Thursday, May 25, 2006
A generation ago, in his The Problem with Wineskins, United Methodist theologian-missionary Howard Snyder reminded us that denominations and denominational agencies are themselves parachurch organizations. (Try selling that at the Vatican--you'll be as popular as Dan Brown.) The Scriptures only recognize the church on earth in two dimensions: worldwide (small-c "catholic") and the local church. Now I'm a big supporter of churches in association: I've been president of the Foothill Baptist Association since 2000.
As PSW becomes TM:AMOBCCTCTWFC (see below) and ABC of the West is already Growing Healthy Churches, Snyder's assertion is being borne out in real-world experience. The question is: can this renewal be translated into greater missional effectiveness? And if it can be, what will the impact be on the existing ABC and on the US church scene?
ABCPSW to Become Transformation Ministries
The American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest will become Transformation Ministries: “a movement of Baptist churches committed to change their worlds for Christ.” Following the decision of the ABCPSW Board of Directors to withdraw from the Covenant of Relationships of the American Baptist Churches USA, the Region’s Board of Directors announced the new name on May 11.
“The name Transformation Ministries focuses on what we are, rather than where we operate,” said Dr. Dale Salico, the ministry’s Executive Minister. “The congregations of Transformation Ministries are committed to bring hope to individuals, families, communities and the world. That hope is found through faith in Jesus Christ. Through the love and power of God, people of all ages, cultures and races can find God’s purpose and meaning for their lives.”
The name, Transformation Ministries, reveals the commitment of the leaders of this ministry to deep change. “As we turn to Christ in faith,” Dr. Salico explained, “we begin a journey toward becoming the men, women, young people, and churches God wants us to become. Many people think of the church as a static institution. Christ never intended His church to become fossilized. He commissioned His followers to proclaim His life-changing power and love in the world through our words and our actions. Christians do not think they are perfect or that they have all the answers. Christians are people who are finding answers together in the Bible, and learning together what it means to live in the strength of the Lord.”
Transformation Ministries is the rebirth of a movement of churches that traces its roots to 1869, when the Los Angeles Baptist Convention was formed. In 1895 it became the Southern California Baptist Convention, and in 1970, the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest. The convictions and core values of Transformation Ministries remain true to its heritage: historic Christianity grounded in the authority of the Bible as the Word of God. This mission movement that brought the Gospel to the West in the 1800’s, today proclaims Christ’s life-changing message to the rich smorgasbord of cultures of the Pacific southwest and world.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
I attended the roll-out meeting of the Cornerstone Church Network for southern California at FBC Pomoma--yes the same church that was homebase for the key April 29 vote which sealed the separation from the ABCUSA. CCN is the continuation of American Baptist Evangelicals. While the director--Bill Nicoson--is a friend of mine, I write as an outside observer--not a spokesman or a "vision architect."
When the ABC unravel started in full force last fall, my perception was that we were about to witness a CBA like split as back in the 1940s. I have come instead to see that we are headed toward a much more chaotic and fluid future, in which nimble organizations rise up in the place of plodding denominational organizations. Dissaffected ABCers are in a unique place to lead this because of the non-connectional nature of our ties. The PSW (now Transformation Ministries) exodus is but a part of the overall pattern.
CCN is groping its way into this more chaotic and fluid future like the rest of us. As I listened to Bill's presentation, a new way of understanding CCN's role began to occur to me.
One way to understand CCN is to see it as a positive replacement for the diseased structure we call National Ministries (AKA the American Baptist Home Mission Society). If we were inventing NM from scratch in the 21st century, I should imagine that we'd come up with something like CCN.
I used to have friends in NM. They're been purged or replaced with party apparatchniks upon retirement. I agree with the assesment of an ABC regional exec who declared in my hearing that "National Ministries has failed as a missions organization."
CCN is NM plus and NM minus. Minus gets to go first:
Minus everything politically correct.
Minus a street fight ethos.
Minus race and gender as the canon of truth.
Minus a tolerance for wasting precious resources on marginally helpful (or even hurtful) programming.
CCN is NM plus:
Passion for God.
Passion for the lost.
All in all, a good exchange. CCN is still changing, more riding waves than building piers. Some unformed elements, in my opinion, need to come together pretty fast--and CCN must get very concrete about the value-added nature of the Network, and of the evangelical ABC roots and ethos of CCN. Presentation is another factor. I've always found Bill Nicoson a good presenter because of the way he opens himself to the listener--not just the facts he has to present. But, note Bill: for a guys who talks tech all the time, next time use PowerPoint!
Stay turned as CCN develops. Also note a nation CCN gathering is planned for Northern Seminary September 10-11. I hope I will be there to cover the event.
Monday, May 22, 2006
Christian Century is the Time Magazine of the Mainstream/Sidestream American Church. In this report, CC is also the lapdog of the Valley Forge establishment, repeating discredited distortions for the benefit of their already-mind-made-up theo-left readers. Amazing that they HAD to include a quote from Joe DeRouhlac, but couldn't be bothered with a Tom Mercer, Dane Aaker or Glenn Gunderson--churches many times the size of Joe's, but who'd rather stand with Scripture than with VF. Errors and distortions are bolded.
May 30, 2006
Southwest region severs ABC ties; loyal churches organize
After years of conflict centering mainly on the issue of homosexuality, a large, southern California-based regional body of the American Baptist Churches U.S.A. has voted to continue the process of separating itself from the denomination.
The Pacific Southwest region voted 1,125 to 209—without discussion—in a telephone-conducted referendum coordinated from First Baptist Church in Pomona, California, on April 29 to terminate its relationship with the ABCUSA. Those participating at Pomona and at six other locations from Hawaii to Arizona represented just over half of the congregations in the Pacific Southwest region.
The ABCUSA, a 1.4-million-member denomination based in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, learned that the region's board of directors voted unanimously May 11 to withdraw, effective in November 1. Dale Salico, the region's executive minister, has repeatedly characterized its differences with national leadership as irreconcilable.
Not all Pacific Southwest churches will leave the denomination, officials on both sides agree. The fledgling Association of American Baptist churches in the Pacific Southwest will be led by Samuel Chetti, executive minister of the Los Angeles Baptist City Mission Society.
"There will be no clear winners in this split," Joe DeRoulhac, pastor of First Baptist Church of Redlands, California, told the Century prior to the late April vote. At least for a few years, DeRoulhac said, "I believe most churches are going to take their time before voting to leave the ABCUSA [because] pastor and congregational leaders do not want to split their own churches over this issue even if they personally want to leave" the denomination.
Most denominational leaders have emphasized congregational and individual autonomy of conscience. But conservative leaders around the country have felt that an oft-cited American Baptist resolution stating that "the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching" needs to be implemented with meaningful legislation—prohibiting persons involved in or condoning homosexual intimacy from holding positions of national leadership, for example.
The freedom of biblical interpretation among American Baptists has been nurtured over many centuries, says David M. Scholer, a self-described "strong evangelical committed to biblical authority" who is on the Fuller Seminary faculty. Scholer said he joined the denomination in 1966 because some disagreements "pale in light of the commitment to love, integrity, soul freedom and biblical authority."
Those disagreements—over behavior that conservatives in the ABCUSA and other mainline denominations consider plainly sinful in their reading of the Bible—have hampered enthusiasm and financial support for missions, according to Salico.
