Monday, May 08, 2006

The Empire Strikes Out Again and Again and Again

Dennis McFadden over at passes on some vital stats on the extent of the PSW church participation. From the beginning, Valley Forge has tried to misrepresent the degree of support (and participation) on the part of PSW churches.

First, McFadden today (in part):

Valley Forge has made much of the fact, cited in the second sentence of their press release, that "just over 50% of the member churches registered to participate in the vote." Here are the facts, as presented by a PSW board member in a message to Dr. Roy Medley:

PSW states in promotional pieces that it has about 300 churches. Since you know about 150 churches voted is understandable that your press release stated "just over 50% of the member churches registered to participate in the vote." The accurate facts are as follows. About 250 churches were actually eligible to vote. We have churches that are affiliated and cannot vote on matters pertaining to ABCUSA, a number of churches in a "mission status or new church plants" and others who were not eligible to vote for other reasons.

There were 98 others who were eligible but didn't vote. Of these several didn't make the deadline to register to vote. Two of our largest churches were in the middle of major capital fund drives and did not want to as one pastor said "rock the boat in that process. We are aware of about 12 of these 98 churches that did not vote for various reasons but have clearly communicated (some in writing) that they do support the PSW's Board's recommendation.

Of these 98 there are about 56 that have been inactive for several years or more. Inactive meaning no involvement in association or region activities and have not given ONE CENT to ABCUSA or PSW. So, what does "just over 50% of the member churches registered to participate in the vote" mean when American Baptist News Service says it?

McFadden comments:

It means that ONLY 98 eligible congregations failed to vote. Of these, 12 communicated their support for the PSW position. Of the 86 remaining, 56 "have been inactive for several years . . . and have not given ONE CENT to ABCUSA or PSW."

So where does that leave us? There were only 30 active churches (with either PSW or ABCUSA) eligible to participate that did not bother to express their opinion one way or the other. Some may have sat out the vote in protest. In addition to the 16% vote to remain with the ABCUSA, there are another 30 active congregations from which The Association of American Baptists in the Pacific Southwest may solicit support. Since, some congregations in every region bear only a mild connection to the national body, particularly in California, "active" only indicates some measure of financial involvement. Good luck fashioning a viable region out of these 30 and the dissenting congregations.

Which is what I said a few days ago:

VF is kidding itself if it think that the ABC presence in the PSW area will be strong. It will be weak and insignificant. (April 30)

Now, add to that today's press release from VF, here reproduced in part:

ABCUSA: Special Edition: American Baptists Respond To The Recent PSW Vote

From "Jayne, Andy" <>Date Mon, 8 May 2006 14:00:04 -0400

VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS)-On April 29th, 2006, delegates from the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest (ABCPSW) voted in a non-binding referendum to recommend that the PSW Region leave the Covenant of Relationships with ABCUSA. Here are some reflections on that vote:

I pray that the churches of the Pacific South West and others who are troubled by recent events will wait one year to allow mistakes to be corrected and this pending divorce to be reconciled for the sake of the children... I'm old and I'm weary of fighting. I don't want to lose my friends on the left coast. They are my family. - Robert L. Harvey, Retired

I feel sad that our ABC family will lose the diversity represented by these churches and individuals. I also feel sad that there could be no mutual 'agreeing to disagree...' As a life-long American Baptist, I have always lived in the creative tension between soul freedom and scriptural authority - and I have loved sharing the creativity and tension with my faith family. I am sorry that we will lose so many people from this dynamic exploration of life and faith...Blessings to everyone who is working through these troubled times... - Nancy Morrow, ABCCT Pastor

In Pennsylvania, I know of several churches who have voted out only to come back in. Though unlikely and seemingly improbable at present, I believe a Region can vote back in, too. - Alan Berg, ABCOPAD Pastor

So do I, Alan, but it's going to take a lot of reformin' in VF for that to happen...

I grieve with the American Baptist women whose congregations will choose to leave ABCUSA. Many of these faithful women have treasured significant partnerships with American Baptist mission through their involvement in American Baptist Women's Ministries. - Virginia Holmstrom, American Baptist Women's Ministries

As predominantly African-American Baptists, the pastor and people of this congregation voluntarily chose to be aligned wiith ABCUSA because of its history of prophetic and justice-advocating ministry which motivated ABCUSA to split from what became the Southern Baptist Convention over the issue of slavery. The ABCUSA statements on homosexuality are based on Scripture and I am in agreement with them. We will remain American Baptists. - Warren Stewart, Sr., PSW Pastor

I am disappointed in the decision made by the majority of churches in the Pacific Southwest to sever relationships with ABCUSA. The decision hurts some of the finest missionary work in today's world. More important, it runs counter to the prayer of Christ that we might all be one people. - Tony Campolo, Eastern University

Biblical authority and soul freedom have been Baptist distinctives since our beginnings in the early 1600's. Both of these commitments are important and are not opposed to each other. Working together, these two distinctives safeguard all that is precious to us - the clear and sole authority of Scripture in an environment in which ecclesiastical authorities do not dictate to us what the Scripture teaches. - David Scholer, Fuller Theological Seminary

I am profoundly saddened by the thought of PSW leaving the the American Baptist Churches. I am still praying for a miracle that will keep us together. I am not convinced this has to happen. It doesn't make sense. I believe schism will leave everyone weaker and violate the wish of Christ for the church. However, if divide we must, let us do it in a way that will bring the least shame to the cause of Christ. - Robert Roberts, Retired

In 1981, philosopher Isaiah Berlin wrote this regarding his life long opposition to intolerance: "Few things have done more harm than the belief on the part of individuals and groups... that he or she or they are in sole possession of the truth... It is a terrible and dangerous arrogance to believe that you alone are right." Jesus came so that "all may be one" (Jn 17:21). It is a sad day for the cause of Jesus Christ when one part of the body cannot tolerate being with the rest of the body. - Judy Allbee, ABCCT Executive Minister

Note: did you catch all the hot buttons? Race, gender and diversity--even an accusation of arrogance on the part of the PSW churches. Pathetic. Cards straight from the O.J. Simpson defense team deck. (Memo to Valley Forge: Tony Campolo no longer had credibility in evangelical circles.) But the worst is yet to come:

Note: The result of the referendum is very difficult to interpret. There is, however, a message here that must be discerned. Only 50% of the churches in ABCPSW voted in the recent referendum, and 15% of those said no. It is still unclear at the moment exactly how many churches will actually split from the denomination. The PSW Region will decide on May 11th if it will remain American Baptist or not. PSW churches will decide for themselves which path they will take following that decision.

Now, in view of the message correcting the faulty press release (above), the statemement that "the result of the referendum is very difficult to interpret" is sheer nonsense. However, I expect that a clarifying statement from Valley Forge on this to be about as likely as Martians landing in my backyard.

Main source (apart from cited):

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