Tuesday, May 23, 2006

reformation

About 20 years ago the Southern Baptists went through a take-over by a group of fundamentalists who threw out the Baptist tradition. Two groups withdrew and affirmed our tradition. One of the groups, The Alliance of Baptists fits me theologically. They're left of center and take stands on issues that are important to me. The downside, is that they think pretty much like me and so one of the values that I hold dearest - diversity - is not evidenced as I or they would like. Their covenant is a good Baptist document. The second group, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is one that I believe holds a great deal of hope. They are more centrist than the Alliance which has enabled them to be much larger and a bit more diverse. Still they own Baptist principles which is clearly seen in their core values.

The American Baptists have been struggling for years with the same issues that ran over the Southern Baptists... and the withdrawal of the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest is one battle in this conflict. While the PSW obviously was not able to exert the kind of influence they wanted in the national body, there still has been considerable back peddling from our tradition by the national body. That is seen by the inclusion of a statement about sexuality in the document - We Are American Baptists. No other interpretive statements are included in the document.

The forces that want to discard our traditions of freedom continue to hammer away and will not be satisfied until they can emasculate the power of the scriptures by imposing interpretations that all must believe in order to be "in." I am hopeful though. The push from the right resulted in a backlash among some Southern Baptists that is evidenced in the two bodies I mentioned above. I am hopeful that ABC will react strongly and that the push from the right will result in a new emphasis and ownership of the Baptist traditions of soul freedom, church freedom, Bible freedom, and separation of Church and State. I'm hopeful that these conflicts will push the ABC to own who it is and stand proudly in that identity, stop fighting over issues that need not be on the table, and get about the call to be missional churches in our communities and around the world.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Roy-- This is my first tour around your blog. Thanks for the reflections. Like you, I am praying that the ABC will take this opportunity to reaffirm those traditional Baptist values you mentioned. We have been leaders at key times in history, for the benefit of society as a whole. It gives great pain to see members of a family walk away. But the greater pain would be to abandon our identity in order to maintain a false sense of unity. The pain is acute across the denomination, but especially so in California right now. You and your church are in my prayers. Alan Selig

DrK said...

How unliberal of you to impose your interpretation of scripture on the conservatives in ABC, or SBC for that matter. You seem to forget that baptist tradition is that interpretations must be framed upon the actual words of scripture, what it says. Those who say "We'll it says that, but it doesn't mean what it says." are not following in baptist tradition. If your side loses the debate then align with the withdrawing group as you did and wish God's blessings on the other guys. That would be a truly liberal approach. If you wish to be a liberal be a good one.
Dr. K in NJ

roy said...

hmmm... I'm not sure where you're getting these ideas from Dr. K. I have no desire to impose my reading on anyone. And I don't think it is unliberal... it is unBaptist! Indeed, I appreciate the theological diversity that I believe should be in ABC including all the way to fundamentalism on one side and almost to unitarianism on the other.

I certainly wish God's best on those who are withdrawing from ABC (it is not me at this point) as some of those folk are very good friends of mine who I care for deeply and respect just as deeply. Still, I do not believe that this split fulfills God's yearnings for the people of God and I don't think it will do anything positive for a Baptist witness. I am hopeful and faithful that God will work even this to good...

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

Roy,

Thanks for your usual thoughtful and provocative piece. Like you, I hope that the current conflict will become merely the labor pains signaling the birth of stronger, better, healthier entities than the enervating debate has allowed either the ABCUSA or the PSW to be these last few years. May both Transformation Ministries and the Association of American Baptists in the PSW be blessed by God and flourish as they sponsor missional churches.