On the region's Web site, Salico called the ABCUSA "a church in hibernation . . . for a decade." Congregations planning to sever ties will be briefed over the next 14 months on financial and legal issues "related to this important decision."
The errors and distortions aforementioned are familiar to readers of DD, so I will not repeat them here. Pathetic. CC was once a news magazine. Now it's as reliable as Pravda circa 1958.
Saturday, May 20, 2006
The so-called welcoming and affirming stance (vis-a-vis homosexuality) does not exist in a vacuum. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports on the old FBC Oberlin and gives us a sympathetic look inside. Frankly, there are aspects of the article that almost sound like a parody...but this is the unreal McCoy. Be sure to check the church's website and the parody-like elements multiple like rabbits. There the religious right, the PSW, and the War on Terror all get a drubbing, and the Sunday attendance of 50-60 is mentioned. Hey, a church that size doesn't need two pastors and an intern--it needs a renewal and reformation!
Peace Community Church (American Baptist)
Saturday, May 20, 2006
Plain Dealer Reporter
As a freshman at Oberlin College four years ago, David Reese had a lot to do. But one task had nothing to do with academics.
He wanted to find a church. He settled on Peace Community Church because of its commitment to peace and justice issues, its informal worship and its diversity of congregants.
"What I like most is the way PCC combines people who would not otherwise associate to do really amazing and beautiful things," says Reese, 22, a religion major from Mayville, N.Y.
"The high number of potlucks is also important," he says, half-joking.
The church was founded as the First Baptist Church of Oberlin. In 2000, it changed its name to better reflect its mission, says the Rev. Mary Hammond, co-pastor of the church. The name brought about 25 new people, most of whom would never have thought about visiting, she says.
Reese says he likes that the church makes decisions by consensus. Everyone -- not just a small group -- is involved. For example, last year, after much discussion, the church joined the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, which publicly advocates the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people within the Baptist communities of faith.
Reese, who graduates later this month, plans to attend Chicago Theological Seminary and earn a master's degree in divinity.
He's not sure whether he'll lead a congregation, but he wants to be involved in church work.
At Peace Community, Reese is the peace and justice intern, in which he acts as a liaison between the campus and town activist groups. He also has led several study groups and even preached a couple of times.
Reese says being active in the church makes him feel alive. "It's good for me, and it's good for the world," he says. "God's greatest glory is a human being fully alive."
A recent visit:
From the outside, Peace Community Church is a handsome, towering two-story brick building with a bell tower. Inside, however, it looks and feels like a quaint country church.
The mood is casual. Church-goers chat in the sanctuary before the service. As the Rev. Steve Hammond (co-pastor at the church) approaches the pulpit, their voices become hushed and they take their seats.
Announcements are made and then the Rev. Mary Hammond plays a hymn on the piano.
After a welcome from Steve Hammond and a song from the choir, Hammond hands the microphone to congregants. Some share prayer requests for the sick while one tells abut his visits to colleges with his son.
During his sermon, Hammond speaks about how the disciple Thomas doubted the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He challenges congregants to come out of their own tombs.
"We know racism," he says. "We know nationalism. We know homophobia. We know greed, lust and betrayal. We know what it means to hate our enemies, to do bad things to those who do bad things to us.
"We want to strictly define who is the neighbor we will love, and who is the stranger we won't. We know about retaliation.
"Forgiveness is a little harder to comprehend."
The service ends with members making a circle and clasping hands for a final prayer.
Gonzalez is a Plain Dealer reporter. Send comments about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org.
See also the church's website: http://www.peacecommunity.mychurch.com/
Friday, May 19, 2006
Al Mohler is a constant source of common Christian sense. Here's his timely daily column:
A Response to "The DaVinci Code": What's the Problem?
Since its release in 2003, forty million hardback copies of The Da Vinci Code have sold. Six million paperback copies also are now in circulation, and this weekend, a major Hollywood movie will be released. In both the book and the movie, the central character is one who does not actually appear in either, and that is Jesus Christ. Because of that, many of our friends and neighbors are going to be talking about who Jesus is and why He came. Many of our neighbors are going to be seeing, perhaps for the first time, an explanation about who Jesus is and why He matters, and our great concern is that the entire story presented in this movie is a lie.
The interest in this book and movie should remind us that there is going on right now a spiritual battle, not only between light and darkness, and between the truth and the lie, but also between life and death. Our great concern therefore should not be merely that people might be confused, but that people would be blinded and held captive by a story that appeals to them, and yet a story that is an anti-Gospel, a false gospel, the very thing that the Apostle Paul warned against when he said, "If I or even an angel were to come to you preaching any other gospel, let him be anathema."
You see, sometimes the church does not remember this, but it is the church's responsibility to anathematize. That is something we don't talk about very much, but it is the church's responsibility clearly to declare as false anything which stands against the true gospel of Jesus Christ. We live in a harmonious age when everyone wants to nod at everything, smile appreciatively at everything, and not pass judgment on anything. In the midst of such an age, however, the church is called to say "no" and to identify the false as false. Otherwise we cannot truly honor the truth.
Authored by Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code is a conspiracy story. It is a mystery suspense thriller, and Americans love mystery suspense thrillers. What makes this story different, however, is that the conspiracy theory that lies at the very heart of the book's plotline has to do with the Gospel. What drives the action of the story is the argument that the church's traditional teachings about Jesus are all a fraud. Instead of revealing who Jesus really was and what he really did, the book argues, the church buried the truth in an intentional conspiracy, claimed that Jesus was divine, and said that He had come to save sinners from their sin.
Beginning in chapter 55, Brown gets to the very heart of the story when the central character begins to reveal to another character the truth about the conspiracy. Consider what the character Leigh Teabing says: "The Bible is a product of man, my dear, not of God. The Bible did not fall magically from the clouds, man created it as a historical record of tumultuous times and it has evolved through countless translations, editions and revisions. History has never had a definitive version of the book."
Now if that is true, then we are reading a kind of committee report when we open the Scripture. But it is not true. This is one of those insidious statements that makes sense to sinners, because in effect, that one paragraph has just declared that we do not have to take the Bible as the Word of God. It is just a human document, says the book.
He goes on: "Jesus Christ was a historical figure of staggering influence, perhaps the most enigmatic and inspirational leader the world has ever seen. As the prophesied Messiah, Jesus toppled kings, inspired millions, and founded new philosophies. As a descendant of the lines of King Solomon and King David, Jesus possessed a rightful claim to the throne of the King of the Jews. Understandably, his life was recorded by thousands of followers across the land. More than eighty gospels were considered for the New Testament, and yet only a relative few were chosen for inclusion--Matthew, Mark, Luke and John among them." The problems here, even from a merely historical point of view, are numerous. First of all, Jesus's life was not recorded by "thousands of followers." Most of the people who lived during that time were illiterate, and they were not going home and writing down gospels or biographies of Jesus. Moreover, the assertion that some sort of committee considered eighty gospels and chose a few--Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John among them--is nonsense. There simply was no committee that sat down with eighty gospels and said, "We like this one, but we don't like that one." Such an assertion has no basis whatsoever in fact.
