy Carter may be the most na├»ve man on the planet…. Bill Clinton is far smarter than that, with every word coming out of his mouth either designed to promote his need for power or to pick up women."

"None of us need to speculate about its content," Grace said of the New Baptist Covenant, a statement based on Jesus' compassion agenda in Luke 4. "It will be a reflection of the Democratic Party platform designed to promote other great religious leaders like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton to deliver the black vote to Hillary Clinton, that torchbearer of maternal virtue and humble leadership."

So what do we make of the upcoming meeting? While I am certainly no fan of either former president, Clinton for his obvious failures and Carter for his self-righteous disdain for anyone more conservative than himself, it is difficult to fault this initiative. SBC blogger Wade Burleson seemed to sound the right note when he wrote: "it would be difficult for me to criticize any evangelical Christian movement whose stated goals are to live out the gospel through doing justice and loving mercy."

In the final analysis, the effectiveness of the effort will relate to how effectively the gathering captures the spiritual power of so many diverse Baptists. If, however, the agenda devolves to a partisan platform, it will be readily dismissed.

“If this is seen as a Democratic agenda, that won’t benefit any of us,” said ABC’s Medley. “And if it doesn’t do the pan-Baptist thing, then it will have failed. I hope we do have conservative folk there, as well as progressive and moderate folk. Regardless of where we may be in political parties and things like that, these are things that we’re committed to as the body of Christ, and that agenda is larger than a political agenda.”

Saturday, January 06, 2007

More Top Stories of 2007 - ABC as Seen by SBC

Will Hall, the executive editor of Baptist Press, offered his own take on the news of the year, including the following comments about the ECUSA and ABC conflicts:

Some conservatives defected demonstrably from the American Baptist Churches, USA and the Episcopal Church, USA because of liberalism within their respective mainline denominations.

In May, the American Baptist Churches Pacific Southwest region (California, Hawaii, Nevada and Arizona) withdrew from its covenant relationship with the ABC, USA, citing theological differences with the denomination, in particular, the refusal of the national body to discipline churches and regional bodies over acceptance of unrepentant homosexuals as members and even as leaders. Other regions, including West Virginia (reportedly, the ABC,USA’s region with the largest number of churches) and Indiana-Kentucky have expressed discontent with the denomination’s failure to enforce its 1992 position statement on homosexuality.

The ABC, USA is a longtime member of the Baptist World Alliance, a global Baptist fellowship. The Southern Baptist Convention withdrew from the BWA in 2005, in part, after the organization refused to address the issue of the acceptance of homosexuality in the American Baptist churches.