Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Dr. Chetti Explains Rationale for ABCOSH at Atherton Baptist Homes

As reported earlier, Dr. Sam Chetti, Executive Minister of the American Bapitst Churches of Los Angeles was present at Atherton Baptist Homes to discuss what is going on in the ABC since the withdrawal of PSW. 36 people were present in the room, mostly residents of our community. Additionally, besides Dr. Chetti and his aide-de-camp (Debbie Gentry), Dr. Dale Salico (his mother is an Atherton resident), Dr. William L. Ebling and his wife (ABH board chair), pastor Dick Sullender from Monrovia (who learned of the event from the Atherton newsletter), and one of my management team (Dale Torry) were also in attendance. Here are some of the details and a few of the points made (as best as I could record them) . . .

· Dr. Chetti explained the range of his responsibilities which include 147 congregations in the ABC of L.A., supervision of 137 employees and staff (the region owns several schools), endeavoring to build a $22 million endowment (they are at $13.25 million now), service on the ABHOW board of trustees ($150 million budget), responsibility as internal auditor for that organization, and shepherding responsibilities (at Dr. Medley’s request) for the emerging ABCOSH (American Baptist Congregations of the Southwest and Hawaii).

· He indicated that “our goal is to thrive and to thrive immensely.”

· In describing the shifts in the ABCUSA structure he indicated that he anticipated the Mission Center to be sold (approx. $10-14 million) and the money used to endow the on-going ministry of the Office of the General Secretary.

· He recounted the history of his idea to move toward a “common table” in the ABC, explaining how he presented the concept to a group of Executive Ministers meeting in Lancaster (PA), secured their agreement with the idea, which was then taken to the General Executive Council of the ABCUSA (GEC). Dr. Chetti explained that in the GEC the “liberals” typically reject whatever the evangelicals and centrists propose. So “after ten minutes” of critiquing the Lancaster proposal, the GEC moved on to other proposals for re-structuring. Nevertheless, when the “writing team” tasked with cobbling together an organizational plan intended to pull together the various ideas put forth at the GEC, they settled on a “federated” proposal closely approximating the Lancaster plan.

· Dr. Chetti opined that we do not need “common ground” but “higher ground.” He recounted a meeting earlier this year in Tucson when it did not look as if the GEC could come to agreement on any plan of action for the ABC. He invited a liberal Executive Minister and a Conservative Minister to meet with him at 10:45 p.m. and to pray earnestly for God’s will to be done. The next morning the group came to more than an agreement, it was a consensus. Attributing the nearly miraculous outcome to the agency of a loving God, the leaders emerged with a commitment/covenant to quit destroying the ABC family with needless factionalism. The EM’s pledged to only appoint/allow persons to national office and representative positions after giving “due consideration” to the existing policies and resolutions of the ABCUSA.

· Dr. Chetti explained that the ABC is a faith family, not a denomination. The “entire denominational structure” needs to change, he averred. The proposed structure will more likely resemble a federation focused on mission and ministry, not legislative decision-making.

· All “34 executives are on the same page,” Dr. Chetti proffered.

· As to the finances of the organization, he indicated that the United Mission numbers are showing declines. Yet the “regions are doing great” in the midst of it as congregations re-direct their giving away from the national organization in favor of the regional entities.

· On the question of homosexuality in the ABC, Dr. Chetti professed that “We have addressed the issue and we are moving forward.” We will be “stronger and leaner, and meaner . . . much leaner, much leaner, much leaner.”

· The ABC is an organization “constantly bounded by our passion for Jesus Christ.” He likened the departure of PSW/TM to a “storm” wrecking “tremendous amounts of devastation.” But “we are re-grouping, we are moving forward. My goal is to be positive, upbeat, transparent.” he concluded.

· The formal presentation ended at 3:27 with calls for questions. Dr. Chetti received some unsolicited kudos for his leadership, answered a few questions, and closed in prayer a few minutes later, dismissing to the finger foods his office had arranged for Atherton to prepare.

My analytical observations of Dr. Chetti’s presentation will wait for a later effort. For now, at least, this represents as objective account of what was said as I can muster. On a personal note, Dr. Medley might consider conscripting Sam as a representative in other venues. He was encouraging, upbeat, and extremely persuasive. A better case for the ABC could hardly have been made.

1 comment:

Dave Miller said...

I will await your analysis with baited breath. Suffice to say, everything you posted here rings true to my understanding of how Sam views the issues and functions.