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Church faces media spotlight for closing day-care center

BERRYVILLE, Ark. (BP)–Why would a Southern Baptist church vote to abruptly shut down its day-care center following 11 years of operation? There’s more to it than recent media reports indicate, according to Clyde Gray, pastor of First Baptist Church, Berryville, Ark.

The congregation’s actions have been reported by Associated Press, “Good Morning America,” Religious News Service and numerous other media outlets throughout the state and nation.

It is accurate that the day-care board had notified parents in February the church planned to close the center in May due to philosophical concerns over enabling mothers to work outside the home. Gray added, however, the church’s unanimous decision last month to immediately shut down the center was due to “an unmanageably volatile situation” sparked by disgruntled day-care workers and parents.

After notifying staff members and parents in February of the initial plan to close the center, the church began to receive “ugly phone calls and letters,” Gray said. That was followed by a series of “deliberate abuses of the resources of the church.”

Noting the uproar “was giving us a real black eye in the community,” Gray added, “The situation was creating a bad environment in the community and a bad environment for the children in the day care.” After deliberating in business meeting for an hour and a half and determining “we couldn’t keep the day-care center open any longer,” church members voted unanimously to immediately close the operation.

Acknowledging the hardship on parents caused by the timing of the church’s action, Gray said church members agreed to refund a week’s tuition to each family and to provide $50 per family to compensate for a day’s lost wages.

One primary concern raised by media reports is that the day-care board initially mailed parents a 10-point statement published by Bill Gothard that describes the practice of mothers working outside the home as unscriptural. The February letter from the day-care board also claims many mothers work outside the home to provide “two vehicles, a big TV, a microwave, new clothes, eating out, nice vacations, etc.”

Insisting he and the congregation “don’t have an axe to grind with day care, per se,” Gray said church members decided that “operating a day care was sending a mixed signal with home and family values. We want to be conscientious about the message that we’re sending out.”

    About the Author

  • Trennis Henderson

    Trennis Henderson is the national correspondent for WMU (Woman’s Missionary Union). A Baptist journalist for more than 35 years, Henderson is a former editor of the Western Recorder of the Kentucky Baptist Convention and the Arkansas Baptist News state convention newsjournal.

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