Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Supportive Crowd Greets Salico in Alhambra

A largely supportive crowd greeted Dr. Dale Salico, PSW exec, at the First Baptist Church of Alhambra, CA tonight, as he held one of a series of around the region meetings for church leaders to inform them on the background and meaning of the upcoming vote to consider separation from the ABCUSA.

The parking lot was 80% filled when I arrived ten minutes before the 7 PM meeting. The sanctuary (see above) was also well stocked with pastors, lay leaders and a few PSW staffers.

In his presentation, Salico's main thrust was that there is an wide gap between the highest values held by the region and those held by ABCUSA. He recounted the history of the controversy in the ABC and the advice of three consultants telling the ABC General Board that the presenting issue of homosexuality spoke of a deep divide in the ABC, so critical that forward progress (in mission and finance) is an unreasonable expectation.

The failure of the Valley Forge leadership to entertain any enforcement mechanism following the adoption of the General Board resolution on homosexuality led, for example, to the elevation of a homosexual woman to a role on the Ministers' Council Senate, an action which PSW Senators objected to. This occured in tandem with the ostrich-like unwillingness of the General Executive Committee to deal with the issue.

PSW began to move toward separation, but extended an olive branch in the form of three items they believed could avert a separation from ABC: to treat the policy seriously, to ensure that the people on ABCUSA boards and commissions lived by it and to appoint a commission to see that this happens. The PSW suggestion was turned down cold.

The region board, in December, agreed to press on. Much of the rest of Salico's presentation will be familiar to readers of DD.

Most questions were supportive; my guess is that 80% of those present were supportive, and that those who had questions came away believing that 95% of their questions were answered.

A few observations, though. The few (mildly) hostile questions to Salico were generally either about concerns about autonomy (which I think he handled skillfully) or about homosexuality in general (also handled skillfully, as he is adept both on the theological as well as psychological aspects).

Dale Salico came across as his usual clear, humble, logical and compassionate self. I've known the man for over twenty years, and this Dale is the man I have always known. He says what he means and he means what he says--an Israelite in whom their is no guile.

An associate from Evergreen Baptist Church in nearby Rosemead, a large, very evangelical church in ABC of LA (and a predomiently Asian church) was present and rose to say, "We want you to know--we are supportive of the what PSW is doing"--and asked about the admission of churches to PSW, an item that Salico indicated that was just not on the radar at this time for PSW.

One last thing: Dr. Salico went to lengths to depict the potential action of the PSW not as a "split" but more as "establishing distance [between PSW and ABCUSA], not a complete break." Although this was no said in so many words, it seems fair to say that in some sense, Salico sees himself not as leaving the ABC, but being a kind of "American Baptist, one step removed."

The meeting close with a moving time of prayer--in all, almost three hours, almost of of which was dedicated to taking questions.

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