Saturday, November 19, 2005

Bonney of the Left Weighs in: General Board Vote Was a "Waste of Time"

Timothy Bonney is a leftward ABC pastor from Des Moines and blogger. His take on the General Board vote merits a reading. See my comments below.

General Board Adopts Non-Binding ABC/INKY Resolution - Why Bother?

With a close vote of 59 to 45, (only passing by about 7 votes) the ABC General Board adopted the first section of the ABC/INKY resolution. This vote adds the phrase “who submit to the teaching of Scripture that God’s design for sexual intimacy places it within the context of marriage between one man and one woman, and acknowledge that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Biblical teaching.” to the description statement of the denomination "We Are American Baptists."

The other two sections of the resolution where withdrawn by ABC/INKY because they would require huge ABC Bylaw changed. They were advised that the changes they wanted to make (including not allowing churches removed from one region to join another) would require a change in our "free church polity" since it would limit the autonomy of local churches.

The Common Criteria for cooperating Churches (the rules for ABC membership) require that churches acknowledge that the "We are American Baptists" statement represent the general views of the ABC. But, the criteria only requires that acknowledgment of the statement as it was adopted at the time the common criteria was last updated.

The confusing long and short of it is that this new addition to the "We Are American Baptists" statement will not become part of the Common Criteria and is therefore not binding on ABC churches or regions.

Since this is the case, all that seems to have happened is that the ABC got in a huge uproar again about differences of views on homosexuality and, yet again, the ABC General Board has adopted a non-binding statement about homosexuality.

This brings me to conclude that our continued fighting over these issues is a waste of time. Adopting a statement in 1992 didn't solve our difference, neither will a similar statement adopted in 2005. All we have succeeded in doing is to ignore the important needs of mission and ministry of the ABC wasting countless hours by denominational Executives, national and region staff, and the General Board to continue to perpetuate this argument.

I believe it is high time that American Baptists recognize that autonomy of the local church and regional autonomy mean that we will never agree 100% on areas of theology on this or any other issue. The reasons for the formation of the ABC was not to create a group of churches who walk in theological lock-step but, to create an organization and structure for free Baptist churches to cooperate together in mission and ministry.

Now that we've barely adopted another non-binding resolution on an issue that American Baptists still don't agree on, can we get back to mission and ministry?

Comment: a lot of what Bonney says is the same old claptrap about automomy (i.e., that it, along with it's brother Soul Liberty, is our North Star as Baptists). What's new here is the observation that any new affirmation in "We are America Baptists" isn't binding on existing ABC entities. Therefore, the whole thing is a waste of time.

What Bonney (and Medley) says about "Can we get back to mission and ministry?" shows just how naive they are and how foolish they think the evangelical majority is. If Bonney's view is that of the "trustees" of the covenants" (to use Medley's phrase), then we are back to the status quo ante bellum: you conservatives got your bone; now shut up, give us the money and we'll get back to business the Valley Forge/Roger Williams Fellowship/ AWAB- sympathetic way.

We must have some very clear words from Dr. Medley et al. regarding their view of the import of the GB vote. Else, back to square one.


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