Wednesday, July 26, 2006

ABC content... the story continues

Last week, Roy Medley - the General Secretary of the ABCUSA - released a letter that has caused a great deal of discussion on the left and the right. In the letter, Roy promises to "implement the policies of the General Board." The two biggest questions are "Why now?" and "What is he trying to accomplish?" Unfortunately, he also conflates sexual abuse by persons in positions of power with homosexual relationships... but that is another issue entirely.

A bit of history here again... in '92 a resolution was passed by the general board that read simply "We affirm that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching." It was an unusual resolution in that there was no theological or sociological background and no steps for implementation. Additionally, it was passed in an unusual way - by mail, with no discussion. Presumably, this is the policy that Roy is planning to implement even though it prescribes no steps for implementation. It is also the policy that PSW was requesting be implemented before they voted to withdraw from the denomination.

In '93, a second resolution on human sexuality was passed. This one included all of the background materials and steps for implementation. Among other things, this second resolution calls on American Baptists to "Acknowledge that there exists a variety of understandings throughout our denomination on issues of human sexuality such as homosexuality and engage in dialogue concerning these issues."

Read together one can only conclude that the second resolution is a corrective to the first. "We" don't affirm anything in common regarding homosexuality. Indeed, there are a variety of understandings held by American Baptists ranging from the idea that no homosexual relationship is ever anything except sinful and that homosexual people should never be allowed in leadership roles all of the way to the belief that homosexual relationships are just a reflection of the diversity of God's beautiful creation. If a resolution needs to be implemented, it is the second which, again, presumably corrects the mistakes of the first one.

Still, it looks as if Roy is responding to the call of conservatives and speaking solely about the first resolution. Why now? and what is he trying to accomplish? Why didn't he say these things earlier when he instead stood for Baptist principals and seemed to be standing on the second resolution? At the last biennial meeting, he said that he would not allow differences over these issues to separate him from sisters and brothers in Christ. It may have been that PSW would not have withdrawn had he given this "sermon" rather than the one he gave. I can only conclude that the folk at our headquarters didn't expect that the PSW would actually withdraw and that now that PSW has, they are trying to keep other more conservative regions from following suit. In doing so, they are breaking from Baptist tradition, violating the fully formed, discussed, and more recent resolution, and may be pushing some of the more left-leaning churches to look to other connections.

I joined ABC in about 1977 because I was impressed by the diversity - racial, cultural, and theological. I believed and believe that a Christian communion like that most clearly reflects the kindom of God. I believe a denomination with that openness to one another and commitment to learning from those with whom we differ has the best position to speak in a post-modern world. I truly believe that my understanding of the Baptist tradition holds the most hope for a denomination in the future. Sadly, the short-sighted stands taken by those in Valley Forge seem to be pushing us towards extinction. The conservatives will not be placated. The liberals will be hurt. The post-moderns will pack their bags and walk because they have more important issues to discuss. Very little will be left.


Tom said...

Your frustration is felt from all camps within the ABC. It does appear that our leadership is trying to be all things to all people instead of taking a stand and sticking with it no matter what.

Bills Blog said...

Roy has been over his head since he was in ABNJ. They are split down the middle there. WE have been a denomination of two religions, since 1907 when we couldn't agree to being a confessional people. Its been said over and over again. You can't do mission with people who believe differently than you do on the essentials. When you can't even agree on the essentials it spells disaster. The most grievous point to this is that most likely BIM will be lost too.

Chad said...

I am a latecomer to the ABC (about 12 years ago) so I probably have a different (and unpopular) perspective on this than most. My honest question is this: If the ABCUSA ceased to exist, what has really been lost? Outside of some nostalgia for good old days (which weren't always so good) what would we miss? Is your church being significantly resourced and helped by the ABCUSA? My personal experience is No. Is the ABCUSA a radical and effective force for the spread of the Gospel in our nation and world? As a whole, my personal experience is No. (If you were to raise the issue of the support of missionaries, I would contend that in the long run these missionaries would be better supported and we would be better stewards of mission money independent of the ABCUSA.) Like so many other mainline denominiations, the ABCUSA is losing ground. I think that it could be argued that the denomination should be reorganized simply on the basis of its impotence, independent of the issue of a position on homosexual behavior. So, as a fairly recent newcomer, help me understand why we should lament the possible/inevitable reorganizing of the ABCUSA.