From here, Brown writes at length about the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. Here is the central passage: " 'Many aspects of Christianity were debated and voted upon. The date of Easter, the role of the bishops, the administration of the sacraments, and of course the divinity of Jesus.' 'I don't follow, his divinity?' 'My dear,' Teabing declared, 'until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by his followers as a mortal prophet, a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless, a mortal.' 'Not the Son of God?' 'Right,' Teabing said. 'Jesus's establishment as the Son of God was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicea.' 'Hold on! You're saying that Jesus' divinity was the result of a vote?' 'A relatively close vote at that,' Teabing added. . . . Many scholars claim that the early church literally stole Jesus from his original followers, hijacking his human methods, shrouding it in an impenetrable cloak of divinity, and using it to expand their own power. I've written several books on the topic.'"
So what was the real story, according to The Da Vinci Code? Dan Brown writes that Jesus Christ was a mortal teacher, that he was in fact crucified, but that before He died he married Mary Magdalene and had a child with her. After the crucifixion, Mary Magdalene and the child went to Gaul, which is now called France, and established the Merovingian royal dynasty. Essentially, Dan Brown wants you to believe, or at least he has written a novel to suggest, that Christianity is based upon a huge lie, that the original historical truth about this mortal prophet was buried by the Emperor Constantine in 325 A.D. in order to bolster the power of his own regime. And thus, Christians throughout the ages have been engaged in an exercise of mass delusion--until now, of course.
So how do we answer this? First, we must remind ourselves of some basic truths concerning how Christianity came to be. One of the book's claims is that until the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., the church believed that Jesus was just a mortal prophet. There could not be a bigger historical lie. Consider John 1:1-3: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God, all things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life and the life was the light of men." Nothing could be clearer than this, and it is the very heart of the Gospel. If we misunderstand who Jesus is, we cannot possibly understand anything else about the Gospel itself.
Moreover, Brown's history of the Council of Nicea is completely misleading. Actually, that Council is one for which Christians ought to be very thankful, for it was there that the church identified heresy as heresy and preserved the Gospel of Christ. In the early fourth century there arose a presbyter in the church of Alexandria by the name of Arius, who began to teach that Jesus Christ was not the pre-existent Son of God, but that there once was a time when the Son was not. On the other side of the controversy was a bishop named Athanasius. Here was a man who understood the truth, and who also understood that his responsibility as a shepherd of the sheep to warn his people about this false teaching. At one point, one of Athanasius's advisers said to him, "Athanasius, the entire world is against you." In reply, Athanasius said, "Well, if the entire world is against Athanasius, then Athanasius will be against the entire world." In Latin, Athanasius' phrase has been summarized as "contra mundum," "against the world." Surely that is one of the greatest statements in the history of Christianity, and Christians should feel invigorated by the courage of Athanasius. If necessary, contra mundum, against the world! If the world is against the Gospel, then the world will have to understand that we must be against the world.
The true story of Nicea, therefore, was not that the leaders of the church came together to declare Jesus divine, but that they came together to guard against heresy and to proclaim the truth as it had been handed to them by the apostles. Brown claims that Jesus's divinity was established by "a relatively close vote at that." Actually, the bishops of the church came together, adopted a creed to separate the truth from the error, and of the more than three hundred bishops in attendance at the Council of Nicea, only two refused to sign that creed. By any measure, three hundred to two is not a close vote.
How then should Christians respond when our neighbors ask us, "How do you know that Jesus was never married?" The answer is that we know Jesus was not married because Scripture is very clear that Jesus was not married. Is there a proof-text for that fact? No, but it is written into the very warp and woof of the fabric of the New Testament. Jesus' purpose was not to come and marry and establish an earthly dynasty, but to come and save sinners. There is no wife at the cross; it is Jesus' mother, and she is given into the care of one of His disciples. The entire context there is of one who was not married. Also, of course, had Jesus truly been married, it is impossible that this would not have been recorded and told by the enemies of the Gospel, as well as by its friends.
It is not important that Christians either see this movie or read this book. But it is important that we be armed with enough knowledge of the storyline so that when our neighbors, friends, coworkers, and family members begin talking about this, we can say, "Well, no, I am not shocked to hear that. The church has heard this kind of thing before. I am not shocked to hear that, because there have been efforts in the very beginning of Christianity to subvert the truth with a lie. Even in the New Testament, Paul himself was warning against false gospels."
In fact, Scripture tells us there are many who will prefer a lie to the truth, even a lie that is easily dismissible, even a lie that is transparently false, even a lie that is so undocumented that it simply falls of the weight of its own audacity. There are persons who would rather believe a lie packaged in a glittery Hollywood movie than the truth so plainly revealed in the Word of God.
This is an edited version of an address given to the Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland on May 7, 2006. Click here for Dr. Mohler's 2003 review of The DaVinci Code. Tomorrow: A Christian Response to "The DaVinci Code": What's the Attraction?
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Split among American Baptists over homosexuality is final
May 18, 2006
By Gregory Tomlin
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Following the approval of a large majority of its churches, the board of the American Baptist Churches Pacific Southwest region voted unanimously May 11 to withdraw from its covenant relationship with its parent denomination. The board's action makes final the separation of the 300-church region from the American Baptist Churches (USA) in Valley Forge, Pa.
The decision comes after eight months of discussion and a vote on the part of the region's churches in late April to recommend that the board withdraw over the refusal of the ABC (USA) to deal with the acceptance of churches with lax policies on homosexuality in the denomination."
The overwhelming response of delegates from the churches was a mandate in the minds of the members of the Board of Directors," Dale Salico, executive minister for the region, said in a statement after the vote May 11. "We had asked the churches to enter a period of spiritual discernment on our relationship with the ABC (USA), and to come to the April 29 meeting prepared either to confirm or to correct the discernment of the Region Board. An overwhelming majority of the delegates voted in favor of withdrawal from the Covenant of Relationship."
Theological differences between the Pacific Southwest region and the national denomination have made "close cooperation" between the two difficult for many years, according to the statement from the board. Many of the denomination's self-governing regions, such as the Evergreen Association in Washington and the Rochester-Genesee region in New York, openly accept churches disassociated from other regions because they accept unrepentant homosexuals as members. The denomination's general board has refused to discipline the regions who accept such churches, citing Baptist freedom and local church autonomy as reasons.
The Pacific Southwest region may not be the last region to break with the 1.5-million member parent denomination. American Baptists in West Virginia narrowly rejected a proposal to withdraw from the ABC (USA) at their meeting last year. The Indiana-Kentucky region has also proposed a change in the denomination's bylaws that will not allow churches to transfer to another region when removed over the issue of homosexuality. Homosexuality-friendly regions oppose the new bylaw and have petitioned to reject the proposed change.
The withdrawal of the Pacific Southwest region, with its churches in California, Hawaii, Nevada and Arizona, touched off a wave of responses from leaders of the ABC (USA). Roy Medley, general secretary of the denomination, said in a statement that "God's heart is broken when sisters and brothers in Christ divide over matters of scriptural interpretation."
"This parting of the ways will not diminish our passion, commitment and undaunted spirit to move forward in mission and ministry," Medley said. Tony Campolo, a well-known American Baptist speaker and a professor of sociology at Eastern University, said he also was disappointed. "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," Campolo said. Judy Allbee, executive minister of the American Baptist churches in Connecticut, said "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." She said the decision of the Pacific Southwest region was the result of the region's belief that it was in sole possession of the truth.
