Saturday, November 12, 2005

The Amicable Divorce Option

Increasing numbers of American Baptists, both conservatives and progressives, have come to the conclusion that we are already two denominations and that the separation of the PSW region is the first in an inevitable meltdown. Both sides are entrentched in their position and unwilling to compromise on what they see as matters of principle. Conservatives will not compromise on what they see as an authority of Scripture issue and progressives will not compromise on what they see as a soul liberty and justice issue.

Therefore, the idea of the so-called Amicable Divorce option keeps coming up from both the theological right and left. How would that work? Could it really happen?

Here's my suggestion--one of the few possible paths to avoid a messy divorce. Let's designate the ABC as it now is as American Baptists Alpha, and the new movement as American Baptists Beta. ABA and ABB would put forth their pitch to regions and churches over the next two years. All regions and churches would be requested to vote on whether they wish to be part of Alpha or Beta or be dually aligned with both. No vote would be interpreted as remaining with Alpha.

The program boards (NM, BIM and MMBB) would fully service both Alpha and Beta during the two year window. At the end of that period, the program boards would revert to an independant status, that is, they would generate their own boards (as MMBB does now) as opposed to the GB system--a system that was always deeply flawed, in my opinion--and I did serve on the General Board in the 80s, so I had a taste of it.

MMBB would serve both Alpha and Beta for the indefinite future--both contractual and non-contractual benefits. BIM and NM would function as free-standing domestic and international missions agencies. Alpha and Beta could do mission through them as their see fit.

This approach would recognize, for legal purposes, both Alpha and Beta as sucessor coroportaions of ABCUSA.

The Office of the General Secretary would of course remain a part of Alpha. Beta would shape their leadership structure as they see fit.

Frankly, I doubt Valley Forge would ever assent to anything so cordial and rational. But this is one way to take the Amicable Divorce option.

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