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2 prominent Baptists issue calls for Clinton to resign

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Among those calling for Bill Clinton to resign are two Baptist notables who otherwise embrace many of the president’s policies:
— David Gushee, vice president of Evangelicals for Social Action and professor of ethics at Union University, Jackson, Tenn., and director of the Baptist-related college’s Center for Christian Leadership.
— Wayne Ward, a longtime Clinton friend and an interim pastor of Clinton’s home church, Immanuel Baptist in Little Rock, Ark., while Clinton was governor in the 1980s. Ward, of Louisville, Ky., is a retired professor of Christian theology from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Both voiced their belief that Clinton should resign after the president admitted in a nationally televised address Aug. 17 that he indeed had had a sexual relationship with a White House intern — a fact he previously denied in statements in court and to the American public. And the comments were made before news of strikes against terrorist targets in Afghanistan and the Sudan which Clinton initiated Aug. 20.
Gushee issued a two-page statement to the media dated Aug. 20, while Ward made his comments in an Aug. 19 article in Louisville’s Courier-Journal newspaper.
“Perhaps Clinton’s gravest offense against the nation,” Gushee wrote, “has been his contribution to our moral coarsening.
“For seven months we have all witnessed legitimate news stories that by their very nature were unsuitable for dinner table conversation. The talk of sex and all its definitions and variations has proven a feast for late-night comics, radio jocks and others who make a living out of appealing to our baser selves. We must remember that at any moment on any day President Clinton could have ended all that. But to protect himself, he did not, and so we are all soiled.”
The nation is witnessing “a grave and tragic drama, in which an immensely talented man has been brought low by the equally immense flaws in his character, paralyzing the government of a great nation in the process,” Gushee wrote. “What a waste. Clinton’s recklessness and lack of integrity have destroyed his ability to govern this nation effectively. I doubt he will be impeached. But I believe that for the good of the nation, he should resign.”
In other descriptions of the Clinton crisis, Gushee wrote that he “recklessly used a mixed up young White House intern for sex. He lied about it under oath and repeatedly to the American people. He watched for seven months as loyal Cabinet officers, aides and friends trustingly spoke on his behalf — in retrospect embarrassing them and harming their reputations. He did not hesitate to dangle his loyal secretary, Betty Currie, in harm’s way, making up the story that Monica Lewinsky’s many White House visits were to her, not him, and involving her in retrieving gifts in an effort to cover her tracks. Currie and many others have run up huge and completely preventable legal bills, besides having their privacy taken away and experiencing the terror of possible indictments and imprisonment.
“The president denied and dissembled and evaded the truth until he was checkmated by Ken Starr,” Gushee wrote. “To the extent that his televised comments can be called an ‘apology’ they were not made until he had no other real option. The words he actually did offer were heavily lawyered, clearly poll-driven and in large measure blame-shifting. His public words, at least, do not so far represent contrition or repentance in any recognizable sense.”
Describing himself “a pro-life Democrat,” Gushee added that he is not “a graceless legalist. I believe in forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ and I have every hope that the president will make peace with his God, his family and every person he has wronged in this process. But Christians misunderstand the meaning of forgiveness when we use the concept as a way to avoid naming wrongdoing for exactly what it is and as a way to move quickly toward premature closure in the name of ‘putting the past behind us.'”
Gushee, meanwhile, voiced appreciation for what he described as “the best” of the Clinton administration’s contributions to the nation.
“As president, Bill Clinton (along with a Republican Congress) has presided over the reduction of the federal deficit from $290 billion a year to a previously unimaginable surplus. The stock market has reached new heights as traditional indicators of prosperity have continually soared. He has crafted little-noticed policies to help the poor, like an expansion of the earned Income Tax Credit, though of course poverty remains one of our worst social problems.
“Clinton expanded health coverage for poor kids, crafted a stance on the environment that has sought to balance the interests of the relevant constituencies, resisted human cloning and other biotech nightmares, handled church/state issues with what I believe has been creativity and moderation, and has been our most coherent and compassionate presidential voice ever on racial issues. As a politician, he managed to reclaim the Democratic Party from the ash-heap of hard-left liberalism for a moderate and more pragmatic stance that will surely dominate the field for years to come — and is being imitated widely abroad.