Problems in American Baptist life surfaced more than a decade ago when a group calling itself the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists (AWAB) appeared. The group supports the appointment of openly homosexual ministers and the acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle in Baptist circles.
AWAB President Ken Perkins said his organization has no official position on the split between the Pacific Southwest region and the ABC (USA), but that he believed homosexuality should not be a dividing issue. "I believe it is possible to maintain unity in the ABC without doctrinal agreement over homosexuality," Perkins said.Perkins said he did not know what other regions might do in response to the withdrawal of the Pacific Southwest region, but his response reveals the growing number of American Baptist regions that welcome churches open to the acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle.
"I'm extraordinarily grateful for regions like Evergreen, Rochester-Genesee, Wisconsin, Metropolitan New York, Metro Chicago, Massachusetts and the Philadelphia Association which are known for their extravagant welcome of all into the family of God. I hope other regions may eventually move in the same direction," Perkins said. A statement from the Roger Williams Fellowship, an American Baptist group self-described as a "grassroots organization advocating for Baptist principles," said it lamented the withdrawal of the Pacific Southwest region. Their regret, they noted, was "tempered by a repudiation" of the Pacific Southwest region's demand that the denomination enforce its 1992 position statement on homosexuality.
The fellowship also said that the Pacific Southwest region had articulated a "fundamentally flawed vision" of the Baptist tradition and American Baptist life. "We affirm that God alone is sovereign over the individual conscience, and that each local church has the responsibility to determine God's calling for that community's time and mission."
But the members of the Pacific Southwest region's board insist that they made the right decision by following the teachings of Scripture on homosexuality in the church. Brian Scrivens, president of the Pacific Southwest region, wrote in a letter to American Baptist churches in his region last year that the issues with the national denomination stem from differences over biblical authority and accountability. He said in the letter that "homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching."
In a statement issued after the May 11 vote, Scrivens said the decision to withdraw was "made without animosity or malice." He said the now separated churches of the region "will continue to pray for God's blessing on the ABC (USA), its leadership, agencies and congregations."
The ABC (USA) is a longtime member of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), a global Baptist fellowship. The Southern Baptist Convention withdrew from the BWA last year, in part, after the organization refused to address the issue of the acceptance of homosexuality in the American Baptist churches. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson, then a member of the SBC's BWA study committee, said Southern Baptists could "no longer afford to be aligned in any way" with any group that condones the practice of homosexuality in churches. Patterson's statement about the ABC (USA) was described by Medley, general secretary of the denomination, as "completely outrageous" and only a pretense for withdrawal from the BWA.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
I'm limping my way along toward understanding what God is calling us to--in my local church and in the denominational earthquakes of the last year, and coming years. One thing--one concept--I keep coming back to is that of the missional church. Here's a good primer, from http://www.missionalchurch.org/.
What is the difference between a missional church and a church with a mission
A church with a mission program usually sees mission as one activity alongside
many activities of the church – Christian education, worship, acts of service,
hospitality and other programs. A missional church focuses all of its activities
around its participation in God’s mission in the world. That means, it trains people
for discipleship and witness; it worships and practices mutual support before the
watching world. A church with a mission sends others to witness on its behalf. A
missional church understands that the congregation itself is sent by God to
proclaim and to be a sign of the reign of God. Just as God sent Jesus, now Jesus
sends the church (Jn..20:21).
What’s so new about the missional church? Aren’t we already missional?
Many congregations already have begun the journey to become more missional, but
have never recognized themselves as such. Some congregations are becoming
more missional and are eager to share the story of their journey. Other
congregations make a distinction between witness outside the church and the rest
of congregational life. The vision of a missional church invites all of the being and
doing of the church to become shaped by what God intends for the world.
Is "missional" a real word?
Yes. It may not be in every dictionary. But the Oxford English Dictionary says the
word has been around for almost 100 years. Missional is an adjective that describes
the way in which we do all of our activities, rather than identifying any one
particular activity. Within the last few years, it has come into more common use.
To be missional is to align all of the program, function and activities of the church
around the mission of God in the world.
Does being a missional church mean starting a lot of new activities? People in
our congregation are already so busy.
A missional church does not necessarily do more outreach activities. In fact, a
missional church may do fewer things better. To be a missional church means to
discern how this particular congregation’s calling is aligned with God’s mission in
the world. To be a missional church means to orient all of the life of the church
around God’s mission.
Is this a technique to help our congregation grow?
Many missional congregations are growing in numbers. But the missional church
vision is not a technique or a way of increasing market share; it is a way of
understanding the true calling of the church. It is a way of life for the church.
Rather than merely focusing on a congregation’s size, the missional church vision
calls us to focus on the reign of God. For a congregation, that means to be a living
sign and foretaste of God’s new creation. It also means inviting people to become
a part of God’s new community.
Does being a missional church mean that evangelism is more important than
No. It would be a mistake to invite people to become citizens of the reign of God
without equipping them for life within the reign of God. The purpose of the
church is to proclaim and be a sign of the reign of God. A missional church is
intentional about both its witness to those outside the community of faith and how
its life together gives people a glimpse of God’s new reality.
What connection does the missional church concept have with the unique
situation churches are facing in North America?
Key to the identity of a missional church is being an alternative society within the
dominant culture. When the church proclaims and is a sign of the reign of God –
whether by loving enemies or welcoming those on the margins – it will be a
contrast community in the eyes of the world. Many Christian traditions that had
previously enjoyed a privileged status in the dominant North American culture no
longer do. The missional church perspective offers important clues on how to be
the church when not at the center of things.
Can the church simultaneously be both nonconformed to the world and
engaged in witness to Jesus Christ in the world?
Yes. Missional congregations demonstrate full engagement in witness to the world,
but in a way that is different from the world. That witness is grounded in Jesus
Christ, who calls us to be "in the world… but not of it" (Jn.17:14-16)
Isn’t that risky?
It usually is. Churches that are in the world, but not of the world, take a lot of risks
– physical, financial, social. They are not universally liked. These churches are able
to take risks for the sake of the reign of God because they depend on the Holy
Spirit for power to witness. These congregations spend a lot of time in prayer.
They also know that, even if they experience rejection in the short run, the final
victory belongs to God.
Monday, May 15, 2006
ABCUSA: Green Lake Conference Center Creates Site Development Master Plan
From "Jayne, Andy" <Ajayne@ABC-USA.org>Date Mon, 15 May 2006 10:48:10 -0400
GREEN LAKE, WI (ABNS)-The Board of Directors of the Green Lake Conference Center (GLCC), during their May, 2006 meeting, took historic steps toward insuring vital ministry into the next century.
Recognizing the Christian church in America is in the midst of significant transition, the Board of Directors approved a site development master plan that will generate funding for Project Kingdom21-Securing Ministry for the 21st Century. Kingdom21 will create funding to provide for GLCC's Center for Christian Leadership Development. This Center is committed to being on the cutting edge of emerging trends in pastoral and lay leadership training. GLCC is committed to partnering with congregations as they seek to be vital, vibrant, healthy missional churches engaging their communities with the Good News of Jesus Christ in the new millennium.
Project Kingdom21 includes funding for several new initiatives already identified such as programs to strengthen families as well as providing flexibility for funding God-inspired initiatives yet to be revealed. While it is difficult, if not impossible, to predict emerging trends over the next 25 years, the Board is committed to a plan providing the ability to be relevant in adjusting to emerging opportunities in pastoral and lay leadership development.
