BOTH ENDS of the theological spectrum of the ABCUSA are today mulling over the meaning of yesterday's General Board vote approving the key provison of the Indiana-Kentucky Initiative.
IT IN LEFT CORNER, we have Roy Donkin:
Well... the general board of ABC was meeting this past week and continues to struggle with questions about polity and homosexuality. This time they caved.
It is official policy of ABC going all the way back to 1907 that any statements or stands taken by the general board are not binding on local churches. Still, statements that come from the gb are important as they shape the perception of what we are and what we believe.
"A few years ago a document was produced called We Are American Baptists in large degree as a response to those who were complaining that we didn't have a clear faith statement (well duh... we are/were real baptists and creedal statements are anathema). Well, an amendment was made to that document...The amendment adds the following statement to the section A Biblical People: '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.'
"...I am deeply saddened by this move. My guess is that it won't be enough to placate the conservatives/revisionists. The conservatives will want to go the next step and remove congregational autonomy to choose who the churches believe God has called as their leaders, to interpret scripture as they hear it, and in the end the conservatives will want to stamp out any dissent that remains. And it will serve to be used as a club that will hurt GLBT folk and drive them further from the experience of the love of God... one more body has condemned them."
As a corrective, please stop repeating the nonsense that "creedal statements are anathema" to Baptists. (The very concept--rooted in Paul's letter to the Galatians--that something can be declared anathema is based on a robust creedal core to our faith).
Also note the paranoia about "remov[ing] congregational automomy," which is theo-left speak for doing what is right in our own eyes (see the book of Judges). In reality, I have heard no one who wants to "uncongregationalize" the ABC. It is not "uncongregational" to have a robust standard of faith and to insist that we live by it.
IN THE RIGHT CORNER, we have those who view the Indiana-Kentucky vote as a mere last-ditch effort to keep dissident regions, especially the PSW, in the ABC without a genuine commitment to implement its import.
An anonymous poster on the ABE website wrote:
The 1992 Resolution is portrayed as having little effect on the denomination because it had no mechanism for implimentation. The only implimentation in the resolution that was just passed is to insert the text into a denominational document. Beyond that, there is no pragmatic implimentation so it is just as impotent as the previous resolution. The actual effect of the resolution is to make the denominational statement a lie:
We are American Baptists, a people "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."
The truth is, American Baptists as a denomination DO NOT submit to or acknowledge the stated teaching of Scripture. For this to be true, it must be reworded to say:
We are American Baptists, a people "some of whom submit to and others of whom ignore the teaching of Scripture that God’s design for sexual intimacy places it within the context of marriage between one man and one woman, some of whom acknowledge and others of whom deny that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Biblical teaching."
From the same source, Mike Edwards of Everett, Washington writes:
"...the fact is the vote count was only a simple majority in favor. Legal counsel has declared numerous times it would require a three-quarter count in favor to enable amending the "Criteria for Cooperating Churches" in the "Standing Rules" to reflect any changes in the "We Are..." statement, thereby giving it some teeth.
"I am guessing that this is NOT a done deal."
The problem of "unenforceability" in the Indiana-Kentucky Initiative is being cited by both the left and the right. Dennis McFadden of www.hisbarkingdog.blogspot.com notes:
"Imagine Dr. Medley now: 'We are a biblical people, an evangelical people, we have a clear identity statement upholding heterosexual marriage as biblical and saying the homosexual practice is incompatible with biblical teaching. BUT I don't want to let go of my sisters and brothers who for reasons of conscience disagree with that statement. We are BAPTISTS after all.'"This is why stripping the second and third articles of the IN-KY initiative was so important. It took the teeth from the bite. While a hopeful and helpful sign, it does not change the fundamental underlying issues. One has to wonder how many yea votes were cast on Friday with fingers crossed and more of an eye on the denominational implosion than on sound Biblical theology.