“One could wish for more, especially on abortion, sexual issues and the fight against drugs,” Gushee wrote, contending “the accomplishments I cite are real accomplishments” nevertheless.
Ward, in an interview with the Courier-Journal, said “it would be good” for Clinton “to remove his family and himself from the eye of the storm. … I just know with the turmoil he’s been through, it would be good.”
Ward said Clinton is “the target of everybody who hates not only him personally but the things he stands for.” Ward noted “some of the causes that he believes in, I believe in and a lot of people believe in, I think will suffer because they’re able to hang this around his neck.”
Clinton’s sexual indiscretions “will be constantly on the front burner and a millstone around his presidency and a punching bag for every political opportunist,” Ward stated. “That’s a terrible thing to put yourself and your family through.”
Of counsel he gave to Clinton in a fax, Ward recounted: “Back in January when it first broke, I remember saying to him, ‘Bill, if it’s true, then say it to God, Hillary and the American people and let them handle it.’ … And I said, ‘If you’re not guilty, then please fight it with all you’ve got, and we’ll stand by you.'”
Saying he maintains an appreciation for Clinton policies, Ward noted, “There’s one thing everybody in the nation knows: (The Clintons) will both come down every time at whatever political costs, at whatever personal sacrifice on the side of the people who are abused, discriminated against or hurting. … If people will remember that, that wouldn’t be such a terrible legacy.”
Rex Horne, pastor of the president’s church in Little Rock, declined to comment on the president’s Nov. 17 address to the nation, according to a church staff member Aug. 18.
Among other clergy who have been identified as providing the president with spiritual counsel in recent years, no statements were being issued by Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago; Tony Campolo, professor of sociology at Eastern College, St. Davids, Pa.; and Robert Schuller, pastor of the Crystal Cathedral, Garden Grove, Calif. In each case, their offices said they were out of town on Aug. 18.
Nor were statements being issued by Billy Graham or Jimmy Carter, spokespersons said, or by outspoken Clinton critic Jerry Falwell, pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church, Lynchburg, Va., or James Dobson, founder and president of Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Clinton speech brings backlash
in Congress and newspapers
By Tom Strode

WASHINGTON (BP)–President Clinton’s admission of an improper relationship with Monica Lewinsky seemingly has done him more harm than good in the halls of Congress and on the editorial pages of the country’s major newspapers.
For some politicians and editorial writers, their criticism was based on Clinton’s nearly seven-month wait to change his story and acknowledge what is understood to have been a sexual relationship with a White House intern. For others, it was the way he admitted he had lied — failing to apologize to the American people and shifting blame to Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr.
Polls showing more than 60 percent of the American public still approves of Clinton’s job performance provided a rare glimmer of hope for the White House in an otherwise disheartening reaction to the speech. The polls were taken before news of strikes against terrorist targets in Afghanistan and the Sudan which Clinton initiated Aug. 20.
Some Democrats, as well as Republicans, reacted with distaste in the days after the president’s Aug. 17 nationally televised speech. No statement may have been more ominous that that of a female senator from Clinton’s own party.
“I was present in the Roosevelt Room in January when the president categorically denied any sexual involvement with Monica Lewinsky,” said Dianne Feinstein, D.-Calif., in a written statement. “I believed him. His remarks (Monday) evening leave me with a deep sense of sadness in that my trust in his credibility has been badly shattered. My heart and thoughts go out to the first lady and Chelsea.”
Sen. Daniel Moynihan, D.-N.Y., said the speech was “not adequate” because Clinton failed to apologize and attacked Starr, The Washington Post reported. “What were we doing hearing about the special prosecutor?” Moynihan said.
One member of Clinton’s party, Rep. Paul McHale, D.-Pa., called for the president to resign. He said Clinton’s relationship with Lewinsky was “morally repugnant” and the president “almost certainly used government resources and employment opportunities to encourage Monica Lewinsky’s silence.”
“Certainly, we could spare the country a great deal of pain by abandoning the rule of law,” said McHale, who is retiring after three terms. “That’s too high a price. With great sadness, I have concluded that President Clinton should resign or face impeachment.”