While GLCC has historic ties to the American Baptist Family, these initiatives will not only be directed to American Baptist churches but also to the wider Christian church regardless of denominational affiliation. GLCC Board Chair the Reverend Dr. Michael Williams, who also serves as the Executive Minister of the American Baptist Churches of Michigan, states, "Our passion and purpose is to do our part in building the Kingdom of God. We want to do whatever it takes to partner with existing churches in order to help them maximize their God-inspired Kingdom potential. We also want to assist in assessing and equipping church planters for new church planting across the US."
The site development master plan, as currently envisioned, includes two possible single family unit communities to be developed on the GLCC grounds. Teska Associates of Evanston, Illinois, has worked closely with the Board of Directors in the development of the Master Plan. The Teska plan includes land that is not being utilized and is not a part of the core conference area. Next steps include inviting proposals from developers willing to comply with the conceptual plan and work with appropriate governmental units to protect the unique environment of GLCC. The selection of a developer could take place during the GLCC Board of Directors meeting scheduled in December.
"This is one of those historic moments that will be looked upon as a significant turning point in the future ministry opportunities of GLCC," states GLCC President Kenneth P. Giacoletto. He further states, "We look forward with great anticipation to what God will continue to reveal to us in the coming years. We want to be faithful to God's leading in this moment as well as in the days and years ahead."
Andrew C. Jayne American Baptist Churches, USA Mission Resource Development http://www.abc-usa.org/
The "church culture" in North America is dying. I have long suspected that the Gallup numbers were pumped (mostly by people overestimating their level of involvement). We are at a new moment in time--a post-church time. I plan to blog up a whole flurry of posts on what I call De-Churching the Church.
Fewer Americans Than Thought Going to Church, Says Study
Fred Jackson & Jody Brown
(AgapePress) - A new study concludes the number of Americans attending church every Sunday is a whole lot less than what has been reported. One of the researchers suggests that the success of mega-churches across the country could be one reason for the misperception about how many Americans actually spend Sunday morning in a worship service.
Christianity Today notes that for years, Gallup pollsters have reported that 40 percent of Americans -- roughly 118 million people -- attend a church every Sunday. But a new study done by an Episcopal Church researcher, Kirk Hadaway, and Penny Marler of Samford University concludes the actual number is much less than that.
They did a "count-based" estimate of church attendance -- in other words, actual attendance figures -- and concluded that only about 20 percent of Americans go to a church on Sunday. That lower figure, says Hadaway, may come as a surprise to many. But he believes part of the problem may be that people see or hear about the big crowds attending the mega-churches and get the impression that church attendance overall is increasing.
"You have Joel Osteen's church with 20,000 or 30,000 people worshipping on an average weekend, and it just seems like religion is going great guns," the researcher says. Other mega-churches like Saddleback Church (Orange County, California), Willow Creek Community Church (near Chicago), Southeast Christian Church (Louisville, Kentucky), and Prestonwood Baptist Church (Plano, Texas) report attendance well over 10,000 on a typical Sunday.
"I think it is creating a false impression of what is happening in the church," Hadaway says of the huge numbers being attributed to such congregations. "There are more giant churches now than there used to be -- but at the same time, the average church is quite small."
He adds that a decline in the number of small congregations has resulted in the "death" of a lot of churches. "The have declining numbers and rising costs -- insurance rates, pastors' salaries, utilities -- making it really tough for many churches across America," he says.
The National Congregations Study in 2000 estimated there were more than 330,000 churches in the United States -- yet only 10 percent of those churches have more than 350 regular participants. As CT points out, that means those 10 percent compose nearly half of those attending religious services in America.
© 2006 AgapePress
Saturday, May 13, 2006
According to a very reliable source, missions giving revenues for the ABCUSA are down dramatically in the first quarter of 2006--not just down as compared to the diaster plagued year of 2005 (South Asia Tsunami, Katrina), but down against projections.
Giving is off $2.7 million for the first quarter. Extrapolated out for the entire year, we're looking at a shortfall of $10.8 million. This is compared to VF 2006 projections of $39.6 million, or a drop off of about a quarter of expected revenues.
Strikingly, giving is down in nearly every region, not just in the more conservative regions. Only three regions (Puerto Rico, Evergreen and DC) showed very modest gains. The reality is that left, right and middle regions are voting their unhappiness with Valley Forge with their dollars.
Hugh dollar drop-offs were most evident in four conservative regions: the now departing PSW, with $379,000 less than last year; $242,000 less from ABC of the West (AKA Growing Healthy Churches); $205,000 less from Ohio and $171,000 less from West Virginia.
What are the factors behind this diasterous shortfall?
1. Obviously, some conservative churches and regions are protesting the lack of Biblical integrityon the part of the VF leadership.
2. As well, some more liberal churches and regions are unhappy with the way the current crisis is being handled and even with what some see as "coddling" the conservatives (e.g., in the way the Ind/Ky initiative was handled).
3. There is also a general lack of confidence in the basic competence of leadership in VF. No one wants to invest in what appears to be a sinking ship.
4. Finally, this is a continuation of a long-term trend away from sending money to a central agency and trusting them to carry out mission to a more local church-based missions sending mindset.
The solution, as DD has said again and again, is not to be found in the Common Table proposal, but in a far more sweeping reformation that takes into account the times we are in, viz,
- Abolish the Office of General Secretary
- Abolish the General Board
- Decentralize the Missions Societies
Friday, May 12, 2006
From "Jayne, Andy" <Ajayne@ABC-USA.org>Date Fri, 12 May 2006 17:18:05 -0400
VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS)-The Board of Directors of the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest (ABCPSW) voted at a meeting on May 11, 2006 to withdraw from the Covenant of relationships and Agreements with the American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA). "PSW had been moving in this direction for some time over theological differences, " said Dr. A. Roy Medley, general secretary of ABCUSA. "God's heart is broken when sisters and brothers in Christ divide over matters of scriptural interpretation. We pray God's blessing on PSW as they go their way from the ABC family." Medley added that "this parting of the ways will not diminish our passion, commitment and undaunted spirit to move forward in mission and ministry."
Thursday, May 11, 2006
ABCPSW WITHDRAWS FROM AMERICAN BAPTIST CHURCHES USA
On May 11, 2006, the Board of Directors of the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest voted to withdraw from the Covenant of Relationships of the American Baptist Churches USA effective November 1, 2006. The Board's vote was unanimous.
On April 29, 2006 delegates from the churches of the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest voted on the recommendation of the Board of Directors to withdraw from the Covenant of Relationships and Agreements of the American Baptist Churches USA; voting Yes: 1,125 delegates, Voting No: 209 delegates. The Board of Directors called for this vote to provide the Board with guidance and input needed to make a responsible and informed decision on withdrawing from the Covenant of Relationships with the American Baptist Churches USA. In order to complete the necessary legal and governance actions required, November 1, 2006 will be the effective date of withdrawal.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Terror, sheer terror of "creedalism" is what motivates the ABC theo-left. Is it all in the name of "soul liberty" or a screen to cover underlying faithlessness? And listen to the sound of paranoia coming from upstate New York! This article is unique in nailing the Truth That Cannot Be Told now told!
