ATLANTA (BP)–Cecil Staton, president of Smyth & Helwys Publishing and a candidate for the Republican nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives in Georgia’s 11th congressional district, has come under fire from liberal Baptists who want to know why he is denying his past.
Running as a conservative, Staton has declared that he would not support special status for homosexuals nor is he in favor of separation of church and state. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution called Staton the most conservative Republican candidate in the race. Staton will face opponent Phil Gingrey in a Sept. 10 runoff election for the Republican nomination.
Baptist liberals are stunned by Staton’s transition from “progressive” to conservative.
“I’m a liberal Democrat willing to endorse Phil Gingrey now to keep anyone with that profound lack of integrity out of office,” said Joshua Villines, associate pastor of Virginia-Highland Baptist Church, in an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Villines’ church is affiliated with the Alliance of Baptists, a denomination that affirms the homosexual lifestyle.
Staton, an ordained Baptist minister and a graduate of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, pulled out of the Southern Baptist Convention and founded a church within the Alliance of Baptists.
However, in a recent AJC interview, Staton said he was not aware of the Alliance’s stance on the affirmation of homosexuals.
“When our little congregation involved themselves in the Alliance, there was no understanding on my part that the Alliance was a pro-homosexual organization,” he told the AJC.
Tim Shirley, pastor of Virginia-Highland, told the newspaper he doubted Staton’s explanation.
“Everyone has the right to change their mind and evolve but pleading ignorance? I strongly question that. He’s a household name among moderate Baptists,” Shirley told the newspaper.
Staton disputes allegations that he is a moderate trying to be conservative. However, opponents question other areas of his campaign platform, including:
— The death penalty. Staton claims to support the death penalty. However, the Alliance of Baptists strongly opposes the death penalty.
— Separation of church and state. Smyth & Helwys has published numerous books supporting the idea of the separation of church and state. Staton, however, said in a press release, “The phrase ‘separation of church and state’ does not appear in our Constitution. Only Republicans are willing to appoint judges to the bench who say what the Constitution says — not what the liberals want it to say.”
Equally confusing is the list of supporters for Staton and Gingrey, who is a Catholic.
Staton supporters include former SBC Home Mission Board trustee chairman Clark Hutchison, Phyllis Schlafly of Eagle Forum, former presidential candidate Gary Bauer and conservative commentator Alan Keyes.
Nelson Price, former pastor of Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta, is supporting Gingrey.