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota and House of Representatives Minority Leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri said they were disappointed with the president’s conduct but expressed hope the focus could shift to other issues in the country.
While most Democrats in Congress did not issue statements, The Post reported Aug. 20 the president’s speech was increasingly being seen by Clinton’s party members as “a political failure that unleashed a torrent of anger among some of the president’s most loyal supporters and created problems no one at the White House anticipated.”
Republicans in Congress demonstrated some variety in their responses to the president’s public admission following his afternoon of testimony before a grand jury.
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde of Illinois were cautious, counseling patience until Starr delivers a report, which is expected to arrive at the House in September. Others, including Sen. John Ashcroft of Missouri and House Majority Whip Tom DeLay of Texas, said the president should resign.
Clinton should voluntarily leave office “to protect America and the presidency,” said Ashcroft, a potential presidential candidate in 2000.
“The president missed the opportunity (Monday) night to rebuild his moral authority and regain his credibility,” Ashcroft said in a written statement. “In effect, the president has resigned already. Continuing to blame others for his problems, refusing to testify fully and delaying further would only prolong the crisis and further damage the country.”
A former White House aide to Clinton predicted shortly after the speech there would be problems. David Gergen said on ABC’s “Nightline” it was a “polarizing speech” for the president’s critics. “Instead of offering an olive branch to his critics, he gave them a poke in the eye,” Gergen said.
Congress’ reaction is especially important because it is the House that will determine whether there are grounds for impeachment after receiving a report from Starr. If the House votes for impeachment, the Senate will decide whether to convict the president.
Editorial writers and columnists who have been generally supportive of Clinton’s policies strongly criticized the president. Editorials in The Post, The New York Times and USA Today decried his actions and his speech. The Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel and The Washington Times called for his resignation.
Going beyond some of his fellow liberal to moderate commentators, David Broder, political correspondent and columnist for The Post, wrote, “(In) every important way (Clinton) has diminished the stature and reduced the authority of the presidency. He may hold on, but when he said of the investigation of his activities, ‘This has gone on too long,’ his words could equally well have applied to his own tenure.”
Former Vice President Dan Quayle said the only way for the country to put the controversy behind it is for Clinton to resign, but Vice President Al Gore expressed full support for Clinton.
“I am proud of him — not only because he is a friend — but because he is a person who has had the courage to acknowledge mistakes,” Gore said in a prepared statement in which he called for the country to move on to other concerns.
There was a new sign Gore may have his own problems. The New York Times reported in its Aug. 20 issue Justice Department investigators have a White House memorandum that seems to contradict Gore’s account of his fund-raising telephone calls for the 1996 re-election campaign. Hand-written notes by an aide to Gore show the vice president and some campaign officials discussed at a November 1995 meeting ways to transfer funds raised for general campaign purposes by the Democratic Party to finance the re-election of Clinton and Gore. The investigators said the notes did not provide conclusive evidence of what Gore knew about fund-raising efforts, The Times reported.
Attorney General Janet Reno, who has said telephone fund-raising calls by the president or vice president for the direct re-election campaign could be illegal, has recently been reconsidering whether to pursue the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate allegations of illegal fund-raising.

Marijuana issues face voters
in Oregon, Washington in Nov.
By Karen L.Willoughby

VANCOUVER, Wash. (BP)–Legalization of marijuana and partial-birth abortion will be among the ballot issues in the Pacific Northwest this November.
In Oregon, voters also will decide if they want to legalize marijuana for medical use — and whether possession of less than one ounce of marijuana should become a Class C misdemeanor, the lowest infraction in the law, rather than its current status as a “violation,” second-lowest but with criminal status.
In 1997, the Oregon legislature made possession of marijuana a criminal offense. Those who want the law returned to its previous status — no criminal penalties for possession of less than an ounce — were the ones who instigated the petition drive to bring the matter to the voting public.
In Oregon, 73,261 valid signatures were needed to put a statutory change on the ballot. Measure 67, which would legalize medical marijuana, garnered 97,648 signatures. Measure 57, which would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, garnered 90,103.
In Washington, voters in November will be asked to answer yes or no to the following question: “Shall the medical use of marijuana for certain terminal or debilitating conditions be permitted, and physicians authorized to advise patients about medical use of marijuana?”