Conservative American Baptists set to finalize withdrawal from ABC (USA) over homosexuality issue
May 9, 2006By Gregory TomlinBaptist Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--After eight months of discussion and planning, delegates from the conservative American Baptist Churches Pacific Southwest region voted April 29 formally to sever all ties with their parent denomination. The vote clears the way for the region's board to complete the separation at its next gathering May 11.
Delegates from the region's 300 churches gathered in seven locations throughout California, Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii to cast votes, and approved the move by a vote of 1,125 to 209. The region had already ceased sending funds to the 1.5 million-member American Baptist Churches (USA) at the close of 2005.
At issue is the failure of the General Board of the American Baptist Churches (USA) to enforce its policy statements on homosexuality. While the denomination adopted statements on the incompatibility of Christianity and the homosexual lifestyle in 1984 and 1992, the General Board in 1993 adopted a resolution that called for "continuing dialogue on human sexuality." The statement seemed to many conservative American Baptists to open the door to homosexuality-friendly churches and associations.
The board of the Pacific Southwest region recommended full withdrawal from its covenant relationship with the denomination because "deep differences of theological convictions and values between the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest (ABCPSW) and the American Baptist Churches in the USA (ABCUSA) are understood by the Board of Directors of the ABCPSW as irreconcilable," the region's leadership said in a statement issued after the vote."
While the Board had authority on its own to withdraw from the national denomination, it called for a special meeting of delegates from churches 'to provide the Board with the guidance and input it needs to make a responsible and informed decision,'" the statement said.
In the past two decades several groups, such as the Evergreen Association in Washington and the Rochester-Genesee region of New York, have accepted homosexuality-friendly churches from within their own regions. But they have also accepted as members churches disassociated from other American Baptist regions over the issue of homosexuality.
The Pacific Southwest region's board has repeatedly cited the fact that the General Board has allowed the actions to take place as evidence of a soft stance on homosexuality. The General Board has refused to intervene, citing Baptist freedom and local church autonomy.
And the Pacific Southwest region is not alone in its challenge to the effectiveness of the General Board and its policy statements on homosexuality. In October 2005, a group calling itself West Virginia Baptists for Biblical Truth put forth a resolution at its convention calling for 474 American Baptist churches with more than 16,000 members in that state to sever all ties with the national denomination over the issue.
The Associated Press reported that the resolution, which cited the ordination of homosexual ministers and the affirmation of the homosexual lifestyle by some churches, failed by a vote of 391-325. However, a resolution which would have offered an affirmation of the national denomination also was rejected by a much larger margin. That resolution was proposed by a church loyal to American Baptist Churches (USA).
American Baptists in the Indiana-Kentucky region also have proposed a change in the denomination's rules and bylaws that would not allow churches disassociated from one region over the issue of homosexuality to be accepted in another. The homosexuality-friendly Rochester-Genesee region, comprised of 34 churches, opposes the move and has issued a statement calling the plan a move toward a "creedal denomination."
"Such amendments to our Bylaws, Standing Rules, Statements of Agreement, and Covenant of Relationships would permanently alter our denominational identity and leave us defenseless against additional doctrinal tests in the future," the statement from the New York region said. The statement also said that the proposal "exploits division around homosexuality."
"Some religious leaders on the far right, sensing that homosexuality is a 'wedge' issue that can be exploited, have begun an effort to purge the denomination of 'heretical' churches and clergy in favor of a denomination with a 'binding Confession of Faith,'" the statement said.
In a statement issued for the denomination's headquarters in Valley Forge, Pa., the leadership of the denomination claimed that only half of the member churches of the Pacific Southwest region were represented at the vote to separate April 29. It also claimed that a "significant number of churches" in the Pacific Southwest region "wish to remain American Baptist" and would not leave."
They will form an Association of American Baptist Churches immediately if the region board votes on May 11 to break the covenant," the statement from the denomination's headquarters said.
General Secretary Roy Medley expressed sorrow that the Pacific Southwest region had voted to withdraw. "Though not uncommon in Baptist life, such actions grieve the heart of God and our Lord Jesus Christ," Medley said. He added that the denomination had "hoped and made many efforts to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace."
Medley said that Samuel Chetti, executive minister of the Los Angeles Baptist City Mission Society, would give "watch-care and oversight" to churches that form a new association.
The acceptance of homosexuality-friendly churches in the American Baptist Churches (USA) was cited as a primary reason Southern Baptists severed ties with the Baptist World Alliance in 2005. The BWA refused to acknowledge Southern Baptists' concerns about the denomination's stance on homosexuality and its failure to discipline congregations that accepted unrepentant homosexuals as members; both were problems going back some 14 years when a group called the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists appeared in American Baptist life.
Israel Church Wins Battle to Build
Kirstin Engelbracht, ASSIST News Service
UNFINISHED: There is still much to do to complete the new church building and finance is a continuing problem.
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND (ANS) -- For what is believed to be the first time, a Christian congregation in Israel is building its own church - in a Jewish area near Tel Aviv. Although the building plan was hotly contested by Orthodox Jews and the church had to go all the way to the Supreme Court, the Christian congregation, Grace and Truth, won the day.
David Zadok, an elder of the church, has just returned to Israel after visiting reformed churches in New Zealand and Australia where he sought to raise awareness for Israel and his ministry and funds to complete the building, in which his church members can meet in safety. The Grace and Truth Christian congregation, a Reformed and Baptist church, is an indigenous Israeli church, reaching out to Jews and Arabs.
Founded in 1976, it is one of Israel's oldest churches and has showed the way for other churches in the country and has led a successful international campaign against efforts to restrict religious freedom in Israel. With friends in Britain, Finland, Germany, the United States and Holland, Grace and Truth ministries are always seeking to make the most of the opportunities to reach out for Christ and his Gospel. They also hope to develop relationships in New Zealand and Australia and elsewhere.
"The gospel has not really penetrated all levels of the society," said Mr. Zadok. "Although the numbers of Jewish Christians are growing, it is still too small." His church has been continuously increasing over the last couple of years. There are 450 adherents; of whom 150 are under 18 and 150 are new believers. As well there are four fulltime evangelists so building a place of worship was an urgent need. The new church is near the centre of the country, close to Israel's largest port, the international airport as well as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The building now stands unfinished. The walls are up, the roof is in place and most of the wiring, plumbing and tiling have been completed. But there is still much to do. "We have received much support from different denominations in different places. But we also had lots of difficulties in continuing and especially financing the building," said Mr. Zadok.
To protect the property against vandalism by Orthodox Jews, it is guarded 24 hours a day. The cost of legal fees, security, insurance, rising prices, changing demands by the authorities and related expenses have made it impossible to afford the completion of a worship centre that will be used seven days a week for prayer, weddings, conferences and seminars.
Said Mr. Zadok: "Prayer is the most important thing to begin with. I believe that for many it has been good to see the work that God is doing in Israel and hope that they can be more effective in their prayers and support for us and especially for our church.
"It would be good if people came to Israel to visit and teach us. We can use the experience of brothers and sisters who have been Christians for many generations.
"The Church in Israel is still very young and that is part of the paradox. As a Jewish nation we probably have the oldest history, but when it comes to the New Testament we have quite a short history."
Mr. Zadok believes that his time in New Zealand and Australia was fruitful. "It was a great blessing to see so many people of the same mind, and to see the unity that we have in Christ no matter what culture language or country we come from."
