“The main point was that although theological issues were involved in the decision because of the strongly Calvinistic doctrine of PVCC, the decision appears to have been based more on attitudinal issues by PVCC that the member churches of DMBC felt could be divisive.”
Dr. Lemke states that the bigger issue in denying membership to Pleasant Valley Community Church was not Calvinism, but bad attitudes. He mentions these specific attitudes later in his post:
“The Credential Committee’s findings noted that PVCC had not given evidence that it ‘would be sympathetic with the purpose and work of the body of the DMBA,’ and noted that PVCC had practiced ‘an overall lack of the key elements of cooperation found in patience, humility, kindness, compassion and gentleness.’”
Maybe you recognize some of those characteristics—patience, kindness, and gentleness. They’re from the list of the fruit of the Spirit. I don’t know about you, but if someone rejected my church because it didn’t exhibit the fruit of the Spirit, I would be deeply offended. I’d want to know the specific reasons how someone had come to that conclusion. Yet there wasn’t much discussion on the particulars of the church’s actions, attitudes, or beliefs on behalf of the DMBA.
Can I be frank here? Though I can’t speak to the conscience of each individual voter who participated in the associational gathering, on the whole I believe the association denied membership to PVCC on the basis of stereotypes and fear. That’s a long-winded way of saying, “Discrimination.”
I work in human resources. I find it amazing how some many people, both in the workplace and even in the church, can say or do something discriminatory and attempt to claim it was because of something else. The association wrongly discriminated against PVCC. And Dr. Lemke trying to prove it was something else.
In reality, the thought process was probably something like this:
PVCC is a Calvinist church and will try to impose its Calvinist beliefs on the other members of the DMBA—elders and determinism. They believe in unconditional election and irresistible grace which means they don’t church really support missions since they believe God’s already picked who’s going to heaven and who’s going to hell.
Since Dr. Lemke is really one of the only people I’ve seen put forward a detailed defense of the DMBA’s actions, I think it’s only right to look over his arguments and see if they prove something other than what I’ve just stated. He says,
“The local churches in Daviess-McLean Baptist Association were perfectly within their rights to deny membership to Pleasant Valley Community Church. This determination was made not by associational officials, but by duly authorized messengers from the member churches of DMBA. They were voting as representatives of their own local church, not as representatives of the association as a whole.”
This is the worst way to begin an argument. Too often churches and religious groups justify their actions because they were “within their rights.” Did you know that the “ministerial exception” means a church is not subject to employment discrimination laws? So if a church is looking for a pastor, the selection committee can say, “Sorry, we’re looking for a white pastor,” and turn away a godly African American man who submits his application without even considering his qualifications and calling. My point: just because you are “within your rights” doesn’t mean you’re “in the right.”
“In this case, while acknowledging that the theology of PVCC was not heretical, and not going into specific detail about their theological concerns, the association did ‘recognize that it [PVCC’s theology] is vastly different than the majority of churches within the DMBA,’ and thus would be potentially divisive.”
Potentially divisive? Does this not prove my point about stereotyping and fear? PVCC came to them with the stated intention of joining the association, not dividing it. There was no discussion about the PVCC being divisive, but apparently both Dr. Lemke and I agree the underlying fear was there. If the messengers were really afraid the PVCC was going to advance a Calvinist agenda, they should have expressed that concern and allowed the church to respond. Instead they believed the stereotype that Calvinists are arrogant and divisive and made their decision from there. This decision was based on fear, not love (cf. 1 John 4:18). How can anyone be happy with a decision made that way?
Having defended the DMBA, Dr. Lemke moves on to attack Pleasant Valley Community Church:
“Those who want to be accepted should make themselves acceptable… Without knowing most of the details of this situation, it is evident from the overwhelming 104-9 vote of [the] DMBA that PVCC did not take common sense steps to connect in positive ways with the association.”
Just how does a 104-9 vote make it evident that the church didn’t take common sense steps to connect in positive ways with the association? Apart from associational gatherings, with how many churches does your church “connect with in positive ways” throughout the year? PVCC had at least two good relations in other churches. Lemke and the DMBA completely ignored the voice Barry Rager, pastor of Utica Baptist Church, as reported in the Baptist Press article:
“In my dealings with the pastors from this church, I experienced good fellowship [and] good cooperation. These men love the Word, they preach the Gospel; … they are taking the Gospel around the world… I didn’t see any reason they shouldn’t be in the local association—whether their theology is Reformed or not.”
This is by far the most offensive charge Lemke levels at PVCC, but he isn’t done yet:
The Credential Committee’s findings noted that PVCC had not given evidence that it “would be sympathetic with the purpose and work of the body of the DMBA,” and noted that PVCC had practiced “an overall lack of the key elements of cooperation found in patience, humility, kindness, compassion and gentleness.” It clearly appeared to be these perceived uncooperative and somewhat arrogant attitudinal problems that “ultimately” led to the denial of PVCC from DMBA. This was a preventable tragedy, but PVCC (perhaps in part because of the inexperienced leadership and/or a doctrinaire inflexibility) must bear much of the responsibility for their own rejection.
The Credential Committee’s language sounds more like an unfounded fear of PVCC pushing Calvinism and the stereotype that Calvinists don’t support missions, which is apparently the “purpose and work of the body of the DMBA” to which the church would not be sympathetic. The only ones showing themselves as having “uncooperative and somewhat arrogant attitudinal problems” are the DMBA and their defender, Dr. Lemke.
A coworker of mine was pulled over while doing some house hunting with a realtor. The officer took his license without explanation and told him he should “move along.” We all know what he was guilty of—DWB (driving while black in a white neighborhood). Blaming the PVCC for their own rejection is like saying “Serves you right for being Calvinist in a non-Calvinist neighborhood.”
Lemke moves on to argue that the action of the DMBA doesn’t harm PVCC’s ministry:
It does not bar PVCC from participating in the evangelistic or missions efforts of DMBA (if PVCC’s theology did not prevent the church from desiring to do so)… It does not prevent PVCC from inviting other DMBA pastors to speak in their church for revivals (if PVCC’s doctrine does not prohibit themselves from having revivals) or in other worship services.
Note that Lemke can’t resist taking a few cracks at Calvinists based on a caricature of Calvinists.
He then says,
If PVCC were genuinely interested in demonstrating their cooperative spirit to DMBA, doing any or all of these things (and doing so in a sweet spirit) would go a long way in changing the perception of the churches in the association that PVCC has an uncooperative spirit.
Perhaps PVCC should try to emulate the “sweet spirit” Dr. Lemke has shown them (if their theology doesn’t prevent them from doing so). The fact that Dr. Lemke doesn’t know if their theology allows them to do so shows more evidence that this reason for their rejection was not their attitude, but their Calvinism.
Lemke’s conclusion contains the following, again appealing to the vote as evidence of his point:
Unfortunately, the association’s written findings were rather vague both in regard to the specific doctrinal issues which were problematic and in listing specific examples of the attitudinal issues which they found problematic. However, DMBA’s overwhelming 104-9 vote suggests that PVCC wasn’t even close to being acceptable.
Dr. Lemke has no logical basis for interpreting a 104-9 vote to mean PVCC was unacceptable. The fact that the DMBA has nothing to back up claims of problematic doctrinal and attitudinal issues is unacceptable.
I’m probably not much better of a statistician than Dr. Lemke, but I can tell you on good authority that the only thing this 104-9 vote shows is that a caricatured Calvinist church is not welcome in the DMBA. And neither Dr. Lemke nor the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association knows if Pleasant Valley Community Church matches that caricature.