According to the state attorney general’s office this measure, 692 on the ballot, “would permit the medical use of marijuana by patients with certain terminal or debilitating conditions. Non-medical use of marijuana would still be prohibited. Physicians would be authorized to advise patients about the risks and benefits of the medical use of marijuana. Qualifying patients and their primary caregivers would be protected from prosecution if they possess marijuana solely for medical use by the patient.”
Concerning late-term abortion, Washington voters’ will face the question, “Shall the termination of a fetus’ life during the process of birth be a felony crime except when necessary to prevent the pregnant woman’s death?” will be on Washington voters’ November ballots.
According to a summary statement written by the Thurston County Superior Court, “This measure (694) makes it a felony to kill a fetus in the ‘process of birth’ except when such procedure is the only way to prevent death of the mother. This measure defines the ‘process of birth’ as the point in time when the mother’s cervix has become dilated, the membrane of the amniotic sac has ruptured, and any part of the fetus has passed from the uterus or womb into the birth canal.”
Despite the fact that 99,799 signatures were gathered in Oregon, because passage would require amending the state’s constitution, the number was deemed insufficient to place it on the ballot. State law requires 97,681 valid signatures for constitutional amendments, and in a test, only 87.6 percent of the signatures were found to be valid.
Also in Oregon, officials announced Aug. 18 eight people so far have died with the assistance of a physician after taking lethal doses of medication prescribed under the recently enacted Oregon law for terminally ill people.

Teenagers’ problems often start
with parents, pastor points out
By Linda Lawson

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–Rather than “a teenage problem,” America has “a parent problem,” a Southern Baptist pastor told youth workers attending a session on involving parents in youth ministry.
“Traditionally, we have left one of the main ingredients out of youth ministry — parents. We have not intentionally included parents in youth ministry planning,” John Crittenden Jr., pastor of Forest Baptist Church, Louisville, Ky., said during the Black Church Leadership Conference Aug. 17-21 at Ridgecrest (N.C.) Conference Center.
Crittenden emphasized one of the greatest opportunities of a church youth ministry is to equip parents to do their jobs better.
“Parents have been commissioned by God to raise their children. It’s not the responsibility of the church, the schools or the juvenile court system to raise our teenagers,” Crittenden said. “Our teenagers are not junior adults. They’re not your buddies. Parents must be parents.”
He urged youth workers to maintain ongoing communication with parents to keep them informed about what is taking place in the youth ministry and to avoid the development of perceptions that the youth ministry is somehow in competition with the role of parents.
“Parents should not feel threatened by youth leaders,” Crittenden said. They should know what activities are planned and not have to “worry about where you’re taking their kids.”
Communication with parents should come directly from youth leaders or through the church newsletter or one targeted to youth parents, he said.
“Never assume teenagers are taking notes home to their parents. Parents appreciate being saturated with information. The more information you share, the happier the parents will be,” Crittenden said.
He suggested a variety of activities to involve parents of teenagers, including:
— support groups.
— quarterly parent-teen dialogue.
— open house for parents to tour youth facilities at the church.
— parenting conferences or workshops. “One of the biggest problems we have with teenagers is mixed signals,” Crittenden said. “Mama says, ‘No,’ and daddy says, ‘Yes.’ We need to teach our parents how to communicate with each other and with their teenagers.”
— meetings with individual parents.
— invitations to parents to observe youth activities.
— parent appreciation night.
Crittenden said youth leaders should play a role in educating parents about teen culture, including popular terminology such as “rock,” a reference to crack cocaine. They also should educate parents “about how to observe their teenagers to see if they’re learning toward gang involvement.”
He said telltale signs may include wearing one color of clothing, writing gang graffiti and hanging out with gang members. In some cities, gang members may actually try to recruit during church Bible studies.
“Teenagers spell love T-I-M-E,” Crittenden said. “If parents don’t spend time with their teenagers, they are setting them up as targets for drugs or gangs.”
Youth workers also need to educate parents about the kinds of music that attract teens, he said, since most listen privately via headsets.
“When the headsets came out, teenagers gained a private world for listening to music. You’d better snatch those headsets off and listen to their music,” Crittenden said.