Monday, May 08, 2006
Dennis McFadden over at www.hisbarkingdog.blogspot.com 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?
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" <Ajayne@ABC-USA.org>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): http://www.wfn.org/2006/05/msg00083.html
Saturday, May 06, 2006
Is Howard Moody a model American Baptist? He's another recovering Southerner ex-pat, obsessed with issues of race and war. Is Judson Memorial a model American Baptist church? I'll let you judge. These New York City classics are on display in the article below:
At 85, still rocking the spiritual boat
He walks with a cane now. His hair turned white years ago. His voice has lost a bit of its courtly firepower. And he celebrated his 85th birthday in April. Otherwise, last Sunday's preacher at the Judson Memorial Church, a West Village landmark, had not changed much in the 14 years since his last sermon.
The Rev. Howard Moody was back in the pulpit that he occupied for 35 tumultuous and controversial years to deliver a special sermon at the invitation of the church's new minister, the Rev. Donna Schaper.
The occasion was Community Day, a time when the church, a hotbed of avant-garde arts and social action located on Washington Square, one block from the main campus of New York University, celebrates its history, shows off its talent, promotes its causes and invites neighbors to join in. This time, although a bit late, it also was a celebration of Moody's birthday - with a giant puppet leading a verse of "Happy Birthday."
Moody's sermon, which he titled "Tracking the Faith: Journey of a Perpetual Pilgrim," was meant both to remind the congregation of his past and to bring members up to date.
"Often," he said by way of introduction, "people ask me, 'What are you doing now?'"
He paused and looked over the congregation, which ranged from college students to veterans of dozens of protests, petition drives and other campaigns against war, racism, hunger, homelessness and economic unfairness.
"I tell them," Moody went on, "'I'm still trying to find out what I believe.'" It turns out that he describes himself as a "trustful agnostic," a phrase he said he first used during a 1971 sermon and repeated Sunday. If hearing this from a Baptist preacher bothered his listeners, they did not show it.
Moody, who retired in 1992 but still lives only a couple of blocks from the church, said critics sometimes challenged him by asking if he believed in God. "I told them, 'I refuse to answer on grounds that it might incriminate me,'" Moody said. One reason for that answer was that he considered it a trick question - "I didn't know what kind of god they meant."
There was a time when this would surprise people who knew his background - he was born in Dallas, raised as a Southern Baptist, and began preaching at age 15. While attending college, where he studied for the ministry, he preached in jails and on street corners.
Then came World War II, and four years as an aerial combat photographer in the Marine Corps. The carnage he witnessed not only made him a committed pacifist, he said, but loosened his ties to the deeply conservative Southern Baptists.
"I discovered northern Baptists," he said, referring to the liberal American Baptist Church, which, until it changed its name in 1972, was known as the Northern Baptist Convention.
He also discovered the writings of Harry Emerson Fosdick, the liberal Christian icon and longtime pastor of Riverside Church, which like Judson Memorial is affiliated with both the American Baptist Church and the United Church of Christ. Judson Memorial and Riverside also share something else - John D. Rockefeller's money helped build both of them.
In 1956, after completing his ministerial education at the Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School upstate and at Yale University, Moody became the senior minister of Judson Memorial, where, he said, "I learned to drink." This, he said, was because trustees held their meetings in a bar.
This is a big year for the church. Along with its new minister, it has a newly renovated sanctuary (still without pews, which were removed in the '60s to make room for arts activities).
Included in the multimillion-dollar facelift, partly financed by selling two back lots to NYU, was restoring the 14 stained-glass windows designed by the 19th century American master, John LaFarge. The church has the largest collection of LaFarge windows in the world.
Schaper, a United Church of Christ minister by affiliation and New Yorker by birth, was minister of the Congregational Church in Coral Gables, Fla., before taking over the pulpit at Judson Memorial. She was formally installed in March.
She has been deeply involved in social justice issues for years, and last Sunday, after Moody spoke, she made her own commitment to Judson Memorial's activist agenda.
"I'm so new here that I squeak," she said, "but I intend to act as a ferocious trustee of everything this church stands for and does."
Originally published on May 6, 2006
Friday, May 05, 2006
Hola, amigos. Well, it's Cinco de Mayo, or the 5th of May for all you Gringos and Gringettes. I didn't know the history of this holiday, so I looked it up, and now share it for all. Adios!
The 5th of May is not Mexican Independence Day, but it should be! And Cinco de Mayo is not an American holiday, but it should be. Mexico declared its independence from mother Spain on midnight, the 15th of September, 1810. And it took 11 years before the first Spanish soldiers were told and forced to leave Mexico.So, why Cinco de Mayo? And why should Americans savor this day as well? Because 4,000 Mexican soldiers smashed the French and traitor Mexican army of 8,000 at Puebla, Mexico, 100 miles east of Mexico City on the morning of May 5, 1862.
The French had landed in Mexico (along with Spanish and English troops) five months earlier on the pretext of collecting Mexican debts from the newly elected government of democratic President (and Indian) Benito Juarez. The English and Spanish quickly made deals and left. The French, however, had different ideas.
Under Emperor Napoleon III, who detested the United States, the French came to stay. They brought a Hapsburg prince with them to rule the new Mexican empire. His name was Maximilian; his wife, Carolota. Napoleon's French Army had not been defeated in 50 years, and it invaded Mexico with the finest modern equipment and with a newly reconstituted Foreign Legion. The French were not afraid of anyone, especially since the United States was embroiled in its own Civil War.
The French Army left the port of Vera Cruz to attack Mexico City to the west, as the French assumed that the Mexicans would give up should their capital fall to the enemy -- as European countries traditionally did.
Under the command of Texas-born General Zaragosa, (and the cavalry under the command of Colonel Porfirio Diaz, later to be Mexico's president and dictator), the Mexicans awaited. Brightly dressed French Dragoons led the enemy columns. The Mexican Army was less stylish.
General Zaragosa ordered Colonel Diaz to take his cavalry, the best in the world, out to the French flanks. In response, the French did a most stupid thing; they sent their cavalry off to chase Diaz and his men, who proceeded to butcher them. The remaining French infantrymen charged the Mexican defenders through sloppy mud from a thunderstorm and through hundreds of head of stampeding cattle stirred up by Indians armed only with machetes.
When the battle was over, many French were killed or wounded and their cavalry was being chased by Diaz' superb horsemen miles away. The Mexicans had won a great victory that kept Napoleon III from supplying the confederate rebels for another year, allowing the United States to build the greatest army the world had ever seen. This grand army smashed the Confederates at Gettysburg just 14 months after the battle of Puebla, essentially ending the Civil War.
Union forces were then rushed to the Texas/Mexican border under General Phil Sheridan, who made sure that the Mexicans got all the weapons and ammunition they needed to expel the French. American soldiers were discharged with their uniforms and rifles if they promised to join the Mexican Army to fight the French. The American Legion of Honor marched in the Victory Parade in Mexico, City.
It might be a historical stretch to credit the survival of the United States to those brave 4,000 Mexicans who faced an army twice as large in 1862. But who knows?
In gratitude, thousands of Mexicans crossed the border after Pearl Harbor to join the U.S. Armed Forces. As recently as the Persian Gulf War, Mexicans flooded American consulates with phone calls, trying to join up and fight another war for America.
