After a year of being out of active ministry, I became the pastor of a small ABC church in Watonga, Oklahoma. I am blessed to serve this church and have grown to dearly love the people I serve. God has richly blessed me and the church. This past June, I had occasion to attend my first national ABC convention, which is held biennially (the ABC-USA Biennial). I am at home among American Baptists churches because they are, as I am, moderate Baptists. The happiest years of my ministry have been the last two and a half.
I went to Denver in June knowing there was a movement that would attempt to change the denomination. I half expected to see a floor fight wherein the fundamentalists would raise a nasty fuss. That did not happen. There was some hall-talk that the fundamentalists might attempt to impose their views on the denomination. Been there and done that on far too many occasions.
For me the highlight of the biennial was the message given by the Dr. Roy Medley, General Secretary of the ABC-USA. His message was powerful and prophetic. He warned the denomination to resist the temptation to fracture and separate. The moderates wanted all ABC churches to continue to work together despite their differences. The fundamentalists did not feel they could work cooperatively with those who did not excommunicate churches that were welcoming and affirming. Homosexuality was the hot button issue.
In his plea to the denomination Dr. Medley said...
Small souls? Small souls! Today I learned that there is an entire region that is preparing to split from the denomination. They're doing this all because they could get their selfish ways at the Biennial. The region (ABCPSW - American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest) is going to leave the denomination. Evidently, fundamentalism's powerful influence caused their souls to become so small that they cannot work with those who do not agree with or conform to their views.
"We stand at a crossroads... In our world, the path of radical discipleship -- the path of radical love -- is the road less taken. We dare not choose another. We dare not choose the wrong road ... The road that leads to separation. That choice will certainly unite you with like-minded people but will give you small souls and make you comfortable Christians."
My soul is sad to see these small souls leave the denomination. But fundamentalism does that to folks. I can't understand it. I can't understand how people can bow to the influences of fundamentalism. In my mind, fundamentalism is pure evil. Radical fundamentalism in anything fosters evil. Radical fundamentalism in religion always ends with legalists attempting to superimpose their wills upon others. Fundamentalism seeks to control. This is true in politics. It's true anywhere.
Small souls... A small number of small souls among Southern Baptists took over and ruined the entire denomination. The Southern Baptists of today are but a shell of their former self. They have isolated themselves from the rest of the world of Baptists. They are arrogant in their small souls. Now a small number of small souls in the ABC are leaving the denomination. That's sad. Perhaps it's better that they leave than transform the entire denomination into small souls as did the Southern Baptists...