He acknowledged parents may feel conflicted in warning teenagers not to do things they did themselves. He said this is a special dilemma for parents who weren’t Christians as teenagers.
He suggested parents should write out their Christian testimonies and share them with their teens. “Let them read your life. Don’t hide your past. Be real.”
Black Church Leadership Conference was sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention’s LifeWay Christian Resources, International Mission Board, North American Mission Board and Annuity Board.

Prison chaplain cites need for volunteers
but warns ministry is not for everyone
By Linda Lawson

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–After the failure of many types of prison rehabilitation programs, officials are turning to churches and religious organizations for help.
The need has never been greater for Christians to work as volunteers in prisons.
But prison ministry is not for everyone.
Ella McCarroll, corrections chaplain in the women’s unit at Plane State Jail, Dayton, Texas, led a session on prison ministry during the Black Church Leadership Conference Aug. 17-21 at Ridgecrest (N.C.) Conference Center.
Noting women and youth are the fastest-growing segments of the prison population, McCarroll said the United States a world leader, statistically, in the percentage of its population behind bars. In Texas, Harris County, in which Houston is located, leads all counties in the nation in percentage of its population in prison.
Approximately 20 percent of Americans are part of what she termed the prison or criminal justice marketplace — offenders, families of offenders, victims and their families and criminal justice employees.
“If your mentality is that offenders are just convicts, God can’t use you in prison ministry,” McCarroll said. “If you have the desire to do it and are willing to be equipped, God can use you.
“Some volunteers come to minister out of their woundedness rather than their giftedness,” she said, warning, “This is debilitating rather than transforming.”
McCarroll cited a need for churches and potential volunteers to understand prison ministry, at its best, is far more than just going to a facility occasionally to hold a worship service. It may include:
— teaching discipleship classes such as those making up the “Life-Changing Academy” in Texas prisons — including such discipleship resources as “Making Peace with Your Past,” “Search for Significance,” “Experiencing God,” “Untangling Relationships” and “Survival Kit for New Christians.” All are produced by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
— conducting one-on-one mentoring where a Christian meets no more than twice a month with a carefully selected offender who wants to improve his/her chances for making it on the outside.
— pen-pal ministry. “Offenders love to receive mail,” McCarroll said, noting people must avoid getting too personal. “Don’t talk about your personal life. Don’t make promises about help after they get out. Never write from your home address. Write from a post office box or from the church.”
McCarroll said churches need to expand their thinking about criminal justice ministry to include not only offenders, but also their families, victims of crimes and professionals employed in the criminal justice system.
Ministry to victims and their families may be a good place to begin a church ministry, she said.
Among families of offenders, there is a sense in which “the children are incarcerated at home when their parents are in prison,” she said. Also, an increasing fact of prison life is several family members such as spouses or a mother and daughter serving terms at the same time.
Staff members, who work in a highly stressful atmosphere, often are overlooked for ministry. She urged churches to consider special recognitions for correctional officers in the community.
To those considering some form of criminal justice ministry, McCarroll suggested eight actions:
— Assess the need.
— Find others already involved and learn from them.
— Evaluate the need for ministry to families of offenders.
— Pray about God’s call.
— Communicate with your pastor about God’s call.
— Explore ministry possibilities. Start small.
— Train for ministry. Most states require some type of training.
— Recognize criminal justice ministry can open access to meeting the needs of many people.
To explore the options for ministry at a particular facility, McCarroll suggested starting with the chaplain, if there is one, and also scheduling a meeting with the warden.
Through training and experience, she said volunteers will see their stereotypes of offenders changed.
“Offenders are likable,” she said. “That makes you vulnerable. Some are manipulative. Some are real.”
She cautioned against high expectations about success. “Some will not be reached. Some are not ready.”
Behavior with offenders must be “fair, firm and consistent. If you can’t say no, you don’t belong in prison ministry,” McCarroll said. “If you have to be liked, you’re in trouble.”
Most important, she urged, “Know who you are. My philosophy is you never do anything for an offender that an offender can do for himself. Half of the work is knowing who you are.”
More than 1,100 persons attended the Black Church Leadership Conference sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention’s LifeWay Christian Resources, North American Mission Board, International Mission Board and Annuity Board.