Mexicans, you see, never forget who their friends are, and neither do Americans. That's why Cinco de Mayo is such a party -- A party that celebrates freedom and liberty. There are two ideals which Mexicans and Americans have fought shoulder to shoulder to protect, ever since the 5th of May, 1862. VIVA! el CINCO DE MAYO!!
Thursday, May 04, 2006
The sky did not fall over southern California this week, nor over Arizona no Vegas nor over the isles of Hawaii. The delegates of the PSW voted to exit the ABCUSA and the Wrath of God did not burst forth in eschatological fury.
The reality is, we don't need Valley Forge. Neither does Maine (the ABC thereof) or Michigan or Ohio or West Virginia or, well, a lot of places.
There was a time when American Baptists--back when they were called Northern Baptists--did just fine without a National Headquarters or even a General Secretary. What we needed to do cooperatively we did through mission societies (now falsely labeled "program boards").
And we could do that again. We don't need a Valley Forge. Events of the last few years show that not only don't we need a Vallley Forge--Valley Forge is the problem.
The Common Table is a halting baby-step in the right direction. But I believe that the PSW declaration of independance will be the first in a string of such moves, and that the ABC will soon look more like the Soviet Union after Christmas 1991 than the supposed oasis of missional effectiveness that Drs. Medley, Wrights-Riggins, Woods, et al. would have us believe.
I differ from my friend and co-occupant of Blogistan, Dennis McFadden in this: I still consider myself an American Baptist. The window for reform is open briefly. I appeal to the Executive Ministers of the regions, especially the so-called Parchment Valley regions, to either dismantle the disfunctional Valley Forge apparatus or to come along with the PSW on a journey to faithful effectivenss.
Carthago delenda est! That was the cry of the Roman Senate: Carthage must be destroyed. I beseech you, especially, executive ministers--Valley Forge delenda est!
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Appeals court favors homosexuality over chaplain’s rights
May 3, 2006
CINCINNATI, Ohio (BP)--Homosexual rights have trumped free speech and religious exercise rights in a federal appeals court decision involving a Baptist chaplain.
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Cincinnati, ruled officials of an Ohio prison had the authority to punish chaplain William Akridge for refusing to permit an open homosexual to lead an inmates’ praise band in a Protestant worship service. The three-judge panel upheld a federal judge’s decision rejecting Akridge’s contention that his First Amendment rights were violated.
The ruling would appear to be a victory for workplace, anti-discrimination policies that include “sexual orientation” as a category when in conflict with religious exercise rights. Homosexuality is among behaviors covered by “sexual orientation.”
Akridge, a 1968 graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., prevented the self-confessed homosexual prisoner from leading the band in October 2002 at the Madison Correctional Institution. The inmate filed a complaint with MCI’s deputy warden of special services, Bobby Bogan, who ordered Akridge to permit the homosexual prisoner “an opportunity to be one of the choir directors.”
After Akridge declined to obey the order, he was charged with insubordination. Warden Alan Lazaroff fined Akridge two days’ salary. Akridge was transferred to another correctional institution and filed suit against his superiors, alleging their retaliation against him was unconstitutional.In papers filed with the court, Akridge said he believes “homosexual behavior is immoral, sinful, perverse and contrary to the teachings of the Bible and the Christian faith,” The Cleveland (Ohio) Plain Dealer reported.
“The leaders that the chaplain selects implicitly implies an endorsement and approval of the lifestyle of the selected leaders,” Akridge said, according to The Plain Dealer. He said a homosexual music leader “would violate my conscience and make me guilty in the sight of God.”
In appealing the federal court’s ruling, Akridge said the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction “has no interest whatsoever in whether there even exists an inmate choir leader.” He also argued his decision does not undermine an ODRC goal, since the chaplain carries the main responsibility for such determinations.
“Although it may be that Akridge could have disbanded the choir and/or praise band entirely, the facts appear to be that he did not do so; rather, he openly and intentionally excluded an inmate from such groups,” the Sixth Circuit panel said in its April 26 opinion. “Even if the ODRC had no interest in the existence of the band, this would not vitiate its interest in preventing discrimination and its consequences.”
Akridge is an ordained minister of the American Baptist Churches USA, according to the Sixth Circuit opinion.
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
American Baptist regional group moves ahead with plan to separate
By Hannah Elliott
Published May 2, 2006
POMONA, Calif. (ABP) -- After years of conflict centering mainly on the issue of homosexuality, a large regional body of the American Baptist Churches USA has voted to continue the process of separating itself from the denomination.
In an April 29 meeting at First Baptist Church in Pomona, Calif., the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest voted 1,125-209 to terminate its "Covenant of Relationships" with the ABC-USA.
In American Baptist polity, such covenants are important written agreements that bind the region with the larger ABC-USA group. The board of directors for the Pacific Southwest region will make a final decision on severing itself from the national denomination May 11.
The severance process began Sept. 8, 2005, when the regional directors voted to begin the process of separating themselves from the Pennsylvania-based denomination.
Dale Salico, the region's executive minister, said the Pacific Southwest board "has determined that the time has come to create distance between the ABC-PSW and the ABC-USA so that both may move ahead in the mission God has given them without continued conflict," according to Associated Press.
To approve the recommendation, delegates met in seven locations across the region, using a phone conferencing system to participate in the vote.
After the approval, the group's board of directors said in a written release the division came because of "deep differences of theological convictions and values" that became "irreconcilable" in recent months. Regional president Brian Scrivens could not be reached for comment May 2.
Most of the "irreconcilable" differences centered around the way the denomination, with approximately 1.5 million members in more than 5,800 churches, relates to gay-friendly churches. Even though American Baptist leaders approved a 1992 resolution opposing homosexual conduct, conservatives maintained the wording and the enforcement of the motion on denominational agencies and personnel were not strong enough.
An August 2005 vote by the ABC-USA Ministers Council particularly riled conservatives in the denomination. In it, the ministers defeated a proposed amendment that would have required members in good standing to be ministers who believe sexual intimacy is only appropriate in the context of heterosexual marriage."
Progressive and centrist American Baptists, meanwhile, have tried to defend what they see as traditional Baptist stances on congregational autonomy and individual conscience in opposing the ouster of pro-gay churches and leaders.
The decision to leave was made without discussion by slightly more than 50 percent of the eligible churches participating in the vote. American Baptist leaders expressed a desire to maintain a relationship with the Pacific Southwest body.
"It is with profound sorrow that we have come to this point of separation," Roy Medley, general secretary of ABC-USA, said in a news release. "We give our blessing to the region, if it chooses…to leave, that they may do God's work as they feel led."
According to American Baptist reports, even if the region's board of directors decides to leave the Covenant of Relationships, not all Pacific Southwest churches will leave the denomination. Churches that decide to stay with the national group will form an association of American Baptist churches to be led by Samuel Chetti, currently executive minister of the Los Angeles Baptist City Mission Society.
Monday, May 01, 2006
Multiple sources tell me that this is not accurate. Dr. DeRoulhac is certainly more "open" on the issue of homosexuality than this writer, he has a policy forbidding staff at FBC Redlands from performing same-sex marriage.
My source for the statement is one that is 99% accurate. Sorry, Joe, seems you were the 1% inaccuarate. Please accept my heartfelt and public apology.