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.