I have been pondering on how I was going to post on this subject -the vote of the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest to leave the denomination by withdrawing from the covenant of relationships. I could've just posted the ABCPSW press release seen here
. I could've linked to the punditry of His Barking Dog
or Durable Data.
Yet, as a third generation American Baptist, the day was more than just a political decision, more than just my marking an "X" on a ballot -it was the death of a relationship, a death that required true mourning on my part.
Laura, my friend and roommate, pontificates on it in her theology blog
and just links to her theology blog from Laura's Writings
. She writes of the profound worship encounter it was to stand alongside 1300 hundred fellow delegates in a simulcast link of seven cities while singing "Holy, Holy, Holy" and "It Is Well" as they counted the ballots. Some of her readers seem to take exception to the idea that the worship of God and the sense of His presence could have occured in an act of "Christian disunity" and schism. However, they weren't there and from what I've read of their comments, they don't quite understand what the vote was all about either.
For me, it was a moment of ultimate sadness -to have come so far and to have been together as a denomination for so long all the while existing in such a dysfunctional relationship was tragic. As a delegate of my church, I was indeed bound to vote for withdrawal, but also as a follower of Christ and His Word, I had a higher allegiance to the truth that compelled me to vote for it as well. Continuing in fellowship with those who reject the authority of the Bible in favor of their own estimation of "truth" is not healthy or wise. Barbara Nicolosi, in an article in ChritianityToday Online
makes this comment (with regard to the Davinci Code movie, but I think fits here too) said this:
"I don't think we should encourage people in the terrible sin against the Holy Spirit of speculating that things that are holy are evil, and that things that are evil are holy... How is that not painful for anyone who knows the Lord?"
It is painful to associate with people who call evil, good and good, evil. It's painful to think that no appeal to the Scriptural text can change the mind of a person who thinks it means something completely different than I do. This is what has happened over the past dozen years in the ABCUSA.
The national leaders closed their eyes to the open sin of their colleagues and shrugged that they were powerless to do otherwise -"it's not our place to police anyone's behavior, let the offenders' region or their local church do it". When some regions attempted to discipline their own wayward churches and pastors, the national board and the regions that disagreed with discplinary actions provided safe haven and new homes for the unrepentant. Together, they resisted any attempt for reformation and renewal using parlimentary procedures to thwart such acts and to protect their like-minded partisans. They ridiculed their opponents as small-minded bigots and fundamentalists all the while expecting the regions to shut-up and keep sending in the money for the Board's causes. So-called "Baptist values" of "soul liberty and local autonomy",in their mind, trumped Biblical teaching on issues of sexual ethics and morality. This lead to ABCPSW's conclusion that since we can't persuade, we can't convince and we can't co-exist peacefully, it is better to separate. This may be the beginning of the end of the ABC-the more conservative regions may follow shortly now that one has stepped away.
And this is why I mourn, the Baptist forefathers who fought so strongly to build such a great family could never imagined that family being torn apart in such a way.
A comment on Laura's blog referred to the conflict as being one of righteousness versus unity, but how can a group be united when there is such a chasm on what righteousness means?